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Minoxidil vs. Rogaine: What's The Difference for Hair Growth?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Sheryl George

Published 01/12/2021

Updated 07/10/2023

Growing up, you may have longed for the new cool Nikes, but instead your parents got you the knockoffs that were on sale. Truth is, both sneakers were likely comfortable and got the job done, and we doubt that either actually helped your jumpshot. 

You’re older (and hopefully wiser) now. And you likely know that many times, the generic stuff is as good as the brand name— no matter what 12-year old you believed. If male pattern baldness or hair thinning is something you’re currently dealing with, researching hair loss treatments can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. 

In this article, we’ll break down the efficacy of generic minoxidil (also commonly sold as the brand name Rogaine®), along with other popular hair loss treatments for men. 

Ready to bookmark another excellent guide? Save this guide on Rogaine ingredients for even more in depth know-how on what’s in this favored hair loss treatment.

How Effective is Rogaine vs. Minoxidil?

If you’re seeing a receding hairline, some diffuse thinning over the top of the head or a wider part, chances are you’re dealing with male pattern hair loss (also known as androgenetic alopecia), the most common form of hair loss in men.

But many different types of hair loss can occur, from the stress-related hair loss known as telogen effluvium to traction alopecia, which can be caused by tight hairstyles.

Whether it’s used in its FDA-approved form for androgenetic alopecia or off-label for other causes of hair thinning, minoxidil is a gold standard among dermatologists for treating hair loss.   

It was originally developed as an antihypertensive drug — increased hair growth was basically a happy accident, which led to the hair growth formulations you see today.   While its mechanism of action isn’t totally understood, there are some things we do know.

Topical minoxidil works as a hair growth stimulator — think of it like fertilizer for your roots. This medication shortens the telogen (resting) phase, which causes dormant hair follicles to enter into the anagen, or growth phase earlier than they otherwise would. It also makes the anagen phase last longer, so hair has more time to grow. This allows for increased hair length and diameter.

Yes, sign us up now, please (just kidding, we’ve already subscribed of course). 

Adding to its effects is minoxidil’s function as a vasodilator, and its ability to open up the potassium channels of hair follicles. It is believed that by widening the blood vessels and opening up the potassium channels, minoxidil allows more nutrients, blood and oxygen to flow into the hair follicle.

This stimulates circulation near the hair follicles, which may lead to hair growth. It may also prevent androgen (a male hormone) from affecting your already androgen-sensitive follicles. And as a foaming agent or topical solution, minoxidil can also directly stimulate hair follicles and delay their aging.

We’ve been using “minoxidil” here, but now you may be wondering who reigns supreme — Rogaine® or minoxidil? Or is  Rogaine® minoxidil in a different form?

Rogaine®, which is well-known for treating hair loss, is a brand name drug that has minoxidil as the active ingredient. But minoxidil is also sold in its generic forms by various brands, including Hims. So whether you go brand name or for the generic, both contain the same active ingredient.

That said, minoxidil comes in different strengths, so that may be where you see a difference in how your hair responds.

In one 48-week randomized study, 393 men used either a 2% minoxidil solution or 5% minoxidil solution for treatment of androgenetic alopecia. The study concluded that the 5% solution was superior and led to a higher hair count than the 2% solution.

It’s also worth noting that these 5% solution users had an increase of pruritus (otherwise known as itchiness) and local irritation. Ah, the price of beauty. 

You can learn more about which formula might be right for you in our guide to minoxidil foam vs liquid

In another study to test how effective minoxidil is for treating hair loss along the hairline (the frontotemporal region) and around the highest point of the scalp toward the back of the head (the vertex), 70 men were given 5% minoxidil or a placebo treatment.

Twenty-four weeks after using either product twice daily, the patients who used the 5% minoxidil formulations had a significant increase in hair density and width.

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What Works Better Than Minoxidil (Rogaine)?

Alright, alright, we think we’ve made the point that minoxidil is basically the Leonardo DiCaprio of hair loss treatments — versatile, easygoing and superrrr popular (with the girls, too). That said, there are some great supporting actors to consider for thinning hair, especially finasteride.

Another popular pick for male hair loss, finasteride stops hair loss in a different way than minoxidil. If you’re dealing with androgenetic hair loss or male pattern balding, blame it on the hormones — this type of hair loss happens when testosterone converts to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), causing androgen-dependent miniaturization of scalp hair follicles.

Translation: your follicles shrink and produce thinner and thinner hairs over time. 

That’s where finasteride comes in — it inhibits type II 5alpha-reductase, which is what converts testosterone to DHT. In one study, men with male pattern hair loss who took finasteride at dosage of 1mg daily had an improvement in hair growth and increased hair count in clinical trials over two years.

