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Is Minoxidil Safe for Women?

Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD

Reviewed by Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD

Written by Sheryl George

Published 10/15/2018

Updated 12/12/2023

First, a virtual hug. We know how you landed here…. It usually starts with noticing more hair shedding, or maybe a thinner ponytail or that your hair looks less full in newer pictures. 

For women, beauty is often intrinsically tied to our crowning glory — our hair. That means that the psychological effects of hair loss can feel embarrassing and depressing. We totally get it if you’ve been spiraling and obsessively Googling “does minoxidil work for women?” 

You’re not alone though. Studies have shown that more than half of all women experience hair thinning in their lifetime. 

Read on to find all the info you need to know about whether minoxidil is safe for women and how to actually use this hair loss treatment.

It’s one of the most researched hair loss treatments on the market, and numerous studies have shown that minoxidil works effectively as a hair loss treatment for both men and women. 

Rogaine®, a popular brand name version of minoxidil, is probably one of the most commonly known treatments for female hair loss. If you’re here, we’re betting you’ve asked “does Rogaine for women work?” more than once. And while the answer is yes for many women, you can also choose from various generic forms of minoxidil in addition to the brand name. 

Think of minoxidil as fertilizer for your roots. Minoxidil helps move dormant hair follicles into the anagen phase, meaning they start growing instead of resting. It also extends the duration of the growth phase, meaning your hair follicles spend more time growing before each hair sheds from your scalp.

Unlike many over-the-counter hair loss treatments, minoxidil is backed up by a large amount of scientific research — and unlike some other areas of research, we actually have studies with female participants. 

For example, a 48-week placebo-controlled study looked at the effects of 5% topical minoxidil and 2% topical minoxidil in 381 women with female pattern hair loss. 

The women in the study applied minoxidil twice a day and at the end of the 48 weeks, researchers found that hair regrowth and scalp coverage increased in both treatment groups.  

However, the prescription strength mattered — the 5% group experienced the best results and the 2% group experienced superior results to the placebo group.

What’s that mean for you? While results can vary from person to person, you should generally expect to see some improvement after using minoxidil for about two to four months. We recommend taking monthly check-in photos so you can compare your own progress with before and after shots. 

We like options — whether it’s what DoorDash® is offering on a Tuesday night or the type of minoxidil we use. Minoxidil comes in two forms: an FDA-approved topical, and the emerging-but-not-yet-FDA-approved oral minoxidil. There’s also a new option that combines minoxidil with finasteride. 

Learn more about all three below.

Topical Minoxidil

If you prefer a topical solution to pills, you can usually opt for a minoxidil foam (this version contains 5% minoxidil) or drops, like this version with 2% minoxidil.

Applying it is easy as one, two, three:

  1. The jury is still out on whether it's best to apply minoxidil to a dry scalp or damp scalp, but make sure you at least towel dry your hair, so you aren't applying minoxidil to soaking wet hair.

  2. Apply the minoxidil solution to the affected areas of your scalp, which for most women is the center of head and part area. If necessary, you can spread the minoxidil solution over the target area using your fingers. If you apply minoxidil with your fingers, be sure to wash your hands immediately. We’re all for the body positive hair movement but we’re assuming you may not want unwanted hair growth on your fingertips, ya know?

  3. For best absorption, allow the minoxidil to dry naturally and do not use a hairdryer to dry the liquid solution. It’s best to avoid wearing hats or other garments that cover your scalp in the two to four hours after using minoxidil.

You should also avoid shampooing your hair for those four hours after using minoxidil, to get the most bang for your buck. No need to throw money away, right? This means you might want to wash your hair and scalp before applying the treatment.

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Oral Minoxidil

Recent studies have shown that low-dose oral minoxidil can be an effective treatment for numerous hair disorders, including female-patterned hair loss (FPHL).  While many healthcare providers will prescribe it off-label, we do need to note that oral minoxidil isn’t actually approved by the FDA to treat hair loss in women.

This once-daily pill is as easy as throwing back a glass of water. Oral minoxidil might be especially great for women who don't like to wash hair often (no judgment here) or dry shampoo devotees, since this won’t alter your styling options. 

Additionally, if you’ve tried topical minoxidil in the past and it didn't work for you, you may have better luck with the oral form. Minoxidil requires the presence of an enzyme called follicular sulfotransferase, and oral minoxidil deems to require less enzymatic activity to become activated. So while a topical treatment won’t work in this case, an oral form may help. 

The good news is that oral minoxidil works just as well as the topical kind. A study comparing 1mg of oral minoxidil to 5% topical minoxidil showed that the two have comparable results. Now, that feels promising. 

Minoxidil and Finasteride Hair Growth Spray

A combination of 6% minoxidil and 0.3% finasteride meet in this prescription-strength topical spray. While minoxidil has been the gold standard for treating women's hair loss,  finasteride also shows promise

Currently, oral finasteride is only FDA-approved to treat androgenetic alopecia in men. But more recently, topical finasteride has been used-label for women as a hair loss treatment, especially combined with minoxidil. 

