How to use minoxidil

Published on January 15, 2021
Updated on January 15, 2021
A man holding up a container of minoxidil solution and looking at the dropper
Most people trying to regrow hair need to apply 1 milliliter of minoxidil solution to their scalps twice a day

Minoxidil is a treatment that the Food and Drug Administration has approved for androgenic alopecia (commonly known as male pattern hair loss). Although there are various other treatments available for androgenic alopecia, minoxidil is the only one that is applied onto your skin.

When used correctly, you’ll usually see the results of minoxidil after a few months. Like with other hair loss treatments, daily use is key in restoring and maintaining hair growth. 

Minoxidil: the first at home hair loss treatment

Minoxidil was one of the first hair loss treatments ever developed. According to an article in The Pharmaceutical Journal, this medication had been around since the 1960s, but it was only tested as a hair loss treatment in the 1970s.  

Prior to minoxidil’s approval in the 1980s, the only other way to treat androgenic alopecia was through surgery. The surgeries available at the time weren’t exactly the best, either. 

According to a study in the Plastic Surgical Nursing journal, hair plugs were the main hair transplantation surgery available throughout the mid 20th century. While the surgery itself was advanced for its time, it resulted in irregular tufts of hair and an unusual appearance. 

By the 1980s, more modern transplantation techniques were being developed. But as you might expect, these newer surgeries were extremely expensive and only performed by a few doctors. Obviously, the arrival of an alternative like minoxidil, a liquid serum you could apply at home, was a huge hit. 

Minoxidil was initially sold as a 2 percent solution, but a 5 percent solution also became available soon after. More recently, the same concentrations of minoxidil have become available as foams instead of liquids.

Researchers haven’t stopped innovating with minoxidil: you might even encounter newer products, like minoxidil shampoo, minoxidil creams, or higher concentration solutions sold near you. However, only the 2 and 5 percent liquids and foam versions of minoxidil are approved by the FDA as hair loss treatments.

How effective is minoxidil for hair growth? 

Minoxidil is surprisingly effective at helping hair grow back. In order to be FDA-approved as a hair loss treatment, it has to be. According to The Pharmaceutical Journal study, around 80 percent of the men who originally tested 2 percent minoxidil benefited from using it. The same study reported that when 11,000 men and women were asked to rate this product, 92 percent considered it to be excellent, good, or fair in slowing or stopping hair loss. 

The newer 5 percent minoxidil solution has shown even better results in men. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported that the 5 percent version of minoxidil was able to produce 45 percent more hair regrowth and faster results compared to the 2 percent solution. 

How to use minoxidil solution

If you’ve never used minoxidil before, applying this solution is low-effort and easy. We consulted our experts and the Mayo Clinic to create a 10-step guide outlining what your average day using minoxidil should look like. 

Step 1: Start your day

Before you head to work in the morning, you might go for a run and eat breakfast. And of course, you’ll also go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, and probably also shower. Once you’re clean and dry, make sure to towel dry and detangle your hair.

Pro Tip: Minoxidil needs to be applied in the morning and evening to be most effective. Leave your minoxidil solution next to your toothbrush – that way, every time you brush your teeth you’ll also remember to apply your minoxidil.

Step 2: Part your hair

When you feel like your scalp is mostly dry, part your hair so that the area where you’re losing hair is exposed.

Step 3: Apply the minoxidil solution

Most people will need to apply 1 milliliter of minoxidil to their scalps. You can typically measure out this amount using the dropper that comes with your minoxidil solution.

At this point, you have one of two options. You can squirt a few drops of minoxidil onto the fingertips of one hand and apply it with your fingers, or you can use the dropper to apply the minoxidil directly onto the scalp in that particular area.

Regardless of how you choose to apply the solution, make sure you spread it evenly over the part of your scalp where you’re seeing hair loss symptoms. Minoxidil works on your skin, not on your hair strands, so make sure that it doesn’t get stuck in your hair.

Pro Tip: Many people find it easier to apply minoxidil using their fingertips. Minoxidil is safe for skin, so there’s no issue if you’d rather do this. Just make sure to wash your hands as soon as you finish applying the serum.

Step 4: Repeat if necessary

If you’re losing hair in multiple places, you’ll want to repeat steps 2 and 3 for each part of your scalp where you’d like to regrow hair. However, keep in mind that you don’t need to use several doses (or several milliliters) every time you apply minoxidil. Instead, simply try to distribute the total dose across the various areas where you’d like to see hair growth.

