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What Happens When You Stop Using Minoxidil?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Lauren Panoff

Published 09/14/2017

Updated 01/06/2024

Picture this: You’ve noticed your locks thinning and your hairline receding back to the future with no signs of stopping. This might make you a bit self-conscious. Welcome to male pattern baldness, your healthcare provider says.

Male pattern baldness, also called androgenetic alopecia (AGA), is caused by a combination of genetics and a male steroid hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a byproduct of testosterone and a key player in the physiological components that make men, well…men.

It also affects your hair. DHT binds to receptors on the scalp and prevents new hair growth. This eventually causes bald patches or a receding hairline.

It’s okay to embrace the natural progression — or, ahem, regression — of your hairline. It’s also okay to seek a solution.

Maybe you decide to try one of those hair regrowth treatments you’ve been hearing about — minoxidil — and after several months of consistent use, it’s working. Your hair is filling back in nicely, as is your confidence. 

Minoxidil (sold under the brand name Rogaine®) is an FDA-approved topical medication for male pattern baldness. It comes in the form of minoxidil foam or a liquid solution applied twice a day.

Millions of people use minoxidil because it works. 

But what happens if you stop using minoxidil? Can you train your hair to manifest abundance on its own, or is minoxidil a long-term commitment? We’re here to clear up these questions so you can make informed decisions about your hair.

Minoxidil works well to promote hair regrowth for as long as you use it. When your scalp is no longer receiving the medication, the growth you’ve been experiencing will also cease.

No, your hair won’t start falling out the day you stop using topical minoxidil. But over time, the effects will wear off, and you’ll likely return to the hair loss you were experiencing before. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but all good things must come to an end.

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While minoxidil is effective for reversing hair loss related to AGA, it’s not an optimal solution for everyone.

There are plenty of reasons you might decide to stop using minoxidil. For instance:

  • You could be experiencing harmful or concerning side effects.

  • You might achieve the hair growth results you were seeking and are okay with stopping it.

  • It’s not working after four to six months of consistent, prescribed use.

  • The twice-daily application may be inconvenient.

  • The treatment may no longer fit your budget.

Side Effects of Minoxidil

Like any medication, minoxidil comes with potential side effects, such as

  • Scalp itchiness, dryness or irritation

  • Unexplained weight gain

  • Trouble breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Swelling of the face, ankles, stomach or hands

  • Feeling lightheaded 

In rare cases, stopping minoxidil may have the opposite effect of promoting excessive hair growth. This is more common among women than men.

Note that you have to use minoxidil consistently for at least four months — sometimes up to one year — before seeing noticeable hair growth effects. Having said that, don’t push through if your body is telling you no.

The best way to minimize your risk of side effects is to ensure you’re properly using the form of minoxidil you’ve chosen. If you have any of the symptoms above or notice anything that concerns you, always get in touch with your healthcare provider.

Minoxidil works as long as you use it, and it works well.

In a 2004 observational study of nearly 1,000 men with AGA, researchers evaluated the efficacy of a twice-daily dose of 5% minoxidil topical solution used consistently for one year. The medication was applied to the area of the scalp where hair loss was prominent.

At the end of the study, minoxidil treatment appeared to be an effective method for reducing hair shedding and promoting hair growth among men with androgenetic alopecia.

Minoxidil acts as a vasodilator, expanding the arteries that supply nutrients and oxygen to your hair follicles.

It’s thought to stimulate hair growth by shortening the telogen (resting) phase of the hair growth cycle — when hair isn’t growing or falling out — and extending the anagen phase, when hair follicles push new hairs out. This leads to an increase in hair length and diameter.

Remember, minoxidil doesn’t train your hair to behave like you want it. It’s not like driver’s ed, where you learn what you need to, then are on your own with driving for the rest of your life.

In other words, your hair won’t continue in this optimized growth cycle after you stop using it.

So, do you have to use minoxidil forever? Of course not. There are plenty of handsome gentlemen on the planet who rank lower in the hair-fullness department.

At some point, we all need to let go of the idea of eternal youthfulness and embrace the natural order of our hairlines. The timeline for that, of course, is up to you.

There’s no single right or wrong reason to stop using minoxidil. It comes down to whether you feel like it’s been a worthwhile investment (of both time and money), if you’re seeing the results you hoped for and your willingness to commit to long-term use.

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.

If you’re not keen on the idea of lifelong minoxidil, there are alternatives. 

Finasteride

The most linear alternative to minoxidil is another proven hair loss drug called finasteride (generic for Propecia®). While minoxidil helps promote stronger, thicker hair growth, finasteride works by stopping hair loss first.

Unlike minoxidil (which has no effect on DHT), finasteride promotes new hair growth by preventing DHT from binding to receptors on your scalp. 

Before it was used to treat androgenetic alopecia, finasteride was prescribed to treat benign prostate hyperplasia in the early ‘90s. A few years later, an oral dose of 1 milligram daily was also FDA-approved for treating male pattern hair loss. 

In a year-long trial, 1,500 men with male pattern baldness were given 1 milligram per day of oral finasteride or a placebo. After that, 1,200 men continued for another year on extended blind trials. The goal was to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment based on hair count assessments.

