Minoxidil. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you probably know more about it than you think. And that’s because it’s generic Rogaine®.

Even though it’s such a well-known product, most people don’t fully understand what it does, how it works, or where to buy it. So let’s dive in.

What is minoxidil?

Minoxidil is one of only two FDA-approved treatments to treat hair loss and help with hair regrowth (the other treatment is finasteride).

It’s an over-the-counter, topical treatment that is used to treat hereditary hair loss (a.k.a. male pattern baldness).

How is it different than Rogaine®?

That was a trick question. It’s not any different. Know how Tylenol® is a brand of acetaminophen, or Kleenex® is a brand of tissue? Same deal with Rogaine® and minoxidil.

What does minoxidil do?

Minoxidil can both slow hair loss and regrow hair in men who are experiencing hair loss. Applied twice daily to the scalp, this topical drug typically starts to work its magic after three months of regular, habitual use.

How do I buy minoxidil?

You can buy extra-strength minoxidil online at Keeps.com at a lower cost than a drugstore. Minoxidil is an over-the-counter treatment for hair loss, which means you don’t need a prescription to get it.

Also, did we mention that we’ll ship a 3-month supply directly to your door in discreet packaging so you never run out?

Should I talk to a doctor?

While it is an over-the-counter product, many men suffering from male pattern baldness use it alongside finasteride, which does require a prescription.

Fun fact: The Keeps doctor consultation is both free and online, meaning you can discuss your hair loss with a licensed physician and get their opinion without having to make an appointment and take time off work.

How does minoxidil work?

Thinning hair (and eventual balding) occurs when hair follicles shrink over time, growing increasingly thinner strands of hair until, eventually, they do not grow any new hair at all. That’s where minoxidil comes in.

Minoxidil is a vasodilator, a drug that dilates blood vessels and allows blood to flow more easily through them (in fact, it’s sometimes used to treat high blood pressure).

It doesn’t technically stop hair loss, but it does promote hair growth. It’s believed that if you apply minoxidil to your scalp, it enables your blood vessels to carry more oxygen and nutrients to your hair follicles, stimulating hair growth.

Here’s how: Hair falls out in the telogen phase, which is the final stage of a hair’s life cycle. Minoxidil causes this hair to shed, and replaces it with healthy hair in the anagen phase, which is a hair’s period of active growth. Because of this, it’s very common for minoxidil to (temporarily) cause rapid hair loss.

If this happens, don’t panic. After the resting hairs have been shed, they are generally replaced by a markedly thicker hair—typically after about a month.

What forms is minoxidil available in?

Minoxidil is available as a solution and as a foam. Both forms are equally effective, so choosing between them is just a matter of personal preference. Comfortable applying liquid treatment with a dropper? Go for the solution. If you’d prefer to apply directly, foam is probably the best bet.

How do I apply it?

We thought you might ask that. And it’s why we created this video for minoxidil solution: How to use your minoxidil. To learn how to apply foam, read our handy explainer here. When you’re not applying it, you can store it at room temperature.

Pro tip: Minoxidil only works with consistent use; to maintain your newly luscious head of hair, you must continue to apply minoxidil twice daily.

Does minoxidil work?

Yes! If you consistently apply minoxidil to your scalp twice a day, you could see a fuller head of hair. Men who use minoxidil usually see up to 20% hair regrowth.

Does it help with a receding hairline?

Clinical studies of minoxidil have mostly focused on hair regrowth at the crown, but some data shows that it can also help out your hairline and the hair around your temples. That said, minoxidil can only increase blood flow to existing hair follicles.

What does that mean?

Well, minoxidil could help you grow back a fuller hairline if you have some thin hair there. But if you can’t see any hair at all, minoxidil probably won’t regrow any. On the bright side, it could help keep that bald spot from getting any bigger.

Who should use minoxidil?

If you’re experiencing male pattern baldness, minoxidil is a solution to consider. If you’re not sure if you are, check out this list of hair loss signs. It’s most effective for hair regrowth along the crown of your head.

Who should not use minoxidil?

Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use minoxidil.

What are the side effects of minoxidil?

Although minoxidil is generally safe, like all medicines, it is associated with rare but serious side effects. Contact your doctor or a health care professional immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Chest pain or palpitations
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Skin rash, blisters, or itching
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swelling of the hands or feet

The following side effects usually do not require medical attention (although you can report them to your doctor or health care professional if they are persistent):

  • Headache
  • Redness, irritation and itching at the site of application
  • Unusual hair growth, on the face, arm, and back

So, uh, how do you pronounce minoxidil?

Ah yes, we saved the best question for last. Here you go: mi • NOX • i • dill


The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Image credit: Will Taylor