Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/26/2021
Remember when you noticed your first chin hair? You likely felt as if you’d grown from child to man overnight.
But when that chin hair fails to materialize into an actual beard, it can be discouraging. We all know how much a full, thick beard screams “masculinity!”
Beards are like a built-in accessory for your face. Pair it with a flannel and jeans, or a well-tailored suit, and you easily have an entire look.
So, for those whose facial hair is lacking, minoxidil for beard growth can be game-changing.
You probably know minoxidil can help grow the hair on your head, so read on to learn how it can help you sport a full, healthy beard.
A topical formula was created in 1986, and minoxidil began changing lives as a topical hair growth formula.
Now, you can find minoxidil “over the counter,” meaning it’s available without a prescription.
It comes in 2% and 5% strength solutions, and is one of only two medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. (The other medication is finasteride.)
When minoxidil is applied to the skin, the enzyme sulfotransferase works to create minoxidil sulfate. This metabolite is believed to be the key to minoxidil’s effectiveness.
There are two different sulfotransferases responsible for this conversation, and people with higher activity of this enzyme experience better results than others.
Topical minoxidil is applied twice daily, usually to the scalp, where an estimated 1.4% is absorbed.
How often you apply it, the concentration of the formula you use, and the condition of your skin can all play a role in absorption.
It’s important to note that the vast majority of the medicine never gets absorbed. Minoxidil doesn’t bind to plasma proteins or cross the blood-brain barrier, therefore there is no connection between serum or tissue concentrations of the medicine and it’s effectiveness on hair growth.
In fact, within four days of applying minoxidil, 95% of the drug and its metabolites have left the body through urine. This is why stopping treatment once you’ve started will undo the progress you’ve made.
Minoxidil is a widely researched medication, and the findings have been quite positive. On average, across multiple studies, minoxidil has been shown to increase hair density (the number of hairs in a given space) by eight to 14 hairs per square centimeter.
The research has also indicated more pronounced results with the 5% concentration over the 2% formula.
After 48 weeks in one study, men using the 5% concentration had 45% more hair regrowth than those who used the lower concentration.
Androgenic alopecia isn’t the only hair disorder minoxidil is used for. It’s also used off-label to treat other conditions such as alopecia areata, chemotherapy-induced hair loss, telogen effluvium, eyebrow enhancement and yes, beard enhancement.
Even when minoxidil is applied to the scalp, patients sometimes note increased hair growth elsewhere. So, can minoxidil help you grow that lumberjack face-warmer you’re after?
There isn’t a ton of research on using minoxidil for beard growth, but there was one study published as a letter to the editor in a 2016 volume of The Journal of Dermatology.
In it, researchers detailed their observations in a double-blind, placebo controlled study of a 3% minoxidil formula among 48 men, over a period of 16 weeks.
Throughout the study, patients applied 0.5 ml of the formula (or a placebo) on the chin and jawline twice daily. The men’s results were then analyzed using photographs and hair counts every four weeks.
After 16 weeks, the photograph scores were significantly different for the men using minoxidil, as were the changes in average hair count. Hair diameter was unchanged.
So the answer to your question, “Can minoxidil help me grow a beard?” is a resounding: probably.
According to the above-mentioned study on minoxidil and beard growth, side effects among participants were “mild” and not considered significantly different from those among the men using a placebo.
However, that study was small, so it pays to know what adverse effects are possible when using minoxidil on your face, even if they’re unlikely.
The most common side effect from minoxidil use is skin irritation, including itching and scaling. Allergic reactions are also possible.
Lastly, you may also experience hair growth in areas where you didn’t apply the medication.
Applying a small amount of minoxidil to your skin as a patch test before going all-in is a good way to check whether you’ll experience an adverse reaction.
It’s worth noting: Side effects are generally more common with the 5% formula compared to the 2% version.
Minoxidil is a topical formula used to treat a variety of hair loss disorders, and there is evidence it could encourage beard growth, too.
One study found positive results among a small group of men using minoxidil on their face, twice daily for a period of 16 weeks.
It’s important to note that stopping treatment will likely result in a return to the baby face (or patchy beard) you had before treatment, so once you begin using minoxidil treatment, you’ll want to keep consistent.
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