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Depending on the formulation, the most common topical minoxidil side effects are:

  • Scalp irritation or rash at the application site

  • Scalp itchiness or flaking

  • Slight burning sensation

  • Headache

For oral minoxidil, side effects can include:

  • Hypertrichosis

  • Edema

  • Tachycardia

  • Hypotension

  • Pericarditis

  • Effusion

  • Tamponade

While side effects are rare, it’s always best to check with your dermatologist or healthcare provider for the most appropriate medical advice, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

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So can women use minoxidil? You betcha! And better yet, you’ve got treatment options, so don’t settle. Like dating, keep an open mind and find the hair loss treatment that best works for your type of hair loss. To sum it up, you’ve got:

  • Topical minoxidil (in both 2% drops and 5% foam formulations) 

  • Oral minoxidil 

  • Minoxidil and finasteride spray 

And if none of the above seem to be working for you, keep in mind that there are other options you can try, such as spironolactone and supplements like biotin gummies. And our hair loss kit includes biotin gummies as well as DHT shampoo, another product used to encourage hair growth. If you want to learn more about your options to treat hair loss, our guide to female pattern baldness is a great place to start.

If you’ve already made the decision that you’re ready for hair loss treatment, meet with one of our medical providers online right from your own home.

Related Articles

7 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Dinh, Quan Q & Sinclair, Rodney. Female pattern hair loss: Current treatment concepts (2007). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684510/
  2. Lucky, Anne W, Piacquadio, Daniel J, Ditre Cherie M, Dunlap, Frank, Kantor, Irwin , Pandya, Amit G, Savin, Ronald C & Tharp, Michael D . A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 5% and 2% topical minoxidil solutions in the treatment of female pattern hair loss (2004) Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15034503/
  3. Rossi, A., Cantisani, C., Mellis, L., Iorio, A., Scali, E.,& Calvieri, S. (2012, May). Minoxidil use in dermatology, side effects and recent patents. PubMed. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22409453/
  4. Ramírez-Marín, Hassiel Aurelio & Tosti, Antonella Role of Oral Minoxidil in Patterned Hair Loss (2022) Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9650732/
  5. Ramos, P., Sinclair, Rodney D., Kasprzak, M. & Miot, H.A (2019) Retrieved from https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(19)32666-0/fulltext
  6. Suchonwait, P., Thammarucha, S., & Leerunyakal, K. (2019, August 9). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691
  7. Iamsumong, W., Leerunyakal, K., & Suchonwanit, P. (2020, March 2). Finasteride and Its Potential for the Treatment of Female Pattern Hair Loss: Evidence to Date. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7060023/

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. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD

Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. She is the director of the Teledermatology Program, as well as the Associate Program Director of the Yale Dermatology Residency Training Program. Her research focuses on telemedicine and medical education. Her practice includes general medical dermatology, high-risk skin cancer, and procedural dermatology.

Dr. Perkins completed her undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained her medical degree at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She completed her medical internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by residency training in dermatology at Yale University, after which she joined the faculty.

Dr. Perkins has been a member of the Hims & Hers Medical Advisory Board since 2018. Her commentary has been featured in NBC News, Real Simple, The Cut, and Yahoo, among others.

Publications:

  • Ahmad, M., Christensen, S. R., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The impact of COVID-19 on the dermatologic care of nonmelanoma skin cancers among solid organ transplant recipients. JAAD international, 13, 98–99. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10518328/

  • Ahmad, M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). Learning dermatology in medical school: analysis of dermatology topics tested in popular question banks. Clinical and experimental dermatology, 48(4), 361–363. https://academic.oup.com/ced/article-abstract/48/4/361/6869515?redirectedFrom=fulltext&login=false

  • Belzer, A., Leasure, A. C., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The association of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma with solid organ transplantation: a cross-sectional study of the All Of Us Research Program. International journal of dermatology, 62(10), e564–e566. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16700

  • Ahmad, M., Marson, J. W., Litchman, G. H., Perkins, S. H., & Rigel, D. S. (2022). Usage and perceptions of teledermatology in 2021: a survey of dermatologists. International journal of dermatology, 61(7), e235–e237. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16209

  • Asabor, E. N., Bunick, C. G., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2021). Patient and physician perspectives on teledermatology at an academic dermatology department amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 84(1), 158–161. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7491373/

  • Belzer, A., Olamiju, B., Antaya, R. J., Odell, I. D., Bia, M., Perkins, S. H., & Cohen, J. M. (2021). A novel medical student initiative to enhance provision of teledermatology in a resident continuity clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic: a pilot study. International journal of dermatology, 60(1), 128–129. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7753449/

  • Cohen, J. M., Bunick, C. G., & Perkins, S. H. (2020). The new normal: An approach to optimizing and combining in-person and telemedicine visits to maximize patient care. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 83(5), e361–e362. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7316470/

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