What Is Toppik?
To answer that question, let’s start with what Toppik is not. While it has everything to do with hair, Toppik is not a hair loss treatment. It neither stops hair loss nor regrows lost hair.
Rather, Toppik is a cosmetic product designed to help conceal hair loss and improve your hair’s appearance (depending on whether you’re a glass half full kind of guy / gal). This article provides you with what you need to know to assess whether Toppik is right for you.
Let’s start with a quote from Toppik’s website to give you a better feel for what Toppik is: “Toppik Hair Building Fibers are all natural Keratin “hairs” that bind to your own existing hair to instantly make your hair look fuller and thicker.” Men and women typically use Toppik to conceal hair loss, bolster lifeless hair, and even cover gray.
Toppik belongs to a class of products called hair building fibres. I’ve chosen to review Toppik in this article as a proxy for hair fibre products. For those interested, leading brands include Dermatch, Caboki and Viviscal. While these may be equally good, Toppik’s been around for over 30 years and is probably the most well-known of the hair building fibres brands.
How Does Toppik Work?
Toppik uses electrostatic micro-fibres which literally bind to (even the thinnest strands of) hair.
The fibres are made of the same protein found in real human hair – Keratin – and have a strong natural static charge. This creates a magnetic effect which tightly binds to, and resembles, strands of human hair.
How Effective Is Toppik?
There are two key aspects I’d look for in a product of this nature. One, ‘naturalness’ (look). Two, how well it lasts (durability).
Look: Toppik hair fibres come in nine shades which can be mixed together to match almost any hair colour. If done properly it can be totally undetectable from your own hair from as close as two inches (I expect very few people should ever get that close). This video shows a remarkable (but realistic) view of what that can be achieved if Toppik is correctly applied (and with enough hair).
Durability: Although the manufacturers (and many reviewers) claim that Toppik only comes out once you shampoo your hair at the end of the day (or next morning), this view is not unanimously held. Apparently, neither the strongest wind, driving rain, nor excessive perspiration will disrupt the binding effect produced by the fibres. More realistic(?!) posters and reviewers, while often generally positive, suggest caution is more than warranted in these scenarios.
Whether on Amazon, in hair loss forums (see my 7 best hair loss forums article here), or according to the normally frank product assessments at the beautybrains.com, it would seem that Toppik really does work.
For those that have been less than impressed, it may well come down to one or more of the following factors:
- The way you apply it: apparently, learning to apply it is an art. See the ‘How to Use’ guidelines below, gleaned from many reviews and hair loss forum posters, who have clearly mastered that art.
- The size of the problem: obviously the smaller the area you’re trying to cover, and the more remnant hair you have in that area, the better it will work. See the ‘Best Suited For’ section below for guidelines on this.
- How well you match the colour: if you’ve covered the above points, then this is pretty much your last obstacle. Ensuring you match colour correctly is critical.
- Not guarding carefully enough against adverse conditions: despite manufacturers claims regarding durability (flood or tempest), I would personally guard carefully against those situations that may compromise Toppik’s integrity. This alone may be enough to put folks off using a concealer (and certainly a deal breaker for me).
Perhaps one other factor worth considering, when assessing how effective Toppik is, would be ‘cross-compatibility’. If you can’t combine it with other hair products, or they interfere with it, is it really useable for most people? As it turns out Toppik is compatible with pretty much all hair products, including hair sprays and hair loss topicals such as Rogaine (Regaine) or Revivogen.
Conceal or Treat
Okay, if Toppik still sounds like your thing, it might now be worth casting your mind into the future. While covering up hair loss undoubtedly has its appeals, and is certainly an option chosen by many, in theory it also has a shelf life.
Given that it works by binding ‘to your own existing hair’, if you’re unable to halt your hair loss, you’ll eventually run out of enough of your own hair to which it can bind. (Depending on how far your hair loss progresses, of course.)
That said, using a product like Toppik is not a binary choice. Luckily, there’s nothing to stop you from covering your hair loss whilst you treat it with products that can actually halt and / or regrow lost hair (see the What Worked for Me or Recommended Products sections to assess which of these might be worth trying).
When To Use
That being the case, I can think of three scenarios when one might consider using a hair loss concealer such as Toppik (providing the conditions under the ‘Best Suited For’ section below are met):
- You’ve stabilised (controlled) your hair loss, but are unable to grow any (more) new hair … or as much hair as you’d wanted. In this case, if you’re particularly sensitive about those remaining thinning area(s), a cover up may be a good option.
- You’re agonising over your hair loss to the point where you avoid going out in public, or otherwise stop interacting with the human race. Ignoring for a moment the broader psychological issue at play here, if you need your hair to function, then, hey, who’s to judge! (see article on psychology of hair loss here). This is a particularly relevant option if used as an interim measure to retain self-esteem, while you actively pursue other hair loss treatments.
