I'm the perfect person for a Hims review, because a couple years ago I finally accepted the fact that I was losing my hair and it wasn’t going to improve on its own. The recession itself wasn’t going to recede, and my crown was about one half or one third the density it used to be. I hadn’t noticed these gradual changes by simply staring at my reflection every day, until a few things happened: One, I grew my hair long, and it emphasized how much my hair had recessed and thinned out. Two, I buzzed it all off, and could see exactly how much thinner my crown was compared to the sides. And three, I looked at photos from a few years prior, and realized, oh, what a difference a few years can make (especially in one’s early 30s).
So, it finally sank in. And that’s when I went all-in on hair loss remedies: I did the plasma injections (PRP) which use your own blood’s platelets to juice up your follicles and stimulate hair growth. At the same time, I started trying the various hair loss subscription services, like Hims, Keeps, and Roman.
I mention all three brands because they each sell the two core things that prevent hair loss and help re-engage dormant follicles: First are finasteride pills, which combat the hormonal byproducts that cause hair fall. It is especially effective at slowing a receding hairline. Then there are minoxidil drops, which boost blood flow and nutrient delivery to the follicles. They are particularly potent when it comes to restoring density around the crown.
If that’s all you’re after, then the brands are fairly interchangeable. You sign up, and then speak with a dermatologist who assesses your hair loss. That doctor decides if you are a candidate for regrowth. (If it’s been gone for a couple years, it probably isn’t going to grow back. Those follicles are dead and gone, and you might need to consider a transplant instead.) The dermatologist will also run over the risks of taking these drugs, most notably those of finasteride. Some men experience sexual side effects (like erectile dysfunction or loss of sex drive), which can occasionally be irreversible if you don’t stop taking the pills immediately. These rare cases are out there, but it’s still worth trying the medication and carefully monitoring these things each day. (What a fun assignment, making sure you can get a boner every day!) You can speak with the brands’ doctors at any sign of change. She or he will probably suggest you stick with the minoxidil and drop the finasteride.
So, how does Hims stack up?
Hims is a telemedicine company focused on men's healthcare—in addition to hair loss, they sell products for skin care, erectile dysfunction, and mental health. For hair loss, in addition to finasteride and minoxidil, the brand also offers a saw palmetto shampoo and biotin gummies. Saw palmetto is known to inhibit DHT, which is that hormone byproduct that suffocates and shrinks the hair follicle (it’s the exact thing that finasteride pills inhibit, too). Biotin, on the other hand, is a hair-growth supplement that speeds up and fortifies strands.
Here is my general Hims review, specifically of their hair growth products, keeping in mind that I’ve also used finasteride and minoxidil from both Keeps and Roman throughout my regrowth process. (So this first section can serve as an overall review of those drugs, across all three brands.)
The Finasteride and Minoxidil
I’m grouping these two together since I enrolled in both simultaneously, and since I can only measure their collective success.
The hair up top my head is visibly thicker—I’d say roughly 50%—and the results were especially noticeable around six months after starting. As outlined by my doctor, it took about three to four months for those dormant follicles to start growing new hairs, since they had to “wake up” after becoming strong from the added nutrients and from being void of DHT interference.
Any follicles that were dried up and dead—of which there were many—will never come back again. But that being said, I run my hands through my hair now and can feel it much fuller and denser than a few years ago, back when my alarm finally went off. And other people noticed, too, saying things like “Something’s different. You look younger?” I love that!
I only use minoxidil once daily, though you can apply it twice—morning and night. I like the drops as opposed to the foam that some brands sell, because the drops don’t compromise your clean hair or styling product. You apply them with an eye-dropper, and massage them in with your finger tips. They absorb quickly and don’t burn or anything, even if they trickle down your face. The standard bottle should last you a month or more. You might see minoxidil advertised in two strengths—two percent and five percent. Most men’s brands will sell the five percent formula, as the lighter concentration is recommended for women who experience thinning or shedding.
The finasteride is a daily morning pill, which I take before applying minoxidil. (Just out of habit—it’s not like you have to do them together.) I personally have had no sexual side effects from finasteride, but that’s not going to be the case for everyone. So, monitor your finasteride use closely.
And, perhaps most importantly, I have noticed far less hair fall and shedding these past couple years. I’m 34, and to be able to say that I lose less hair now than I did at 28, 29, 30… I am so pleased with the results.
One place you won’t regrow hair, however, is the hairline. Once it’s recessed, it’s pretty much gone for good. (Unless you get a transplant, which is far more reliable and effective today than in years past.) You can fight the recession, but you can’t restore what’s been lost. Instead, these remedies are restoring and protecting hair on the crown, because many of those dormant follicles are still able to produce hair, assuming it hasn’t been more than a few years since they started napping.
I don’t love shampoo. I don’t use it a lot. It dries out the hair, by stripping away the healthy oils that keep it nourished. Yes, you want to rinse away excess grease as well as pollutants and grime, but you can do that with a conditioner, and a thorough rinse.
I have a friend whose plan for fighting hair loss was just to use Hims’ DHT-blocking shampoo. On the one hand, if you have to pick a shampoo that aids your hair-growth goals, then this one is a great candidate. It has saw palmetto, which as an oral supplement, is known to slow DHT production. But, as a supplement or a shampoo, it’s not going to slow hair loss as effectively as finasteride. Not even close—and especially in the case of shampoo. That’s because shampoo isn’t attacking the problem from the inside, where DHT is produced; instead, the shampoo merely rinses away grime at the surface, which most shampoos will do effectively. Yes, DHT gathers at the base of our hair shafts and suffocates the follicle, but if you want to make a significant change, then you need to eliminate DHT with finasteride, or strengthen the hair with minoxidil in the first place. Saw-palmetto shampoo isn’t your hair loss strategy. It’s a nice bonus, if anything.
If you're already committing to a Hims anti-hair-loss routine, I say get this shampoo and use it once or twice a week.
The Biotin Gummies
Well, I certainly enjoyed eating one of these each morning. It’s a funny thing to look forward to, along with the morning cup of coffee.
However, I think biotin supplements are only necessary if you’re trying to expedite long hair growth, and not improve overall hair strength and quality.
So, perhaps in the first few months of your treatment, you want to accelerate the baby hairs that are newly regrowing. Otherwise, these delicious gummies, like any other biotin supplement, are a bit pointless. Instead, take a daily multivitamin that adds all kinds of nourishment back into the bloodstream, instead of targeting a single supplement. (Most multivitamins pack lots of biotin anyway.)
Hims’ offering works. But the stuff that works most effectively—the pills and the potion—are available generically from lots of places, including Keeps and Roman. You need to give them three to four months before you notice initial regrowth, and should start getting compliments around month six. But this will only happen for follicles that haven’t fully dried up. (In other words, you won’t grow back everything, but your doctor can assess the likelihood of what will regrow, should you enroll.)
Use the shampoo twice weekly if you're interested. Skip the brand’s biotin supplements in favor of a more thorough daily hair-growth vitamin. And if you want to try Hims for yourself, then sign up and speak online with one of their dermatologists to address your specific situation.
GQ grooming columnist Phillip Picardi on preventing—or embracing!—hair loss.
Originally Appeared on GQ