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Minoxidil Foam vs Liquid: Which is the Best?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Steph Coelho

Published 01/16/2021

Updated 04/29/2024

Let’s be loud and clear at the outset: Topical minoxidil (aka Rogaine) is an effective, research-backed, FDA-approved medication proven to help people with hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness.

But if you’ve heard minoxidil comes in two forms, you might be wondering if there’s a clear winner when it comes to minoxidil foam vs. liquid.

Spoiler alert: They both work to stimulate the hair growth cycle. But they come with a few crucial differences.

Below, we dig into what the research says about minoxidil solution vs foam and what you should consider when deciding between minoxidil foam or liquid.

Minoxidil, the generic version of the brand-name product Rogaine, is a topical treatment that helps slow hair loss and stimulate hair growth. 

Researchers originally developed minoxidil as a treatment for high blood pressure, then discovered that it caused hypertrichosis, or excessive hair growth.

The hair loss treatment hit the market in the 1980s, with higher strength options hitting the shelves in the early 90s. 

Today, both the 2% and 5% versions of minoxidil are available over the counter in the United States in liquid (dropper application) or foam (spray application) formulas. In other countries, you may need a prescription.

Even though it’s been around for over 30 years, researchers still don’t really know exactly how minoxidil improves hair growth. 

Some research suggests that topical applications improve blood flow. This may increase nutrient supply to hair follicles on the scalp, stimulating hair regrowth and enhancing thickness. 

Bottom line? Minoxidil is an effective hair loss treatment that research shows consistently improves hair growth in men with male pattern baldness and other forms of hair loss. 

hair loss treatment

balding can be optional

Minoxidil FTW! 

But is minoxidil foam or liquid better? 

Research shows that both forms of minoxidil work well for stimulating hair growth and treating hair loss. 

One 2016 clinical trial published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology compared liquid minoxidil and foam minoxidil head-on. Researchers concluded that the two versions of the medication had almost identical effects on hair growth:

  • After 24 weeks of treatment, the minoxidil foam formulation increased hair count by 23.9 ± 2.1 hairs per square centimeter.

  • After 24 weeks of treatment, the minoxidil liquid (which contained a lower concentration of minoxidil but was applied twice daily instead of once daily) increased hair count by 24.2 ± 2.1 hairs per square centimeter.

It’s worth noting that this study involved female participants with female pattern hair loss, not males. But, since minoxidil has similar effects on both sexes, we can assume the results would be similar in a study of males with male pattern baldness.

It’s also not the only study that has shown that both liquid and foam versions of minoxidil are similar in effectiveness. And there’s not really any evidence that suggests one works better than the other.

Other factors like convenience might help you determine whether the liquid or foam version of minoxidil is right for you. 

Let’s take a closer look at these factors and the pros and cons of each minoxidil formulation.

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Before/after images shared by customers who have purchased varying products, including prescription based products. Prescription products require an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. These customers’ results have not been independently verified. Individual results will vary. Customers were given free product.

Convenience

Both forms of minoxidil are easy to use. It pretty much comes down to what you find most convenient. 

You might find applying the liquid version with a dropper takes less time and effort, while someone else might prefer spraying on the foam solution. 

After application, the process is the same for both versions: Massage the product into your skin for a few minutes, and you’re done!

In general, minoxidil users tend to score minoxidil foam higher on ease of use.

Some minoxidil users also note that the foam version seems to absorb into the skin more quickly than the liquid version, reducing oiliness. 

Expert’s verdict: Foam might be a bit more convenient to apply than liquid. 

Ease of Application

Both versions of minoxidil are easy to apply directly to the scalp.

The liquid version comes with a dropper that lets you quickly and accurately measure the correct amount of minoxidil and then apply it to the areas of your scalp affected by hair loss.

You apply the foam version to your fingers via a nozzle and then massage the product onto your scalp. 

There’s no “best” version of minoxidil when it comes to ease of application. Instead, each form of the medication has different advantages:

  • Because the liquid version of minoxidil comes with a dropper, some users with long or very thick hair find it easier to apply it to specific areas of the scalp. 

  • Some users find that the foam version of minoxidil is easier to apply to large areas of the scalp. This version might be easier to use if you have short hair or thinning that affects a large percentage of your scalp. 

Expert’s verdict: Both formulations are easy to apply, but hair length and thickness may impact your choice.

Side Effects

Although minoxidil is safe and effective for most people, it can cause side effects. 

One of the most common side effects of minoxidil is redness and irritation at the application site. 

Experts believe this side effect may be a reaction to propylene glycol, a water-soluble alcohol common in topical medications.

While the liquid form of minoxidil contains this ingredient, foam minoxidil does not.

If you have sensitive skin prone to irritation, redness or other side effects from minoxidil, you may prefer the foam version of this medication.

Expert’s verdict: Foam minoxidil is less likely than liquid minoxidil to cause skin irritation. 

Minoxidil is a highly effective hair loss treatment, but it won’t do much good if you don’t use it correctly.  

Follow these tips and techniques for optimal results:

  • Apply it correctly. Using minoxidil is easy, but preparing your hair and scalp before application is essential — our guide lists step-by-step instructions for properly applying minoxidil solution vs foam.

  • Be consistent. You’ll get the best results when using minoxidil twice a day. Need help sticking to your hair care routine? Try setting a notification on your phone or keeping the product in a prominent spot.

  • Use it with finasteride. Minoxidil works well on its own, but research shows it’s more effective when combined with finasteride. Minoxidil stimulates hair growth, and finasteride blocks the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which causes male pattern hair loss. Unlike minoxidil, finasteride requires a prescription. We offer both medications as part of our Hair Power Pack and a topical finasteride & minoxidil spray power duo.

FYI: Be prepared to wait three to six months for results. Minoxidil works, but it can take time to see its effects. In fact, it’s common to experience hair shedding in the first few months of minoxidil use, so don’t panic if you notice this symptom.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Both foam and liquid versions of minoxidil effectively treat hair loss and stimulate hair growth. 

Because the foam version of minoxidil doesn’t contain propylene glycol, it may be a better choice if you often experience irritation, redness, or other side effects from the liquid version. 

Beyond this, it all comes down to personal preference. 

If you use minoxidil regularly, consider trying both versions of the medication to see which one works best for you. You may also want to talk to a healthcare professional like a dermatologist to discover the right dosage for your needs.

Not sure whether minoxidil is right for you? Take our free hair quiz to learn more about your hair loss treatment options

8 Sources

  1. 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. (n.d.). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17761356/
  2. A one-year observational study with minoxidil 5% solution in Germany: results of independent efficacy evaluation by physicians and patients 1. (n.d.). https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(03)03692-2/fulltext
  3. Allergic contact dermatitis to topical minoxidil solution: etiology and treatment. (n.d.). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11807448/
  4. Efficacy and Safety of Once-Daily Minoxidil Foam 5% Versus Twice-Daily Minoxidil Solution 2% in Female Pattern Hair Loss: A Phase III, Randomized, Investigator-Blinded Study. (n.d.). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27391640/
  5. LIQUID FORMULATION OF MINOXIDIL VERSUS ITS FOAM FORMULATION. (n.d.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3179030/
  6. Minoxidil. (n.d.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  7. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. (n.d.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  8. Minoxidil Topical: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a689003.html
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

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. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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