- You’ve just had hair transplant surgery. Toppik can be a good way to let the healing take place without screaming to the world: ‘Everyone! Look over here! I’ve just had hair transplant surgery!’
Best Suited For
Toppik is best suited for men or women with sufficient retained hair to achieve a cosmetic result (mild to moderate hair loss). Unfortunately, advanced hair loss sufferers need not apply. With this caveat in mind, Toppik is said to work for people from all ethnic backgrounds and across all hair types.
You can buy Toppik from Amazon, but the better choice for US-based customers is probably to buy from www.toppik.com. All colour, size and accessory options are available. The site also offers free shipping on all orders.
In terms of price, a regular bottle of the hair building fibres will cost you USD $24.95 (at time of writing). The largest will set you back USD $79.95. A regular bottle will last around 30 days, depending on how thin your existing hair is.
There are also a myriad of other accessories and products, including Couvre (see below), available on the site.
How To Use
Here’s the short version from the Toppik website: “To apply Toppik, simply shake it gently over your thinning areas. In seconds, thousands of tiny color matched hair fibers intertwine with your own hair. “Magnetized” with static electricity, they bond so securely that they will stay in place all day and night.”
A slightly longer version would advise you to apply in the morning, after washing your hair. Either towel or blow dry before applying by holding the container about 3-6 incheas above the area to be thickened / covered. If targeting smaller spots, you may wish to bring the container closer to those areas. Patting your head can help disperse the fibres throughout the area to be covered. If you need to, an open, plastic, non-bristle brush is recommended to style your hair after application. A good example of the application process can be seen in the video.
If you’re having trouble applying to those areas you can’t see (i.e. the back of your head), try setting up an additional mirror to guide you. Here are some other tips from experienced users:
- Apply hair spray after styling for extra hold. The manufacturer recommends using Toppik Fibrehold Spray. Personally I’d try a regular hair spray before buying a (more expensive) branded product.
- To make it go further, and for a better overall result, try using Couvre before applying Toppik. While Toppik is applied to the hair, Couvre is a colour application which goes directly on the scalp to help reduce the appearance of skin (scalp shine) under the hair. Those with thinner hair can use both products for double the effect.
- Try applying when your hair is semi-wet, then use a hairdryer to fully dry your hair (if the method described a the top of this section doesn’t work for you).
See the Toppik FAQs for further information.
- Generally safe and relatively inexpensive
- Provides virtually instant, cosmetically significant, natural looking hair (provided you have sufficient hair and have managed to colour match correctly)
- Durable: can stay intact up to two days (if not subject to particularly adverse conditions)
- Works well with hair transplants
- Also effective as a root touch up between colourings
- Needs to be applied every day
- Does not treat the underlying causes of hair loss
- Although said to be water resistant (rain, perspiration) many reviewers agree that excessive wetting can cause it to smear / run
- Does not work for people with severe hair loss (insufficient remnant hair to bind to)
- Can require trial and error to ensure it looks natural (colour matching and distribution)
- The affected hair cannot be excessively touched while Toppik is in use (this limits affectionate touching of the hair by loved ones, for example)
Toppik Side Effects
Toppik side effects, although rare, generally consist of two types. Allergic reactions to the Keratin (e.g. rashes and itching). Potential headaches for migraine sufferers (as a result of the ammonium chloride).
Fortunately I’ve never needed to go the cosmetic route. While I normally don’t write about products I haven’t tried, hair concealers are a valid and popular hair loss ‘treatment’ option that many people coming to this site may well wonder about.
Ultimately, for me, concealers such as Toppik will work best as a temporary solution. Potentially providing you with necessary self-esteem whilst you treat the underlying cause of your hair loss.
I’ve seen Toppik applied to two individuals by a professional. It was, to say the least, impressive. Nearly impossible to separate the real from the fake. I understand that the same results can be achieved at home (although often through trial and error).
If you are going to try it, my key takeaways are:
- Make sure you experiment with different options to get an exact match to hair colour
- Test the ‘naturalness’ of the appearance under different light conditions, particularly natural sunlight. If you can, have someone independently confirm what you see.
- Only go this route if you can avoid any paranoia associated with the risk that the product may start to come off in a less than ideal situation. That said, generally speaking, the product is good enough to stay put under most circumstances. Whatever the case, I would personally avoid rain, heavy sweating, and heavy petting (not necessarily in that order).
As a cosmetic option, Toppik, or one of the other hair building fibre brands, may well be worth considering. If you’re hair loss is too advanced for Toppik, another cosmetic option worth considering is scalp micropigmentation.