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On our Facebook and Instagram feeds, billboards, on the side of buses, and lining the walls of the subway, are ads of young, attractive men with voluptuous locks and titles saying things like “Hair loss is optional” and “Handsome, healthy you.” These are the ads for the millennial men’s wellness brand, Hims. Hims, and fellow start-up Keeps, offer hair loss solutions (that would normally be prescribed in-person, by a doctor) in one simple package to your home.

Though it seems like Hims and Keeps are bringing new medicines to the table, their hair loss “kits” and hair loss “gummies,” are just the same hair loss products that you can receive from a doctor or from online stores like Amazon, such as minoxidil, finasteride, biotin, salicylic acid shampoos and other topical and oral medications. The medical patent on Propecia (finasteride) expired in 2014 allowing other drug companies to sell a generic version of Propecia under a different name. This enables companies like Hims and Keeps to market these drugs under their own brands, mix or add ingredients without proven efficacy, and present them as completely new solutions to hair loss.

A crucial part that is missing in this business model is the importance of a conversation between a board-certified physician and the patient. Both minoxidil and finasteride have important side effects that need to be discussed with a physician and should only be prescribed to those that would benefit from the medicine. In addition, there are ways in which the medications can be used that will add to their efficacy. Finally, there other options, such as hair transplantation that might be appropriate to consider at some point.

This relationship between a patient and doctor is an invaluable part of the hair loss treatment process, and one that you will not receive through online medical treatments. If you would like more information about the diagnosis and treatment of hair loss, an excellent resource is www.bernsteinmedical.com.

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Q: What is your opinion of the companies that advertise hair loss solutions like Hims and Keeps?

In searching the web and riding the subway I’ve seen many ads for a company called Hims that offers hair loss medicine and other medical solutions for men’s problems. What are the medications used for hair loss and how do they compare to Propecia and Rogaine? — V.T., Long Island, NY

A: Hims and Keeps are digital wellness companies that are geared toward men. They prescribe the same hair loss products that you can receive from a doctor or from online stores like Amazon, such as minoxidil, finasteride, biotin, salicylic acid shampoos and other topical and oral medications. The patents on the most commonly used prescription medications have expired within the last few years, opening the door for companies to distribute their own generic versions. The online system that Hims uses allows people to get prescriptions without seeing a doctor. Although this might be convenient, receiving an in-person evaluation from an experienced physician is important to ensure that you receive the proper treatment. Medical treatments for hair loss are most effective when started early. Therefore, making sure the diagnosis is correct and that the medications are optimized, will give you the best chance of re-growing your hair and preventing future thinning.

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