Deciding between finasteride and minoxidil is really a personal choice and your dermatologist or healthcare professional can help you determine what’s right for you. You can also learn more in our guide minoxidil vs finasteride for even more intel on these popular hair loss treatments. 

An interesting thing to note, however, is that finasteride and minoxidil can be used together, as confirmed by many studies. One such study of 450 Chinese men with male androgenetic alopecia tested finasteride, minoxidil and the combined medication of finasteride and minoxidil.

The study reported that the combined medication had the best end results for patients.

If you’re still unsure, check out our guide on other alternatives to minoxidil to find your hair loss treatment soulmate. 

Will you join thousands of happy customers?

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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.

Side Effects of Minoxidil vs Rogaine

Remember, minoxidil and Rogaine have the same active ingredient, so they’ll have the same side effects. While long-term studies have shown minoxidil to being safe and well-tolerated, some side effects can include:

  • Irritant contact dermatitis 

  • Itching

  • Scaling

  • Initial shedding

These side effects may occur either because of an allergic reaction to the inactive agent — propylene glycol — or to the minoxidil itself. This condition has been observed most frequently with the 5% minoxidil topical solution. 

Also, when you first start using minoxidil, you may experience some hair shedding. But hold tight — it does get better. Minoxidil shortens the telogen phase, which may induce telogen effluvium when you first start using it. This shedding will stop, and new (and hopefully more!) hair will grow in its place. 

Get the full scoop in our guide to minoxidil side effects if you want to dig a little deeper. 

Hair loss treatments, delivered

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Topical Finasteride

If a pill feels like an overwhelming way to treat male pattern hair loss, this spray with finasteride & minoxidil could be for you.

Minoxidil Solution

Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.

Finasteride & Minoxidil

This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.

Oral Finasteride

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.

Minoxidil Foam

Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.




The Verdict on Minoxidil vs Rogaine

Here’s the thing — when it comes to hair loss, you can do nothing and hope it grows back (unlikely, tbh), or you can try a hair loss treatment that has the research to back it up and see if that lush head of hair can be restored to its former glory. Doesn’t that second one sound better?

Remember that minoxidil and Rogaine® have the same active ingredient, so you’ll likely get the same great results whether you go brand name or generic. Some options you may want to consider: 

  • Topical finasteride & minoxidil spray. Like we mentioned above, combining these two ingredients basically make a supercharged two-in-one spray to help encourage new hair. 

  • Minoxidil foam. This 5% strength foam can be easily distributed onto the scalp. And remember, all the studies show that 5% formulation is where you’ll see the biggest difference. 

  • Minoxidil solution. If you have a sensitive scalp, then this 2% strength formula with easy-to-use dropper might be the right fit for hair regrowth. It’ll likely cause less irritation for your scalp.    

  • Volumizing shampoo and conditioner. Regardless of which hair loss treatment you try, the right hair care can make a difference, too. Keeping your scalp clean and healthy is the foundation to healthy hair. A volumizing shampoo and conditioner will give limp strands some height and body.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, no sweat. An easy (and free) hair consultation will give you an expert-backed recommendation quickly.

7 Sources

  1. Suchnowanit, Poonkiat, Thammaruchu, Sasima & Leerunyakul, Kanchana. (2019, Aug 9) Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  2. Badri, T., Nessel, T. A., & Kumar, D. D. (2023, February 21). Minoxidil - StatPearls. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  3. Rossi, A., Cantisani, C., Mellis, L., Iorio, A., Scali, E.,& Calvieri, S. (2012, May). Minoxidil use in dermatology, side effects and recent patents. PubMed. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22409453/
  4. Olsen, E. A., Dunlap, F. E., Funicella, T., Koperski, J. A., Swinheart, J. M., Tschen, E. H., & Trancik, R. J. (n.d.). A randomized clinical trial of 5% topical minoxidil versus 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. PubMed. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12196747/
  5. Hillmann, K., Garcia Bartels, N., Kottner, J., Stroux, A., Canfield, D., & Blume-Peytavi, U. (2015, March 3). A Single-Centre, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial to Investigate the Efficacy and Safety of Minoxidil Topical Foam in Frontotemporal and Vertex Androgenetic Alopecia in Men. PubMed. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25765348/
  6. Ustuner, E. T. (2013, November 7). Cause of Androgenic Alopecia: Crux of the Matter. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4174066/
  7. Hu, R., Xu, F., Sheng, Y., Qi, S., Han, Y., Miao, Y., Rui, W., & Yang, Q. (2015, June 02). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients. Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/dth.12246
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.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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