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.
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. Either format is designed for once-daily application — specifically, experts say that morning is the best time to apply the solution to your scalp.
Applying it is easy as one, two, three:
Make sure your hair and scalp are dry before applying minoxidil. Moisture can affect minoxidil’s absorption rate.
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?
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.
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, but not everyone has high enough levels of this enzyme in their hair follicles. 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.
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.
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
For oral minoxidil, side effects can include:
Fast or irregular heartbeat
Allergic reactions (which can include rash, itching, or hives)
Low blood pressure
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.
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)
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.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
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