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Last updated: May 04, 2022
5 min read

How long does minoxidil take to work?

felix gussonegina-allegretti

Medically Reviewed by Felix Gussone, MD

Written by Gina Allegretti, MD

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

When you’re using a medication to treat hair loss, you want to know when you’ll see results. How long does it take minoxidil to work? Is topical minoxidil as a foam or liquid faster than taking minoxidil pills? Keep reading to find out. 

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How long does Rogaine take to work? 

Minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) starts working within 4–8 weeks, but you probably won’t see the full results right away. It can take up to 4–6 months of continuous usage before you see significant improvement in your hair growth (Badri, 2021; Olsen, 2002).

It’s also important to remember that when you start to use minoxidil, you’re probably going to experience some increased hair shedding, typically during the first six weeks of use. This is normal—after these hairs fall out, thicker, stronger hairs will replace them (Rossi, 2012). If you stop using the treatment, any hair regrowth you experienced will go away, and hair loss will resume.

Causes of thinning hair 

Hair loss may occur for many different reasons. Common types of hair loss (alopecia) include (Al Aboud, 2021; Phillips, 2017): 

  • Pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia): The most common type of hair loss is androgenic alopecia, often called male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness. It’s usually related to the level of hormones called androgens. 
  • Alopecia areata: Alopecia areata is patchy hair loss caused by your immune system attacking your hair follicles (autoimmune disease).
  • Telogen effluvium (TE): TE is excessive hair shedding, often over the entire scalp. It may be caused by stress, medications, nutrient deficiencies, and recent illness (for example, viral infections like COVID may cause TE). 

How minoxidil works

Minoxidil’s exact mechanism of action in the body isn’t completely understood. But some of the ways minoxidil may stimulate healthy hair growth include (Badri, 2021): 

Shortens the hair follicle’s resting phase

The hair growth cycle includes a growing phase (anagen phase) and a resting phase (telogen phase). Minoxidil shortens the telogen phase and extends the anagen phase, stimulating hair growth by causing the resting hairs to shed and the new hairs to grow thicker and longer.  

Stimulates blood flow

Minoxidil stimulates blood flow in the small blood vessels in your scalp. Better blood flow to your scalp helps boost hair growth.  

Stimulates hair follicles

Minoxidil may affect the hair follicles themselves by increasing their growth phase. 

How effective is minoxidil? 

Minoxidil is available in different forms. It may be used topically as a foam or a liquid, and it comes in two strengths, 2% and 5% concentrations. Both strengths are approved for hair loss in men in liquid form, but only the 2% strength is approved in women. Minoxidil may also be taken orally as a pill

Topical minoxidil effectively treats androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata (Sung, 2019). In clinical studies, people who used either the foam or the liquid had significantly more hair regrowth than those who used a placebo (Olsen, 2002; Rundegren, 2004). Men with androgenetic alopecia who used the 5% minoxidil solution experienced 45% more hair growth after 11 months than those who used the 2% minoxidil solution (Olsen, 2002). 

Oral minoxidil is approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to treat alopecia in men, though some healthcare providers use it off-label for women (Beach, 2018). 

Studies show that oral minoxidil treatment is just as effective at regrowing hair as the topical version, but there’s a higher risk of its common side effects, including unwanted facial hair growth and hair growth on other parts of the body. According to one study, one in 20 women decided to stop treatment due to excessive unwanted hair growth (Ramos, 2020; Vañó-Galván, 2021). 

Tips for using minoxidil

When you’re using minoxidil, there are things you can do to help get the best results possible. For example: 

  • Apply it regularly: Don’t skip applications or doses of minoxidil. It works best when you use it regularly and consistently. 
  • Start early: If you notice hair loss, don’t wait. Hair loss treatments may be even more effective if you start using them when you first notice signs of hair loss (York, 2020). 
  • Combine it with finasteride: Some studies found that minoxidil is more effective when combined with finasteride (Propecia; see Important Safety Information) (Chen, 2020). Remember to always speak to your healthcare provider before combining medications. Pregnant women should not take finasteride because this medication can cause harm to a fetus.

Minoxidil effectively treats hair loss in many people, but you may have to wait a few months to see results. It’s also important to keep in mind that the drug, whether as a pill or a topical treatment, doesn’t treat the cause of hair loss and is only effective for as long as you use it.

References

  1. Al Aboud, A. M. & Zito, P. M. (2021). Alopecia. StatPearls. Retrieved on Apr. 19, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538178/
  2. Badri, T., Nessel, T. A., & Kumar, D. D. (2021). Minoxidil. StatPearls. Retrieved on Apr. 19, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  3. Beach, R. A. (2018). Case series of oral minoxidil for androgenetic and traction alopecia: Tolerability & the five C’s of oral therapy. Dermatologic Therapy, 31(6), e12707. doi:10.1111/dth.12707. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6586015/
  4. Chen, L., Zhang, J., Wang, L., et al. (2020). The efficacy and safety of finasteride combined with topical minoxidil for androgenetic alopecia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 44(3), 962–970. doi: 10.1007/s00266-020-01621-5. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32166351/
  5. Jimenez-Cauhe, J., Saceda-Corralo, D., Rodrigues-Barata, R., et al. (2019). Effectiveness and safety of low-dose oral minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 81(2), 648–649. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2019.04.054. Retrieved from https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(19)30685-1/fulltext 
  6. Olsen, E. A., Whiting, D., Bergfeld, W., et al. (2007). A multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of a novel formulation of 5% minoxidil topical foam versus placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 57(5), 767–774. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2007.04.012. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17761356/
  7. Olsen, E. A., Dunlap, F. E., Funicella, T., et al. (2002). A randomized clinical trial of 5% topical minoxidil versus 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 47(3), 377–385. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12196747
  8. Phillips, T. G., Slomiany, W. P., & Allison, R. (2017). Hair loss: common causes and treatment. American Family Physician, 96(6), 371–378. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0915/p371.html
  9. Ramos, P. M., Sinclair, R. D., Kasprzak, M., et al. (2020). Minoxidil 1 mg oral versus minoxidil 5% topical solution for the treatment of female-pattern hair loss: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 82(1), 252–253. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2019.08.060. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31473295/
  10. Rebora, A. (2019). Telogen effluvium: a comprehensive review. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 12, 583–590. doi:10.2147/CCID.S200471. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6709511/
  11. Rossi, A., Cantisani, C., Melis, L., et al. (2012). Minoxidil use in dermatology, side effects and recent patents. Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery, 6(2), 130–136. doi:10.2174/187221312800166859. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22409453/
  12. Rundegren, J. (2004). A one-year observational study with minoxidil 5% solution in Germany: results of independent efficacy evaluation by physicians and patients 1. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 50(3), P91. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2003.10.289. Retrieved from https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(03)03692-2/fulltext#articleInformation
  13. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Design, Development and Therapy, 13, 2777–2786. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S214907. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  14. Sung, C. T., Juhasz, M. L., Choi, F. D., et al. (2019). The efficacy of topical minoxidil for non-scarring alopecia: a systematic review. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology: JDD, 18(2), 155–160. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30794366/
  15. Vañó-Galván, S., Pirmez, R., Hermosa-Gelbard, A., et al (2021). Safety of low-dose oral minoxidil for hair loss: A multicenter study of 1404 patients. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 84(6), 1644–1651. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2021.02.054. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33639244/
  16. York, K., Meah, N., Bhoyrul, B., & Sinclair, R. (2020). A review of the treatment of male pattern hair loss. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, 21(5), 603–612. doi:10.1080/14656566.2020.1721463. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32066284/