Can Minoxidil Cause Sexual Side Effects?

Reviewed by Angela Sheddan, DNP, FNP-BC

Written by Our Editorial Team

Updated 18/11/2021

With any medication you choose to take, side effects are always an important consideration. 

One topic we’ve seen come up a lot is the connection between hair regrowth medication like minoxidil and sexual side effects in men. 

One study showed that finasteride (another treatment used for hair growth) may be linked to some adverse sexual effects and more so than minoxidil.  

(And when side effects affect you sexually, we get it: You want to know!)

Read on to learn all about minoxidil and the side effects you can look out for if you decide to incorporate it into your hair care routine.

How Does Minoxidil Work?

In the 1970’s, doctors began prescribing minoxidil as an oral medication to treat high blood pressure, and they noticed an interesting side effect: hair regrowth in their balding patients.

About 10 years later, minoxidil made its debut as a topical treatment for androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male pattern hair loss.,

These days minoxidil is used to combat not only balding on the scalp, but hair disorders on other areas of the body.

Sold as a generic drug, or under the brand name of Rogaine®, minoxidil works on the cells of the hair follicles, encouraging hair growth and reducing hair loss,.

For treatment of hair follicles, minoxidil comes in concentrations of 2% and 5% within a topical solution that also contains inactive ingredients such as water, ethanol and propylene glycol (PG). 

These ingredients help increase the solubility of the drug, while PG goes a step further by facilitating the efficiency of its delivery.

What Are the Common Side Effects of Minoxidil?

Like many medications, minoxidil comes with its side effects, but it is generally considered to be a safe drug, even for use in children.,

The most common adverse effect of topical minoxidil is dermatitis at the site of application, featuring the typical symptoms of itchy, scaly skin.

 In some people, this dermatitis is the result of simple irritation, while it can be also be due to an allergic reaction in others. This particular side effect is more common with the 5% concentration of the drug.

In cases where the reaction is allergic, minoxidil itself is rarely the culprit. In fact, allergic reactions to propylene glycol (PG) are so common that there are now PG-free versions of minoxidil, containing butylene glycol, glycerin or polysorbate as a replacement.

Another common adverse reaction of minoxidil is hypertrichosis, or what you may better know as excessive hair growth. 

This side effect is again most common with use of the 5% application of topical minoxidil, and is more common in women than in men.

When hypertrichosis does occur, it is typically seen with body hair — on the face, arms and legs. The issue usually resolves itself within one to five months once the product is no longer being used.

Lastly, minoxidil can sometimes cause a surprising side effect: increased hair shedding due to the drug’s shortening of the “resting” phase of the hair growth cycle

This is the time between when a strand of hair completes its growth and falls out.

A few side effects that occur infrequently in men being treated with minoxidil include headaches, and generalized irritation including itchy skin, irritated hair follicles and inflamed blood capillaries. 

These symptoms were reported at a rate of four percent or less in studies on the drug.

So, does minoxidil have any sexual side effects? Read on. 

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How Might Minoxidil Affect Sexual Health?

Sexual dysfunction is a known side effect of another medication commonly used to treat male pattern baldness: finasteride.

Here’s the big however: We are not aware of any studies that show a definitive connection between minoxidil and sexual dysfunction.

A 2016 study that reviewed reports submitted to the Food and Drug Administration’s Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) found eight reports of sexual side effects out of ninety two cases of male minoxidil-exposed patients. These effects included diminished libido, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, ejaculation disorder and decreased seminal volume.

While the same study examined finasteride alongside minoxidil and advised caution around its use in male individuals, it drew no such conclusion around minoxidil.

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Minoxidil and Sexual Side Effects: Should You Worry?

Minoxidil has been used as a safe treatment for hair loss for over thirty years in both children and adults.

While common side effects like hair shedding, dermatitis and excessive hair growth can sometimes occur, it’s yet to be determined whether there’s firm evidence that minoxidil has any adverse effect on sexual health.

If you’re seeking help with hair regrowth or would like to prevent hair loss, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional. 

They can help you determine what might be causing your hair loss, and what time of hair loss treatment might be right for you.

Minoxidil is easy to apply, whether as drops or foam, and could help you back to a healthy head of hair.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.

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