Minoxidil Dosage Guide for Hair Loss
Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Rachel Sacks
If you deal with hair loss — also called male pattern baldness — you’re probably very familiar with all the available options to treat hair loss, including minoxidil. And if you’re not, don’t worry — we have a guide all about products for hair growth.
But just because you’re familiar with these treatments doesn’t mean you know everything. And if you still have some questions about how to use minoxidil, we’re here to help.
For decades, minoxidil has repeatedly proven to be an effective treatment against hair loss in both men and women. But what minoxidil dose is suitable to manage your hair loss needs?
We'll be answering this question by looking into recommended minoxidil dosages, how this medication works and potential side effects you should be aware of.
Topical Minoxidil Dosages
Minoxidil was originally used as a vasodilator drug (medication that widens blood vessels) to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), and is still used in its oral pill form as a potent antihypertensive agent called Loniten. But more important for our purposes, it’s now also used in its topical form to treat male pattern baldness.
Minoxidil is one of two FDA-approved medications to treat hair loss (the other is called finasteride). You might recognize minoxidil’s brand name Rogaine®.
There are several ways a healthcare provider or dermatology office might provide this medication: as a minoxidil foam or a minoxidil solution, both applied topically, or combined with the other hair loss drug in a two-in-one topical finasteride & minoxidil spray.
To understand how a dose of minoxidil works for hair loss, let’s first quickly look at how hair grows.
Hair grows in a cycle with three phases:
The anagen or growth phase, which lasts between two to six years
The catagen phase, which marks the transition between growing and resting
The telogen phase or resting phase, where hair doesn’t grow
If you think the reason you’re balding is that your hair grows slowly, don’t worry — a healthy hair growth rate is around half an inch per month (or six inches in a year).
And if it doesn’t seem like your hair is growing, think again. Approximately 85 to 90 percent of the hairs on your head are in the growth phase at any given time.
But how exactly does minoxidil affect this growth cycle?
Although the specific details of how this drug works are a little unclear, minoxidil is thought to promote hair growth by shortening the telogen phase and lengthening the anagen, or growth, phase.
When the telogen phase is shortened, your hair follicles are forced to enter into a premature growth phase.
This typically causes excessive shedding of hair at first, but don’t panic! This just allows more room for new hair growth. What’s even better? Minoxidil is known to increase hair length and diameter as well.
So is there a “correct” minoxidil dose for hair loss? Does your dosage depend on how much hair you’ve lost or whether you choose to use high-strength minoxidil?
Keep reading to learn about the effectiveness of different minoxidil dosages and how to apply minoxidil foam to successfully treat hair loss.
Effectiveness of Minoxidil Doses for Hair Loss
Now you know how minoxidil affects the hair growth cycle and encourages new hair growth. But does the minoxidil dosage make a difference? And does it matter whether you use foam or solution?
You’re probably hoping for a dosage that can offer quick and efficient results — perhaps even overnight improvements where possible. The bad news is that overnight hair growth won’t happen, but the good news is that you have options, so you can find the minoxidil dose that works for you.
Topical minoxidil is available over-the-counter in 5% and 2% dosages.
5% minoxidil foam
A small study also found that the 5% minoxidil foam dosage was more effective than a placebo for hair regrowth at the crown (or back of the head), as well as the hairline.
Minoxidil foam has also been found to be less irritating than other formulations, with fewer adverse effects than the 2% solution.
5% minoxidil solution
A 48-week clinical trial compared 5% and 2% minoxidil in almost 400 men with androgenetic alopecia (the technical name for male pattern baldness). It found that the 5% minoxidil solution resulted in 45 percent more hair regrowth than the 2% topical minoxidil, and that those using the 5% dosage saw hair growth sooner, determined by new hair count as well as the men’s improved perception of themselves after using the treatment.
While it might seem that a 5% minoxidil dose for hair loss would be more effective than a lower dose of 2%, regardless of what form it comes in, this may not be the case.
Although the minoxidil solution was effective for hair growth, researchers believe that minoxidil foam works more efficiently than the topical solution. This is because the foam allows for easy penetration and speedy delivery of the drug, while the solution is less effective at delivering the medication. Minoxidil foam also dries faster and stays in the targeted treatment area.
Topical finasteride & minoxidil spray
If you’re dealing with early signs of balding, why not double up on hair loss treatment? A two-in-one spray combines minoxidil with finasteride, the other FDA-approved hair loss treatment.
While minoxidil works to promote hair growth in the targeted areas it’s applied to, finasteride works a little differently. Finasteride has a systemic effect throughout your body, reducing levels of the hormone that’s responsible for male pattern baldness.
You can think of minoxidil and finasteride as treating hair loss from different angles. Minoxidil is a topical treatment that works like a fertilizer, while finasteride is more like a shield that protects your hair follicles from being damaged by hormones.
Minoxidil and finasteride are generally safe and effective medications when used on their own and research also shows that they’re safe to use together.
A 2015 study published in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal found that regular use of finasteride and minoxidil together helped to maintain a good hair density level.
Because each medication works in different ways, there’s no risk in taking them together. You may even get better results by using both finasteride and minoxidil together than by only taking one medication to treat hair loss.
Hims has helped thousands of men regrow their hair
Common Side Effects of Minoxidil Doses
While minoxidil is a largely well-tolerated medication, it has possible adverse effects, like any drug.
When you first start taking minoxidil, it may cause a type of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium, but as we mentioned, this side effect will go away as you keep using minoxidil.
Other common minoxidil side effects include:
Skin irritation, such as erythema (skin reddening) and a burning sensation on the skin surface
Scalp irritation or the worsening of seborrheic dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis
Isolated pruritus — itchy skin without an accompanying rash
Localized or generalized hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth anywhere on the body), commonly observed after the use of oral minoxidil
Minoxidil can also cause drug interactions and increased side effects when taken with certain medications and supplements Using minoxidil while taking baby aspirin may also reduce how efficient minoxidil is, likely because of how the aspirin affects certain enzymes in your hair.
You may also have heard about adverse effects such as increased heart rate (tachycardia), weight gain, chest pain, water retention, lightheadedness or feeling faint, as well as more serious risks of cardiovascular problems like a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or heart failure. These, however, are possible side effects of oral minoxidil tablets for high blood pressure, not topical minoxidil for hair loss.
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Minoxidil Dose for Hair Loss: Takeaways
Hair loss can be one of life's big curveballs, but with medications like minoxidil to help manage it, you could come through the other side with a noticeably improved head of hair.
Minoxidil is one of two medications approved by the FDA to treat hair loss in men, such as androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness.
In its approved form, minoxidil can be applied topically as a liquid solution or as a foam, and is available in 2% or 5% dosages.
Both the 5% foam and solution minoxidil dosage were more effective than the low-dose 2% formulation in certain studies. However, the foam delivers the medication faster and in a more targeted way than the minoxidil solution.
To make sure you're getting the right minoxidil dose for hair loss, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider on what will work best for you. Once you find the right dose, you can learn about how to apply minoxidil in this guide.