Topical Minoxidil is one of the most popular hair growth products globally. Its market value is predicted to grow by $1bn over the next decade, as more people turn to topical Minoxidil to tackle their hair loss .
As one of the few widely licensed treatments for hair loss, topical Minoxidil is one of the safest ways to enhance your hairline. It has fewer side effects than Finasteride, and is safe for both women and men .
It’s also one of the most regularly prescribed by hair loss specialists, with 53% saying they always or often recommend topical Minoxidil to their patients, compared with 26.4% who say the same of oral Minoxidil .
In this article, you’ll learn all about topical Minoxidil: how it works, what side effects you can expect, and whether it’s better to choose oral or topical Minoxidil.
Topical Minoxidil is a solution you can apply to your scalp to slow hair loss and stimulate regrowth. When it’s absorbed into your skin, the active ingredient — Minoxidil — opens up the blood vessels by acting on potassium channels of vascular muscle cellsstimulating blood flow and feeding your hair follicles with essential nutrients [4-5].
The percentage on a Minoxidil product indicates the concentration of the active ingredient within each application. Every 100ml of 5% Minoxidil solution contains 5g of Minoxidil. In 2% Minoxidil, the same quantity contains 2g.
Often, female-branded Minoxidil (such as Regaine For Women) contains the 2% formula, while male-branded Minoxidil (such as Regaine) has a 5% concentration.
However, studies that have compared the effectiveness of Minoxidil 2% and 5% for male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss both find the 5% solution to be superior [6-7].
Both concentrations are generally safe regardless of gender. You might choose to use a lower concentration if you’re worried about side effects, or a higher concentration for more visible results.
Research shows that higher strength concentrations of Minoxidil can be more effective than 5% solutions .
However, higher concentrations such as 10% Minoxidil aren’t licensed for use, so they’re not commercially available. They may also cause more irritation and side effects.
Speak to a hair loss specialist if you’re not seeing results from a 5% Minoxidil solution. We can recommend alternatives to Minoxidil that may be more suitable.
Topical Minoxidil can treat the following types of alopecia:
It’s not always possible to self-diagnose your hair loss. That’s why it’s important to see your GP to rule out any underlying health conditions and book a free consultation with a hair loss specialist to discover the root cause of your hair loss. You can then decide if topical Minoxidil is the best treatment for you.
These photos from clinical trials show results from using topical Minoxidil. You can also find out how long it takes for Minoxidil to work.
See more before and after Minoxidil photos, including results from using both oral and topical Minoxidil.
Minoxidil is a relatively large molecule, so it’s not easily absorbed into the skin. Just 1.4% of the topical Minoxidil you apply is absorbed into the scalp . Derma rolling for hair may help more of the solution penetrate the skin .
Nanoxidil was devised as an alternative to Minoxidil that consists of a smaller molecule, which theoretically makes it easier to absorb. However, there’s no evidence to suggest that Nanoxidil users see better results than Minoxidil users.
Topical Minoxidil has minimal side effects compared with other hair loss drugs like Finasteride and Dutasteride. However, there are some topical Minoxidil side effects to be aware of:
Some people worry that using topical Minoxidil can contribute to specific health conditions. Here’s what the research shows.
Topical Minoxidil has been known to cause headaches in some cases. Trials for female pattern hair loss found headaches occurred in 3.7% of patients on average . In men, headaches occurred in 1.8% of men on average.
Studies show no link between topical Minoxidil use and heart problems like ischemic heart disease or abnormal heart rate . These conditions have been linked with oral Minoxidil use in rare cases, but topical Minoxidil is far less likely to cause these systemic side effects.
There’s no evidence to suggest topical Minoxidil will lead to weight gain .
Topical Minoxidil hasn’t been linked with high blood pressure. Oral Minoxidil is sometimes used to treat high blood pressure, so while it can cause changes in blood pressure, it’s unlikely to lead to hypertension .
While there’s limited evidence that Minoxidil can cause acne, it can trigger other conditions that may look similar to acne [12-13].
For example, contact dermatitis may cause a small red rash that appears around the area where Minoxidil has been applied.
Topical Minoxidil has also been linked to acute localised exanthematous pustulosis (ALEP). ALEP creates red pus-filled spots on the skin that may look similar to acne. However, this condition is very rare; there’s only one documented case linked with topical Minoxidil use .
No, topical Minoxidil won’t affect the kidneys. Oral Minoxidil has been linked with kidney function changes when used to treat high blood pressure . But topical Minoxidil isn’t used for this purpose, and is absorbed by the body in much lower amounts. So it’s unlikely to cause any renal problems.
Yes, it can be dangerous to expose cats and dogs to Minoxidil. So take precautions if using this treatment around pets.
Some people worry that Minoxidil will cause systemic side effects. That means the medication causes changes throughout the body, rather than just in the area of application.
Unlike oral Minoxidil, topical Minoxidil is very unlikely to cause systemic effects, even if you apply it several times a day . While some Minoxidil will inevitably enter your bloodstream, it won’t cross the blood-brain barrier.
Topical Minoxidil absorbed through the skin doesn’t stay in your system for long. Approximately 95% of the absorbed Minoxidil will leave your body after four days .
Yes, topical Minoxidil has been shown to be effective for women as well as men . 5% Minoxidil tends to be most effective for women, as it leads to greater scalp coverage.
These clinical photos show the impact of using topical Minoxidil for women:
Hair growth progress over six months of 2% Minoxidil use for severe androgenetic alopecia in a female patient.
Topical Minoxidil is safe and effective for use on your beard as well as your scalp [5, 16]. This is an off-label use of the product, but many people claim to have used Minoxidil for beard growth successfully, including YouTuber Kaz Veselka. Here are his results before and after 1.5 years of 5% Minoxidil foam use:
Yes — studies show that combining topical Minoxidil with oral Finasteride can give you better results than either treatment on its own .
A combined treatment of topical Minoxidil and topical Finasteride may also maintain hair growth after a course of oral Finasteride, while minimising the risk of Finasteride side effects .
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