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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
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Time changes everything, from what we care about to what we google. As a younger guy, for instance — actually, we’re not going to guess at what you googled on an incognito browser. But over time, let’s just say that adult content categories may have been replaced.
Now, as an adult, your gradual signs of balding may have you searching for hair loss types and treatment options such as minoxidil.
If you’re learning about minoxidil for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions. Much like another well-known hair treatment called finasteride, minoxidil is scientifically proven to stimulate hair regrowth and potentially help men with male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, regrow “lost” hair.
But when it comes to your hairline, things are a little fuzzy. There’s some debate online about whether or not minoxidil works on the hairs around the hairline, despite evidence that minoxidil is effective at promoting hair growth on the entire scalp.
Below, we’ve dug into the science behind minoxidil to give you a deeper understanding of how this popular hair loss medication works, why it’s effective and why it’s worth considering if your hairline is starting to thin and recede.
Let’s make this clear: yes, minoxidil works. Or at least it often does — many men report an increase in hair growth and density after using minoxidil for several months.
And that effectiveness isn’t altered by proximity to your hairline, because the hair follicles in your hairline aren’t significantly different from the hair follicles on your scalp or crown.
In other words, if you’re losing hair at your hairline, you should still experience the full benefits of minoxidil in that area of your scalp.
Research supports this. One 2019 review looked at several studies that showed minoxidil to be “remarkably” effective in helping patients recover hair that was on the decline before treatment. Most studies showed significant increases in density by the end of respective trials.
In addition to the research mentioned above, there are also countless anecdotal reports of men with receding hairlines or mature hairlines noticing improved growth and thickness after adding minoxidil to their hair growth routines.
It’s important to keep in mind that the scientific research on minoxidil as a frontal hair loss treatment isn’t as extensive as the research on its effectiveness as a treatment for hair loss around the crown of your scalp.
Given that, it’s best to think of any increased hair growth that happens near your hairline as a nice bonus of using minoxidil, not as its sole intended effect.
On a scale of "ham sandwich" to "rocket science" minoxidil is somewhere around "brushing your teeth," as far as ease of use goes. If you can’t figure this stuff out, we don’t want to see you try and follow an origami tutorial.
To use minoxidil for a receding hairline, all you have to do is follow the steps below:
Apply minoxidil twice a day. Minoxidil is generally used twice a day — once in the morning and once before bed.
Check the instructions for your form of minoxidil. Minoxidil is available as an oral medication, a liquid solution and foam. Check the instructions and apply the amount of minoxidil listed on your product’s label.
Gently rub minoxidil into your scalp. After applying minoxidil to areas of your scalp with hair loss, use your fingertips to gently massage it into your skin.
Wash your hands after applying minoxidil. Make sure to carefully wash your hands using warm water and soap to remove any remaining minoxidil solution or foam.
Now, if you need or want more info, we can help. Our guide to applying minoxidil for hair growth goes into greater detail about how you can use minoxidil for a receding hairline, diffuse thinning and other signs of male pattern baldness.
Minoxidil is a topical hair loss medication that is also available as an oral medication. It belongs to a class of drugs known as vasodilators, which work by dilating your blood vessels and improving blood flow throughout your body.
Although minoxidil’s precise mechanism of action isn’t totally known, it's believed that this medication interacts with a type of enzyme called sulfotransferases and becomes active as minoxidil sulfate.
As minoxidil sulfate, minoxidil shortens your hair’s telogen phase — the resting phase of the hair growth cycle — and moves your hair follicles into an active growth state, referred to as the anagen phase.
Minoxidil may also extend the length of each hair follicle’s growth phase, allowing your hairs to grow longer and increasing your average hair diameter. This can treat types of hair loss like telogen effluvium (sudden hair thinning).
Androgenetic alopecia — the type of hair loss that can cause frontal baldness (also known as female pattern baldness or male pattern hair loss) — occurs as a result of the male sex hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, attaching to receptors in your scalp and miniaturizing your hair follicles.
Our full guide to DHT and male pattern hair loss discusses the harmful effects of this hormone on your hair in more detail.
Unlike finasteride, a prescription medication for male pattern baldness that works by reducing DHT levels throughout your body, minoxidil doesn’t have any effects on your production of DHT or other hormones.
Instead, minoxidil works solely at the scalp level to increase your hair count and produce an increase in hair growth locally. You can read about the timeline for this in our guide to how long minoxidil takes to work.
It’s best to think of minoxidil as a local solution that can help improve your hair growth at the scalp level, while finasteride is designed to shield your hair follicles from DHT. This differing mechanism of action is one reason why some people believe minoxidil isn’t effective for treating and preventing hair loss that can occur around your hairline, or frontal baldness.
