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Is minoxidil shampoo as good as minoxidil?

Published on September 10, 2020
Updated on September 10, 2020
A man standing in the shower, washing his hair with minoxidil shampoo
Like other shampoos, minoxidil shampoo only stays on your scalp for a few minutes.

 

Minoxidil is a hair loss treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s often sold as a serum or a foaming product but exists in other forms, too. It’s sometimes added to certain hair care products, like shampoos. Some people even take minoxidil pills.

Given the various types of minoxidil products you can choose from, it’s probably not surprising to find out that some work better than others. Serums and foaming products, which are usually between 2 and 5 percent, are very different from minoxidil shampoo, which is less concentrated and applied differently.

 

Using minoxidil for hair loss

Minoxidil is a medication that first became available in the 1960s. At the time, no one had actually created any treatments for hair loss – and minoxidil was actually being tested as a medicine that could lower blood pressure.

Like all medications that are approved by the FDA, minoxidil went through extensive research and clinical trials before doctors started giving it to people. According to a publication from The Pharmaceutical Journal, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the medication started being prescribed for more than a few weeks at a time. It was only then that people started to realize that minoxidil could cause hair growth.

Until that point, minoxidil was an oral medication that the FDA had approved to reduce blood pressure. But, given its unexpected side effect of producing hair growth, research changed to explore it in other ways. Different types of topical minoxidil were mainly tested throughout the 1980s, and the FDA eventually approved this drug as a treatment for hair loss – specifically, androgenic alopecia.    

These days, you have a variety of different minoxidil serums, liquids, and foams to choose from. You can even buy minoxidil shampoos – though these products tend to have lower concentrations of minoxidil compared to other products.

 

What happened to minoxidil pills?

Minoxidil pills still exist, but they’re not as common as a hair loss treatment these days. One of the main reasons for this is because of a side effect known as hypertrichosis – which essentially means that hair growth occurs everywhere – not just on your head.

While it might not sound so bad to have a slightly bushier beard or fuller eyebrows, hypertrichosis can affect any part of your body. You could certainly end up with a bushier beard, but you might also end up with hair on your back, shoulders, cheeks, or forehead. 

A recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported that 27 percent of people taking minoxidil in oral form over a 24-week period experienced hypertrichosis. Only 4 percent of the people using a topical form of minoxidil had the same problem.

 

Minoxidil foam vs. liquid vs. shampoo

Minoxidil foam and liquid are the two most common types of minoxidil solutions. The FDA has approved them for the treatment of androgenic alopecia as long as they’re sold in concentrations of 2 or 5 percent.

There’s some debate on whether liquid minoxidil is better than foam minoxidil (or foam is better than liquid). Technically, both of these products are the same – they’re both applied to the area where you’re trying to combat hair loss and left on for at least a few hours at a time.

As an article in the Indian Journal of Dermatology says, liquid minoxidil and foam minoxidil seem to produce equivalent results in studies that have compared them to one another. However, liquid minoxidil is thought to be absorbed better by the scalp – and may produce better results as a consequence.

There’s no debate when it comes to minoxidil shampoo versus minoxidil foam or liquid, though. Minoxidil shampoos generally only have 1 percent minoxidil, which means that they’re already weaker than both minoxidil foams and serums. The FDA doesn’t consider a product with 1 percent minoxidil to be suitable for use in treating male pattern hair loss. 

The real issue, though, is that minoxidil shampoo is generally only left on your head for a few minutes at a time. Since minoxidil is absorbed into the scalp, this doesn’t give it a long time to actually enter your body. In comparison, foams and liquids are left on your skin for hours at a time – giving them hours to have an effect on your hair follicles.

Research is now exploring how effective minoxidil shampoo can be, but so far, studies are very limited. Studies that look at minoxidil serums and foams generally report positive results after around 2 to 4 months. However, the researchers from a study in the Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological, and Chemical Sciences reported that they needed longer than 3 months to determine whether or not minoxidil shampoo was effective in treating hair loss.   

Ultimately, there’s no reason to believe that minoxidil shampoo can’t help you fight hair loss. However, so far, research seems to indicate that it will take longer than other products to have any effect.  

If you want to use minoxidil shampoo, make sure it’s not the only product you use. It’s likely best if you use it while simultaneously using FDA-approved treatments, like minoxidil or finasteride

Also, keep in mind that minoxidil shampoo isn’t the only shampoo that can help you fight hair loss. Many shampoos can help improve the health of your scalp and increase the amount of nutrients that reach your hair follicles. Certain shampoos even contain natural hormone-blockers and work more similarly to finasteride. No shampoo can treat androgenic alopecia on its own, but all of these products can help boost hair growth when combined with an FDA-approved treatment. 

 

Takeaway

Minoxidil shampoo isn’t the same as other minoxidil products and shouldn’t be your first choice if you’re trying to fight androgenic alopecia. Minoxidil serums and foams are much more effective. 

There’s nothing wrong with using minoxidil shampoo, though. Like other shampoos, it can likely help combat hair loss and promote hair growth by helping maintain good scalp health – but only when combined with an FDA-approved treatment. 

    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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