Step 5: Let minoxidil absorb into your scalp

Allow the minoxidil to dry onto your scalp (which should only take 10 or 15 minutes). Once you’re sure the minoxidil has dried, feel free to apply any styling products you usually use. Just make sure that unlike the minoxidil, which goes on your scalp and NOT your hair, those styling products are going onto your hair and NOT your scalp.  

Pro Tip: Minoxidil may be affected by blow drying and high heat. However, feel free to gently blow dry your hair using a cooler setting while you’re waiting for minoxidil to absorb into your scalp.

Step 6: Go about your day

Whether you’re at home or headed to the office, go about your day as usual. Make sure you don’t get your hair wet for a few hours after you’ve applied the minoxidil.

Pro Tip: Minoxidil absorbs into your scalp and hair follicles throughout the day, even after the liquid has dried. To maximize its effectiveness, try not to get your hair wet for at least 4 hours after applying the solution.

Step 7: Get ready for bed

It’s best to start your nightly routine a bit early when applying minoxidil. This means shampooing and showering – especially if you went to the gym after work or if you applied any styling products to your hair. 

Alternatively, if you work out in the mornings and already showered then, you can just rinse your hair in the sink. Rinsing or washing your hair is important because minoxidil is most effective when applied onto a clean scalp. It’s best to start this step a few hours before bed (after you get home from work might be best).

Pro Tip: The FDA recommends that people using minoxidil use a mild or gentle shampoo. Shampoos with natural cleansing and conditioning ingredients can help nourish your hair and prevent breakage.

Step 8: Reapply minoxidil

Once you’ve cleaned and towel dried your hair, apply the minoxidil onto your scalp again (essentially just repeat steps 2 and 3).

Step 9: Let minoxidil absorb (again)

Wait for your minoxidil to dry. This is a good time to brush your teeth, take out your contacts, and any other aspects of your nightly routine.

It’s okay if you’re not ready to go to bed anytime soon and need to check emails or want to watch some TV. In fact, that’s even better. You don’t want to lay down right away and have the minoxidil to come off on your pillow. If you want to maximize absorption, wait an hour or two before going to bed.

Step 10: Sleep and repeat

Go to bed, and repeat these 10 steps when you wake up tomorrow morning!

How to apply minoxidil foam

Minoxidil foam has slightly different ingredients to minoxidil solution. Some liquid serums contain an ingredient called propylene glycol, which people can be allergic to. Foams typically don’t have this ingredient, making them a good alternative. 

The downside is that foaming minoxidil products can get stuck in your hair more easily. Since minoxidil works on your skin, not your hair, it’s important to be extra careful when applying this product.

Other than these two differences, using minoxidil foam is actually almost the same as using minoxidil serum. Instead of measuring out a liquid, you’re essentially squirting out a set amount of foam or mousse. 

Generally, your minoxidil foam will come with a cap. Most foaming products recommend that you use about half a cap of foam each time you apply minoxidil. 

 

How long does minoxidil take to work?

In general, it takes between 2 and 4 months to start seeing results from minoxidil. While it might seem like this is a long time, this is how long it takes to stimulate your hair follicles and actually produce new hairs. The Pharmaceutical Journal study recommends using minoxidil for at least 3 months before making a decision on whether or not it’s working well for you.

Even if you don’t see hair growth within the first few months, keep an eye on your hair and scalp. Some people find that minoxidil actually prevents further hair loss, rather than stimulating hair regrowth. This is part of the reason it’s important to start a hair loss treatment as soon as you notice symptoms

Can I use minoxidil once a day?

Keep in mind that the way you use minoxidil has a huge effect on your results. If you’ve only been using minoxidil once a day, working out in the morning after applying minoxidil (and likely sweating it off in the process), or skipping applications, you’re unlikely to see great results. And any positive results you do see are likely to take a lot longer to occur.

What happens if I miss a day of minoxidil?

Honestly, not a lot will happen if you miss a day of minoxidil. However, that’s assuming that you usually use minoxidil properly each day, and you’re just skipping a single day. 

Missing more than the occasional day of minoxidil will affect your results. Eventually, if you miss enough days, the treatment will stop working and your hair loss will continue progressing. 

Takeaway

Minoxidil is an affordable hair loss treatment that you can use at home. Using minoxidil efficiently is easy you just need to apply it onto a clean scalp every morning and evening. 

For the best and fastest results, use a 5 percent minoxidil solution or foam. But don’t feel discouraged if you aren’t seeing results right away. Minoxidil often takes between 2 and 4 months to actually start growing hair back. 

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.

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