Using Minoxidil (Rogaine) For Women

Woman applying minoxidil with a dropper to the top of her head

Minoxidil is a hair loss treatment that works as a vasodilator. This means it increases blood flow to the scalp and in turn, provides more oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the hair follicles. It’s also thought to increase the size of the hair follicle. This allows healthier, thicker hair strands to grow, tackling hair loss symptoms. (1,2)

Minoxidil was first approved as an oral medication to treat high blood pressure. Hair growth was noticed as a side effect. It was then trialed and approved as a topical treatment for androgenic alopecia, a condition also known as pattern hair loss. It’s currently the only FDA-approved topical treatment for both male and female pattern hair loss. (1-3)

Minoxidil is often referred to as Rogaine. They’re the same medicine – Rogaine is just a brand name. You may also see minoxidil sold under other brand names, including Kirkland, which is a Costco brand found commonly in America. Minoxidil is the active ingredient in all of these brand-name medicines.

Can Minoxidil Be Used by Women?

Minoxidil is a topical treatment that works to increase blood flow to the scalp and increase hair growth. It was approved in 1987 to treat male pattern hair loss, and then later was approved for use in females. It’s now been used to treat female pattern hair loss for decades. (2)

Minoxidil is often used off-label to treat a range of other hair loss conditions, including alopecia areata, scarring forms of alopecia, telogen effluvium, chemotherapy-induced alopecia, and monilethrix. It can also be used to reduce hair loss experienced after hair transplant surgery. (2)

Minoxidil is currently the only topical FDA-approved treatment for female pattern hair loss. This means it’s approved as safe for women to use. It’s available as a 2 percent solution or 5 percent foam and solution. All of these products are meant to be applied directly to the scalp. (2,3) 

Low-dose oral minoxidil pills have recently been explored as an alternative treatment for female pattern hair loss. Doses between 0.25 and 2 milligrams were tested daily over a period of 9 months. Using oral minoxidil for women’s hair loss has had positive results, with patients experiencing increased hair growth and thickness. However, since the medicine is oral rather than topical, more systemic side effects were experienced. Minoxidil tablets for female hair loss are still not approved for use, but they do show promise as a potential treatment. (4)

Other Hair Loss Treatments For Women

Besides minoxidil, low-level light therapy (LLLT) is the only other FDA-approved treatment for female pattern hair loss. Laser hair therapy uses biostimulatory light that is absorbed by the cells, encouraging hair growth. LLLT has shown positive outcomes, increasing hair growth and hair coverage in patients. (5)

Finasteride is a common androgenic alopecia treatment, taken orally, once a day, at a 1-milligram dose. This oral medication blocks dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgen that binds to hair follicles in people with androgenic alopecia. DHT causes hair follicles to shrink and produce thinner, weaker hair strands. Finasteride lowers DHT levels in the bloodstream to reduce the amount binding to the hair follicles, therefore encouraging hair growth. (6)

However, finasteride is currently only approved by the FDA to treat male pattern hair loss. It’s not recommended for women as it can impact fertility and is unsafe for women who are or may become pregnant. It can cause abnormalities in a male fetus. (7)

Other potential treatment options for women with hair loss include hair transplantation surgery, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, and combination treatments. Women may also prefer cosmetic alternatives or styling changes, like applying hair-building fiber sprays or wearing wigs. 

You might be wondering: ‘what is the best treatment for female hair loss?’ The answer really varies based on the severity of your symptoms. Unlike men with androgenic alopecia, women experiencing pattern hair loss rarely go completely bald. This allows for a wider variety of potential treatments. It’s important to take your time to work out what’s best for your needs and lifestyle. 

Can Women Use Rogaine For Men?

Women and men can use the same minoxidil products. The only difference is how often the product is meant to be applied. The recommended dose of minoxidil foam for women is 5 percent, with half a capful applied once a day. Men are instructed to apply the same dose, but twice a day. 

Minoxidil solution is approved for women in the 2 percent dosage, with 1 milligram applied twice a day. For men, both the 2 percent and 5 percent dosages are meant to be applied twice a day. (2,3,8)

Many women have reported positive results when using minoxidil 5 percent. However, it’s important to remember that this dose is not approved for women. Using higher doses or applying this medication more often than is recommended may lead to increased side effects. (3,8)

Does Rogaine For Women Work?

Rogaine for women has proven to be very effective. The treatment has shown positive outcomes in slowing hair loss while increasing hair growth, hair thickness, and hair health. One study showed that female patients using 2 percent minoxidil had 12.41 hairs more per cm² than their control group counterparts. A follow-up study showed that hair growth peaked after 1 year. (9)

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, multicenter trial found that both 2 percent and 5 percent minoxidil solutions were effective in women with pattern hair loss. Both concentrations were well tolerated and markedly increased hair growth. (10)

Minoxidil has proven to be more effective than platelet-rich plasma (PRP), causing more improvements in hair count. (11) It’s also shown to be more effective than LLLT, and can enhance the effects of laser hair therapy when used in combination. (12)

Low-dose oral minoxidil has been tested and has promising outcomes. However, it isn’t approved yet, and since it’s an oral medication, it can cause more side effects than topical minoxidil. (3)

If you’re thinking about using minoxidil to treat pattern hair loss symptoms, you should be aware that androgenic alopecia is a progressive condition. Minoxidil can help treat symptoms and counteract hair loss – but it’s not a cure. Like most other hair loss treatments, it needs to be applied indefinitely to maintain hair regrowth.  

