men's health and wellness brands

Here's why the influx of men's health and wellness companies is causing more harm than good... 

The men's health and wellness sector has boomed in the last couple of years, with a host of brands popping up, such as Manual, Sons, Roman, and Numan, to name a few. 

This new generation of male "health and wellness" brands offer online treatments for hair loss, erectile disfunction and anxiety, along with an array of treatments for common male issues. But are they just playing into a harmful narrative of endless self-improvement?

One of these brands, Hims, came to market in 2017, and has since had over $200 million investment. You'd think that, with those sort of numbers, Hims would be far and away the market leader, but since its release, we've seen a bunch of brands pop up, pretty much identical to Hims. 

These subscription-based brands sell a mixture of pharmaceutical drugs and wellness products, packed with stats and figures that are purely aimed to push the products onto the consumers, with, shall we say, a lack of caution where needed. 

These brands, like Hims and Manual, offer the medical prescription hair growth drug, finasteride, and the erectile dysfunction treatment pill, sildenafil. They also sell some other products, but these two mentioned are the brand's main selling points.

These brands are pharmaceutical-focused, with the majority of their treatments being drugs, rather than cosmetics, or health vitamins. There's even talk of these brands launching treatments for weight-loss and acne, as well as stop-smoking products.  

Now, the problem isn't necessarily with the products themselves, because, as studies and cases have shown, these types of treatments have been medically approved, and therefore can work, to a certain extent. The problem with these brands is the way they promote their message. 

"These brands are dangerously misleading"

The pharmaceutical world was experiencing a crisis around some of its most popular drugs. In 2014 the patent for the hair-loss drug finasteride expired, while the patent for sildenafil – the generic name for the drug sold as Viagra – will be finished by 2020. 

The reason these brands have popped up 2017 is because Telehealth laws in the US changed, meaning that some pharmaceutical drugs could be prescribed by online doctors. Finasteride was one of those drugs. The hair loss treatment pill is now more accessible than it has ever been, which is not necessarily a good thing. 

The UK patent for Propecia (finasteride) expired in 2014, which meant that generic finasteride became available from other pharmaceutical companies. A generic medicine is a medicine which is the same as a branded original, but is prescribed and supplied by its medical name, rather than its brand name.

Trichologist, David Griffiths, says "Now that drugs like finasteride can be prescribed online, it has become easier than ever for men to get hold of the drug. We should not forget that finasteride is a medical treatment, and therefore still comes with risks. These risks seem played down, somewhat, and that can be very dangerous." 

It is said that around 80 to 90 per cent of the men buying these treatments have never used them before, and that many of them are buying it who don’t actually need it. To get the product, you have to fill out a detailed questionnaire and, and many men are not willing to be honest, and therefore are being prescribed drugs that they either do not need, or could cause them more harm than good. 

Doctors have already spoken out about the risk of such brands. Dr. P Jeyapaul said "Theses kinds of companies allow young men to self diagnose with issues like erectile, but actually, they have performance anxiety – a condition that is more widely linked to stress and body image issues than the physical problem that medication fixes. Therefore they are putting potentially harmful drugs in their body that aren't solving the issue."

"Self-diagnosing can actually cause more harm than good."

These male wellbeing companies are branding themselves as cosmetics, blurring the lines between pharmaceutical and health vitamins. Pharmaceutical treatments come with the risk of negative side-effects, like with finasteride - a large amount of men suffer from erectile dysfunction from using the drug.  The difference between a pharmaceutical pill and a multivitamin is huge, but these companies merge the two with their branding, which makes the treatments feel safer to take. 

We should make no mistake, the prime motive for these companies is to make money, and as much of it as possible. The customer's health is the least of their worries. Since the loosening of regulations in 2017, we've seen an explosion of male health and wellbeing brands flood the market, making treatments like finasteride and sildenafil more accessible than ever. 

The problem is, issues such as hair loss and erectile dysfunction are complex, and the treatments can cause horrific, long-term side-effects. It's a dangerous situation we are in, and as the industry continues to grow, this seems like a problem that's not about to go away any time soon...