Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/02/2021
Minoxidil, sold under the brand name Rogaine® and others, is a popular topical medication for treating hair loss.
Research shows that minoxidil helps to improve hair growth, usually over the course of several months of daily use. After using minoxidil, you might notice that your hair loss stops, or that hair in some parts of your scalp becomes thicker and less affected by male pattern baldness.
Like with other medications, it’s important to use minoxidil correctly to make sure you notice the best possible results.
Minoxidil is available in several forms, all of which are easy to use. Below, we’ve explained how you should apply minoxidil foam and liquid to treat hair loss. We’ve also discussed the basics of how minoxidil works as a hair loss treatment.
Minoxidil is a topical medication that you apply directly to your scalp. It’s designed for use two times a day. Most people who use minoxidil apply it once in the morning and once in the evening, typically a few hours before going to bed.
Experts aren’t totally aware of how minoxidil works to increase hair growth. Currently, most research suggests that minoxidil improves blood flow to the scalp, increasing the flow of nutrients to your hairs and encouraging them to enter the growth phase.
Unlike some other hair regrowth products, minoxidil is a science-backed medication that’s approved by the FDA. It’s a science-based hair loss treatment that’s supported by comprehensive, large-scale scientific research.
Minoxidil comes as a liquid solution or a foam. Make sure to follow the instructions for the type of minoxidil you have.
Although minoxidil can improve hair growth, it doesn’t cure baldness. To maintain your results, you’ll need to continue using minoxidil daily. If you stop applying minoxidil, you will typically lose your “new” hairs over the course of a few months.
Some people notice side effects from minoxidil, especially during the first few weeks of use. These usually go away on their own. If you notice persistent or severe side effects, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
Using minoxidil is a simple process, although the first few times might feel a little bit awkward or unnatural.
Minoxidil comes in two forms: as a topical solution or as a foam. Both options contain the same active ingredient and work to improve hair growth in the same way. We’ve provided instructions for both types of minoxidil below.
Applying minoxidil topical solution to your scalp is simple. The entire process only takes a few minutes, making it easy to work into your morning and evening routine:
Before you apply minoxidil, make sure that your hair is completely dry. If you’ve taken a shower or bath, dry your hair before applying minoxidil solution.
Fill the dropper provided with your medication with 1mL of minoxidil. There should be a black line on the dropper indicating the 1 mL mark.
Using the dropper, apply the minoxidil to the areas of your scalp that are affected by hair loss. It may help to part your hair in several places so that the minoxidil can easily come into contact with your scalp.
After you’ve applied the minoxidil, put the cap back on the bottle. Using your fingers, rub the minoxidil solution into your scalp.
After you’ve finished applying the minoxidil solution, wash your fingers thoroughly using soap and warm water to remove any remaining minoxidil from your skin.
Minoxidil foam is also easy to apply. If your minoxidil comes as a foam, follow the instructions below to apply it your scalp:
Make sure that your hair is completely dry before applying minoxidil. Before applying the foam, gently part your hair so that your scalp is easy to reach.
Hold the can upside down and press the nozzle to dispense half a capful of foam onto your fingers.
Using your fingers, gently apply the foam to the areas of your scalp that are affected by hair loss. Try to massage the foam into your scalp using your fingers as you apply it.
After you’ve finished applying the minoxidil foam, wash your hands thoroughly to get rid of any remaining minoxidil.
After you’ve applied minoxidil, allow four hours for the medication to dry before you wear a hat, use a hair dryer or wash your hair.
Minoxidil can stain clothing, bed linen and other fabric items, making it important to let it dry before allowing these to touch your scalp.
If you forget to use minoxidil and remember shortly after the missed dose, try to apply it as soon as you can. If it’s already close to time for your next dose, skip the dose you missed and use the medication as normal.
Minoxidil is only designed for use on your scalp. If you accidentally apply minoxidil to your face, eyes or any sensitive areas of your body, wash the area carefully using cool water. If you notice irritation in these parts of your body, contact your healthcare provider.
There’s no need to use minoxidil more than twice a day. Applying minoxidil more often than this will not improve your results, although it may increase your risk of experiencing skin irritation or other side effects. Stick to the recommended dosage and apply minoxidil two times per day.
While it’s important to use minoxidil consistently to enjoy the best results, accidentally forgetting a dose won’t cause your newly-grown hair to fall out overnight.
If you often forget to apply minoxidil (or take other hair loss medication, like finasteride), try the following techniques to make your hair loss prevention routine easier to remember:
Keep your minoxidil in an obvious, impossible-to-miss location. Since you’ll need to use minoxidil in the morning and in the evening, try keeping it in a location that you’ll pass by at these times of day.
Good places to store minoxidil include on your bedside table or in other easy-to-notice locations in your bedroom.
Place a sticky note in your bathroom, bedroom or kitchen. A simple note listing your medications and reminding you to use them can work wonders, especially when it’s in an obvious place such as in your closet or on your bathroom mirror or fridge.
Set an alarm using your phone. Try setting an alarm on your phone for a few minutes after you get out of bed. This way, you’ll remember to apply your minoxidil while you’re preparing for the day.
Another option is to create a recurring event in your phone’s calendar app. This should give you a customized notification letting you know when it’s time to start your hair loss preventing routine. You can also use this feature for other medications.
When you’re not using minoxidil, keep it stored in a convenient location away from excess heat and moisture. If you have young children in your home, store minoxidil and other medications in a location that’s out of their sight and reach.
Minoxidil is a safe and effective medication for most people. However, like other medications, it can occasionally cause side effects.
The most common side effects of minoxidil are skin irritation, dryness, scaling, burning, flaking and itching. If you experience any of these side effects after starting minoxidil, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our guide to minoxidil side effects goes into more detail about the side effects you may notice while using this medication.
Using minoxidil is a simple process. Follow the instructions above to apply minoxidil solution or foam to your scalp. If you’re prone to forgetting your minoxidil, try setting an alarm or sticking a note to your bathroom mirror to remind you every morning and evening.
Minoxidil may start working immediately. However, it usually takes a few months before you’ll start to see results. Our guide to how long minoxidil takes to begin working goes into more detail on the normal amount of time you’ll need to wait before you notice hair regrowth.
The majority of hair loss in men is caused by male pattern baldness — a genetic and hormonal condition that causes your hairline to gradually recede as you get older.
Minoxidil is one of several FDA-approved medications for treating male pattern baldness. Our guide to male pattern baldness goes into more detail on the others, including medications like finasteride that you can use at the same time as minoxidil for better results.
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