If you stop applying minoxidil regularly, your hair loss will likely return. And since pattern hair loss is progressive, your hair loss symptoms will get worse over time.

Is Minoxidil 5% Better Than 2% In Women?

Minoxidil foam is approved in a 5 percent dose for women while minoxidil solution is currently only FDA-approved in the 2 percent dose. (2) Trials have shown that 5 percent minoxidil may have better outcomes on hair growth and be more practical for women. (13)

A single-blind trial found that using 5 percent minoxidil foam once daily provided similar results to using 2 percent minoxidil solution twice daily. Applying topical minoxidil means that you can’t style your hair after application. A once-a-day option may be better for women, as it allows them to style their hair more freely. (13)

However, 5 percent minoxidil solution has been proven to have more side effects than the 2 percent solution. Side effects include dermatitis, headaches, and hypertrichosis, where hair growth occurs on unwanted areas of the body. (9,10)

How To Use Rogaine For Women

Rogaine is a topical treatment applied directly to the scalp every day. Applying Rogaine properly is crucial for safety and to get the best results out of the treatment. 

How To Apply Women’s Rogaine Liquid

Women’s Rogaine liquid is available in a 2 percent formula. A 1-milligram dose should be applied twice a day following the steps below. (2,14)

Step 1

Ensure your hair and scalp are completely dry.

Step 2

Carefully apply the 1-milligram dose to the area of balding or hair thinning, starting at the center of the area. The applicator for the solution is typically a dropper that makes it easy to measure out your dose. 

Step 3

Use the provided applicator or your fingers to spread out the solution. You can wear gloves if you don’t want the medication to touch your skin. Don’t massage the solution in or touch it once applied.

Step 4

Wash your hands immediately after you finish applying minoxidil. Make sure you don’t touch other areas of your body, as this could cause unwanted hair growth. If you accidentally do, wash those areas, too.

Step 5

Don’t shampoo your hair or get your hair wet for 4 hours after application. It needs time to penetrate your scalp properly. Try to avoid using a hairdryer or heat on your hair to dry your scalp faster.

Step 6

Allow the medication to dry before going to bed or styling your hair. Minoxidil can stain pillows, hats, clothing, and other items if it isn’t properly dry. 

Try to leave as much time as is practical between your daily doses. Between 8 and 12 hours is ideal if possible.

How To Apply Women’s Rogaine Foam

Women’s Rogaine foam is available in the 5 percent formulation. It should be applied at a half capful dose once a day following the steps below. (2,14)

Step 1

Ensure your hair and scalp are completely dry. 

Step 2

Separate your hair into sections or rows to easily reach the thinning areas of hair.

Step 3

Open the container. The foam often comes in an aerosol can with a cap you can pull off.

Step 4

Hold the can upside down and dispense the amount of foam required onto your hands or into the cap that can be used to measure it. Usually around six sprays is the correct amount, but the instructions will tell you how to measure the right dose.

Step 5

Use your fingers to spread the foam over the areas of hair loss. Wash your hands thoroughly afterward and don’t touch other areas of your body to prevent unwanted hair growth.

Step 6

Allow plenty of time for the foam to soak in and your scalp to dry before styling, using heat, or washing your hair.

Don’t use the foam near a heat source or open flame and be careful not to puncture or damage the can.

Rogaine For Women: Side Effects

Since Rogaine is applied topically, side effects are minimal and localized to the site of application. Systemic side effects are rare and only really occur if too high a dose is used, too much Rogaine is absorbed, or if the application is not carried out correctly. (14) 

Common minoxidil for women side effects include contact dermatitis, skin irritation, rashes, or itching at the site of application. Rarer potential side effects include acne, burning, inflammation, and redness on the scalp. Rarely, some patients experience facial hair growth, hair growth in other areas of the body, increased hair loss, or swelling of the face. Side effects are more commonly seen with minoxidil 5 percent compared to minoxidil 2 percent. (9,14)

When it comes to minoxidil and female fertility, since the medicine is applied topically, it’s highly unlikely to affect your ability to have children. (9,14) However, it’s important to remember that all medicines have potential side effects, so it’s always important to do your research and talk to your doctor. 

Can Minoxidil Cause Hair Loss in Females?

Minoxidil can initially cause temporary hair loss called hair shedding, which is often referred to as minoxidil shedding. This occurs because minoxidil shortens the resting (telogen) phase of the hair growth cycle. It also extends the anagen phase, which is the growth phase. This means that some increased hair loss at the beginning of the treatment is normal. New growth of healthy hair should soon replace the lost hair as the treatment starts to work properly. (1,2,9)

Does Rogaine For Women Really Work?

Rogaine for women is an FDA-approved, topical treatment for female pattern hair loss. Trials have proven it’s highly effective at slowing hair loss while increasing hair growth. It’s also been shown to improve hair thickness and hair health.

Minoxidil has been proven to be more successful than many other hair loss treatments for women, including platelet-rich plasma and LLLT. (11,12)  Since Rogaine is a topical treatment and isn’t ingested, it has very few side effects and is generally well tolerated. (9,14) 

That being said, remember that you’ll need to use minoxidil continuously to maintain improvements in hair regrowth. In most cases, if people stop using this medication, their hair loss symptoms will gradually return.


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Published on January 30, 2023

Last updated January 2023

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