At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that the men who received finasteride experienced significant improvements in hair count and hair appearance and showed slowed hair loss. Men in the placebo group experienced continued hair loss. 

While finasteride is effective, some men have reported effects like loss of sex drive, decreased volume of ejaculate and erectile dysfunction.

Other potential side effects include depression, pain in the testicles, itching, swelling of the lips and face, and difficulty breathing or swallowing. If you experience significant or concerning side effects, seek medical attention from a healthcare provider right away.

It takes most men at least three months to see a noticeable effect. Expect visible improvements within the first year of consistent and prescribed use. Also, note that finasteride is best for treating hair loss on the scalp and not the temples.

If you’re looking for a non-pill option and aren’t totally against using minoxidil, you might consider our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray. This two-in-one option can treat existing hair loss and help you regrow new hair. 

Biotin

Biotin (vitamin B7) is a common ingredient in hair care products. Some research suggests that getting enough biotin can help prevent hair loss and promote hair growth. More significant improvements are most likely to occur for people who get enough of the nutrient through food.

This B vitamin is found in foods like eggs, fish, meat, nuts and sweet potatoes — and biotin gummies are an easy way to add more. 

Hair Care Products

Lots of everyday hair care products are designed to support the health, thickness and volume of your hair. For instance, a combo of volumizing shampoo and volumizing conditioner can help bring out the natural fullness of your locks.

Another option is our thickening shampoo with saw palmetto, which was formulated with dermatologists who understand men’s hair loss. If you struggle with dandruff, consider a dandruff shampoo. Ours is made with pyrithione zinc and salicylic acid to gently cleanse and fight flakes.

The results and effectiveness of alternative hair growth treatments can vary significantly. The best option for you depends on your goals, budget and personal preferences. 

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Hair loss is a common issue impacting many guys in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. While everyone has a different experience with male pattern baldness, a common denominator is that it generally happens earlier than one would like. 

So if you’ve found yourself in this boat or are predicting your future based on your dad’s head of hair, here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Watch for signs. The earlier you recognize signs of baldness or a receding hairline, the more equipped you’ll be to help prevent further hair loss. 

  • Choose an effective treatment. Currently, minoxidil is among the best hair loss treatment methods. If you prefer other hair loss treatments, you might look into finasteride, consider volumizing hair care products or add a biotin supplement to your routine.

  • Know the side effects. Minoxidil may cause side effects during use and shortly after stopping it, so watch for things like itching or swelling. When you stop using minoxidil, the main side effect is that your hair loss will gradually return. 

  • Embrace the change. Eventually, you’ll stop using minoxidil. While long-term use is effective, there may come a time when it makes more sense to go with the natural order of things. Embrace that full head of hair as long as you like, then step proudly into the next season.

Noticing hair loss and ready to get ahead of it? Start by taking our free quiz, and we’ll guide you through the next steps.

12 Sources

  1. Urysiak-Czubatka, I., Kmieć, M. L., & Broniarczyk-Dyła, G. (2014). Assessment of the usefulness of dihydrotestosterone in the diagnostics of patients with androgenetic alopecia. Postepy dermatologii i alergologii, 31(4), 207–215. https://doi.org/10.5114/pdia.2014.40925
  2. Ho CH, Sood T, Zito PM. Androgenetic Alopecia. [Updated 2022 Oct 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  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. https://doi.org/10.2147/DDDT.S214907
  4. Minoxidil Topical. Medline Plus. Revised 15 Nov 2017. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a689003.html
  5. Chellini, P. R., Pirmez, R., Raso, P., & Sodré, C. T. (2015). Generalized Hypertrichosis Induced by Topical Minoxidil in an Adult Woman. International journal of trichology, 7(4), 182–183. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-7753.171587
  6. Rundegren J. A one-year observational study with minoxidil 5% solution in Germany: results of independent efficacy evaluation by physicians and patients. J Am Acad Derm. 2004;50(3): P91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2003.10.289
  7. Gupta, A. K., Talukder, M., Venkataraman, M., & Bamimore, M. A. (2022). Minoxidil: a comprehensive review. The Journal of dermatological treatment, 33(4), 1896–1906. https://doi.org/10.1080/09546634.2021.1945527
  8. Zito PM, Bistas KG, Syed K. Finasteride. [Updated 2022 Aug 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
  9. Kaufman, K. D., Olsen, E. A., Whiting, D., Savin, R., DeVillez, R., Bergfeld, W., Price, V. H., Van Neste, D., Roberts, J. L., Hordinsky, M., Shapiro, J., Binkowitz, B., & Gormley, G. J. (1998). Finasteride in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia. Finasteride Male Pattern Hair Loss Study Group. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 39(4 Pt 1), 578–589. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0190-9622(98)70007-6
  10. PROPECIA® (finasteride): Highlights of prescribing information. (2012). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/020788s020s021s023lbl.pdf
  11. Trüeb R. M. (2016). Serum Biotin Levels in Women Complaining of Hair Loss. International journal of trichology, 8(2), 73–77. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-7753.188040
  12. Biotin – Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated 10 Jan 2022. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/
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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