Dealing with hair loss or thinning?

Chat with our Care Team

Start now

Can Minoxidil Cause Sexual Side Effects?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Grace Gallagher

Published 11/17/2021

Updated 01/25/2024

Maybe you’re seeing more of your forehead when you look in the mirror these days. Or perhaps your kid asked for a ride on your shoulders only to drop a truth bomb while up there: you’re starting to get a bald spot. (Cue frantically taking 100 blurry selfies of the top of your head as soon as you’re alone).

A receding hairline or bald patch could be a sign you’re experiencing male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia) — which affects up to half of men by age fifty. If you currently use minoxidil for hair loss or are thinking of starting, you may have questions about its effects — and not just on your hairline.

Finasteride and minoxidil (or high-strength minoxidil) are the stars of the show when it comes to hair loss treatments. They’re also the only two drugs for hair loss approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

Finasteride is known to cause some sexual side effects in rare cases, but does minoxidil have side effects sexually as well? More to the point, does minoxidil cause ED (erectile dysfunction)?

Read on to learn about the common side effects of minoxidil and whether minoxidil causes erectile dysfunction and other sexual reactions.

Minoxidil (generic for brand-name Rogaine®) is FDA-approved as a hair loss and regrowth treatment. While the exact mechanism of how minoxidil works isn’t totally understood, we know a few critical things about the medication.

Think of minoxidil as a pre-work cup of coffee for your hair follicles — it wakes them up and gets them to work by moving the hair into active growth (known as the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle).

So, minoxidil works to help treat hair loss, but at what cost? We know you’re still wondering if minoxidil causes erectile dysfunction — because who wants to choose between great hair and a great sex life?

Good news: While some drugs — like antidepressants, blood pressure medications and medications for prostate cancer therapy — may cause erectile dysfunction, minoxidil isn’t typically considered one of them.

However, a 2016 study reviewed reports submitted to the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS). It found eight reports of sexual side effects out of 92 cases of male minoxidil-exposed patients. These effects included diminished libido, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, ejaculation disorder and decreased seminal volume.

That may sound like a lot. It would be easy to conclude that eight out of 92 minoxidil users experience ED as a side effect, which seems at odds with the fact that seconds ago, we told you minoxidil doesn’t cause ED.

Let’s break down the data.

First, the complaints aren’t from a random sample of minoxidil users — the study looked at only those who had filed anonymous reports. So, missing from the data set is everyone who had no minoxidil side effects, sexually or otherwise.

It’s also unclear whether the reports were made by people who had taken oral minoxidil or used minoxidil foam or liquid minoxidil solution topically.

The sample is also incredibly small. We know 92 people may sound like a lot, but that’s nowhere near the typical standard for establishing clinical significance.

Buy finasteride

more hair... there's a pill for that

If you’ve heard through the grapevine that minoxidil causes sexual dysfunction or other sexual side effects, it’s possible your game of telephone got jumbled and minoxidil was mistaken for another hair loss medication.

Finasteride (also called Propecia®) is more likely to cause sexual side effects, but it’s still pretty rare. In clinical trials, about 1.3 percent of men who took finasteride experienced erectile dysfunction, compared to 0.7 percent of those who used a placebo.

A 2012 study on finasteride and sexual side effects showed that adverse sexual effects occurred in 2.1 to 3.8 percent of those studied. Erectile dysfunction was the most commonly reported issue, followed by ejaculatory dysfunction and loss of libido.

While it sounds intense, the side effects of finasteride seem to be pretty manageable — only 1.2 percent of men who participated in finasteride clinical trials stopped using their medication because of the side effects.

Minoxidil doesn’t alter your hormones in any way. It’s a vasodilator, meaning it widens blood vessels so more blood flow, oxygen and nutrients come to the scalp.

For hair loss, minoxidil is a topical treatment applied directly to the scalp. Oral minoxidil for hair loss, while promising, is still considered an off-label use — it’s typically prescribed to lower blood pressure.

You can use finasteride topically as well. And — humble brag — our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray makes it easy to use the two together. This potent combo is known to increase the effectiveness of each while being just as safe as using either on its own.

As mentioned, minoxidil is a vasodilator. The medication was originally used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension), and it’s still used for this purpose in a pill called Loniten®. But minoxidil also had an unexpected good side effect for hypertension patients — it caused hair growth.

Like many medications, minoxidil comes with not-so-great side effects, but it’s generally considered a safe drug, even for use in children. We’ll go over some of the more common side effects below.

Dermatitis

The most common adverse effect of topical minoxidil is dermatitis at the site of application, which causes itchy, scaly skin.

In some people, dermatitis is the result of simple irritation, but for others, it could signal an allergic reaction. This particular side effect is more common with the 5% concentration of the drug.