In its early days, before this topical treatment was developed and promoted as a mainstream hair loss treatment, minoxidil was developed as a treatment for hypertension (high blood pressure).
After identifying that oral minoxidil produced hair growth as a noticeable side effect, researchers developed a topical medication to repurpose as a hair loss treatment for men suffering from androgenic alopecia.
As part of its FDA-approval process, the company that makes minoxidil launched large-scale clinical tests throughout the US in the late 1970s, with testing continuing throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. The efficacy side of this testing primarily focused on minoxidil’s effects on hair growth around the scalp and crown.
For example, one study from 1986 focused on the effects of minoxidil on balding around the crown. In the study, 53 percent of participants experienced significant hair growth.
Because of that, many other studies on minoxidil also specifically focused on balding around the scalp and crown.
Most other studies of minoxidil have assessed hair growth on the scalp, rather than the hairline. One study published in 2002 tested 5% minoxidil solution and 2% minoxidil solution, again by assessing change in hair coverage around the scalp.
More recently, researchers have started to formally study the efficacy of minoxidil as a treatment for hair loss around the hairline.
One study published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2015 assessed the effectiveness of minoxidil as a treatment for hair loss near the vertex scalp, or crown, as well as the frontal scalp, or hairline.
This study, which featured 16 healthy male participants, found that minoxidil was effective as a hair loss treatment and produced improvements in both areas of the scalp. In simple terms, it appears to work just as well around the hairline as it does in other areas affected by hair loss.
Minoxidil is generally a safe and effective medication. However, like with all medications, there are a few side effects and risks that you should be aware of before adding this to your hair loss prevention toolkit. And the side effects you experience will depend on whether you take minoxidil orally or use it as a topical solution.
Oral minoxidil has its own side effects for you to worry about. Generally, these may include:
Stomach issues like nausea and vomiting
Skin issues like rash, acne, hair shedding and hypertrichosis (excessive body hair growth)
Heart issues like tachycardia (fast heart rate) and dizziness
We’ve already covered topical minoxidil’s side effects pretty extensively, but here’s a general rundown of what a small percentage of minoxidil users can expect when it comes to adverse effects of topical minoxidil:
These common side effects of minoxidil are typically mild and often get better on their own over the course of several weeks.
Minoxidil can also cause facial and/or body hair growth if it’s applied to areas of skin other than your scalp, so it's important to carefully wash your hands after applying this medication and avoid transferring it to other parts of your body.
In rare cases, minoxidil may cause allergic reactions. Contact your healthcare provider for help if you start to feel lightheaded, have any difficulty breathing, develop swelling of your face or limbs or have a rapid heartbeat or chest pain after using minoxidil.
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We’ll get right to it: all Rogaine is minoxidil, but not all minoxidil is Rogaine. Rogaine is a popular brand name for minoxidil. When minoxidil first came onto the market in the 1980s, it was sold as Rogaine and wasn’t available as a generic medication.
Take a trip down to your local pharmacy and look at a box of Rogaine. You'll see “5% minoxidil” (or, in some cases, “2% minoxidil”) on the label.
These days, minoxidil is available as a generic medication. As with most other medications, generic minoxidil is less expensive than brand name Rogaine. And if you're looking for oral Rogaine vs. oral minoxidil, well, there's no comparison — oral Rogaine isn't a thing. Not yet, anyway.
Not only do you get the same medication for less money, but it also does the exact same thing.
The fact that Rogaine is a name brand doesn’t mean that it’s any more effective at preventing hair loss or safer to use than generic minoxidil — both contain exactly the same active ingredient and come in the same form, meaning you can use either one to treat hair loss and expect the same results.
Each drug is equally effective at treating hair loss and each is equally worth considering if you’re in the market for a treatment for male pattern baldness.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
Does minoxidil work on your hairline? Here’s what you should know:
YES, minoxidil is also an effective treatment for a receding hairline, although most testing of minoxidil involves hair loss near the crown.
AND topical minoxidil is a popular, effective form of treatment, whether you’re just starting to notice reduced hair around your hairline or have severe hair loss that you’d like to reverse.
BECAUSE minoxidil can stimulate your hair follicles — resulting in improved hair density, normal hair growth and a thicker, more youthful hairline — it’s worth adding to your daily routine in the morning and evening.
We also offer minoxidil with finasteride in our Hair Power Pack, allowing you to target hair loss and treat your receding hairline from multiple angles.
Interested in finding out more about your options? Our guide to the best treatments for thinning hair goes into more detail about how you can treat hair loss, from medications and healthy daily habits to procedures such as hair transplant surgery.