In cases where the reaction is allergic, minoxidil itself is rarely the culprit. In fact, allergic reactions to propylene glycol (a medication additive) are so common that there are now versions of minoxidil that don’t contain this ingredient — like our minoxidil foam. If you’ve experienced a reaction to other types of minoxidil, the foam might be a better option.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Hypertrichosis

Hypertrichosis (a fancy word for excessive hair growth) is another common adverse reaction of minoxidil. This is good for your scalp but not so great for your other body parts.

When hypertrichosis occurs, it’s typically seen with body hair — on the face, arms and legs. The issue usually resolves within one to five months after stopping minoxidil.

This side effect is most common with the 5% application of topical minoxidil, and it’s more common in women than men. When applying minoxidil solution, make sure it only touches your scalp and doesn’t drip onto your face, neck or shoulders.

See our detailed guide to learn exactly how to apply minoxidil.

Hair Shedding

It seems weird, but minoxidil can sometimes cause a surprising side effect: increased hair shedding.

This is due to the drug’s shortening of the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. Known as the telogen phase, this is when a strand of hair completes its growth and falls out.

If minoxidil has this effect on a large portion of your individual hairs, you may notice a lot of shedding at once. The good news is it should resolve on its own in a few months. And remember, it’s actually normal to shed 50 to 100 hairs per day.

Other Potential Side Effects of Minoxidil

The oral version of this medication may have different side effects.

Side effects of low-dose oral minoxidil include:

  • Hypertrichosis

  • Lightheadedness

  • Fluid retention

  • Tachycardia

  • Headache

  • Periorbital edema

  • Insomnia

Hypertrichosis is the most commonly reported side effect of oral minoxidil. A few rare effects may occur in men treated with oral minoxidil. This includes headaches and generalized scalp and skin irritation, such as itchy skin or dryness.

To learn more about the potential side effects of minoxidil and minoxidil interactions, check out our guides.

Will you join thousands of happy customers?

4.5 average rating

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.

Wondering if minoxidil causes side effects, sexually speaking? Read on for the TLDR on minoxidil and sexual side effects.

  • If you’re experiencing ED and trying to figure out its root cause, you’re definitely not alone. Though it’s very unlikely minoxidil is the reason you’re experiencing the condition, erectile dysfunction treatments are available to help.

  • On the other hand, if you’re on the fence about using the topical solution because you’re wondering if minoxidil really does cause ED, don’t fret. Minoxidil is very unlikely to cause side effects sexually.

  • Like most medications, minoxidil does have side effects, but they’re uncommon, not typically severe and most often resolve on their own.

  • Minoxidil has been studied for many years and is considered safe. But it comes with a risk of potential side effects, like hair shedding, irritation, redness and headaches.

Have questions about how treatment options for hair regrowth or hair thinning affect sexual function? Reach out to a dermatologist or healthcare provider to discuss your options for hair loss prescriptions, supplements and other over-the-counter solutions.

To learn more about using finasteride and minoxidil together (and their side effects), check out our guide.

14 Sources

  1. Ho, C., Sood, T., Zito, P. (2022, Oct). Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls Internet. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  2. Minoxidil Topical. (2017, November 15). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a689003.html
  3. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug design, development and therapy, 13, 2777–2786. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  4. Kaplan-Marans, E., et al. (2022, Oct.) Medications Most Commonly Associated With Erectile Dysfunction: Evaluation of the Food and Drug Administration National Pharmacovigilance Database. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9537247/
  5. Wu, M., Yu, Q., Li, Q. (2016, Dec.) Differences in reproductive toxicology between alopecia drugs: an analysis on adverse events among female and male cases. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5347675/
  6. PROPECIA® (finasteride) tablets for oral use. (2011, May). Available from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/020788s020s021s023lbl.pdf
  7. Mysore V. (2012). Finasteride and sexual side effects. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. 62–65. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3481923/
  8. Chen, L., Zheng, J., Wang, L., Wang, H., Chen, B. (2019, Nov). The Efficacy and Safety of Finasteride Combined with Topical Minoxidil for Androgenetic Alopecia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Retrieved from https://cdn.mednet.co.il/2012/05/the-efficacy-and-safety-of-finasterideminoxidil.pdf
  9. Patel, P., Nessel, T., Kumar, D. (2023). Minoxidil-StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  10. Friedman, E., Friedman, P.,Cohen D. Washenik, K. ,Allergic contact dermatitis to topical minoxidil solution: etiology and treatment. (n.d.). Retrieced from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11807448/
  11. Dawber RPR., Rundegren, J. (2003, May). Hypertrichosis in females applying minoxidil topical solution and in normal controls. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12702063/
  12. AAD. (n.d.) Do you have hair loss or hair shedding? Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  13. Randolph, M., Tosti, A. (2020, July). Oral minoxidil treatment for hair loss: A review of efficacy and safety. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32622136/
  14. Vañó-Galván, S., et al (2021,Feb). Safety of low-dose oral minoxidil for hair loss: A multicenter study of 1404 patients. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33639244/
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. 

Education

Training

Certifications

Publications

Read more