Minoxidil Shampoo - Good Idea or Not?
written by Matt Dominance
In this post you will find out:
- What is M. Shampoo?
- Effectiveness of Minoxidil-enriched Shampoos
- Minoxidil Shampoo vs topical Minoxidil (Pros and Cons)
- 3 Ways to boost Minoxidil effectiveness for non-responders
What is Minoxidil Shampoo?
It is a shampoo enriched with Minoxidil (usually 1% or 2%). Brands known for offering such shampoo are Foligain or less known – Bioken.
Combining Shampoo with Minoxidil - Good Idea?
We know that shampoos with parabens and sulfates are bad for the overall health of our hair and skin.
We also know that DHT blocking shampoos containing useful Ketoconazole are scientifically proven to slow down hair loss and reduce/get rid of dandruff.
But is Minoxidil really a must have ingredient in your shampoo?
Well, Minoxidil is known for prolonging the anagen (growing) phase of the hair follicles on the whole body not just on the scalp.
It can do so by opening potassium channels and also up-regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which helps in maintaining dermal papilla vasculature and hair growth
How long should the Minoxidil Shampoo stay on the scalp?
In this study they also observed how soon Minoxidil 5% can stimulate cutaneous blood from in the scalp after one time application
We have to note, that only 0.25ml of 5% Minoxidil has been used in this study.
Trying to achieve similar results with a Minoxidil Shampoo would require at least 1% Minoxidil concentration per each ml of the shampoo.
Furthermore, you would have to leave the shampoo on the scalp for up to 15 minutes.
How effective is the Minoxidil Shampoo 1%?
This study from 2015 investigated the therapeutic effect of Shampoo with Minoxidil 1% for 4 months.
It was a double-blind placebo controlled trial with 60 subjects.
The treatment group used the Minoxidil Shampoo every other day for 4 months. The control group used a similar shampoo but with no Minoxidil in it.
Patients were also evaluated on a monthly basis.
If we take a look at both parameters – vellus hair and terminal hair improvement, we can clearly see an increasing trend in the treatment group. In the placebo group on the other hand, it seems that the amount of vellus hair also improved in about 13% (21% in the treatment group).
The amount of terminal hair increase however, seems to significantly improve between the treatment and placebo group.
The study unfortunately took only 4 months. Could we further assume increasing improvements in the terminal hair and vellus hair counts in the treatment group?
It seems that further studies are going to be necessary.
How does Minoxidil enriched Shampoo compare to Minoxidil 5% topical?
Before we try to compare the same active ingredient used in 2 different product variations, let’s take a look at what makes the active ingredient Minoxidil potent for hair loss:
- Using Minoxidil with a proper application frequency
- Allowing long enough absorption duration
- Using Minoxidil in high enough concentration
The half-life of topical Minoxidil averages at 22 hours, which means that at least once a day application is required to maintain the ideal stimulatory benefits. That’s why it is recommended to use products with 5% Minoxidil at least once a day and sometimes even 2x a day.
Could you use MX Shampoo every day?
Although patients with very oily scalp and excessive sebum production could get away with shampooing their head every day, not everybody could do so without drying out the scalp and disrupting the ideal pH balance.
If we assume the usual shampooing frequency of 3-4x per week, and compare it to usual topical Minoxidil application of 1-2x every day, we get superior hair follicle stimulation by using Minoxidil with higher frequency than 3-4 times per week.
How long will be the absorption with a Shampoo vs Topical solution containing Minoxidil?
Shampoo absorption will normally last no longer than 5 minutes while a topical solution can be left on the scalp for many hours.
Minoxidil absorption over time has been researched in this study which discovered a more rapid absorption rate of 50% within the first hour of application followed by a less rapid absorption rate (another 25%) between 1 – 4 hours.
We can assume a 100% (close to 100%) absorption within 8 hours.
Minoxidil application intervals in this study were every 12 hours.
This makes it impossible for the MX shampoo to beat topical MX 5% in terms of absorption duration.
In order for this to be a fair battle, we need to get a shampoo standardized with 5% Minoxidil in each 1ml of shampoo. Why is it important?
Significance of 5% concentration over 2%
Long term effectiveness of 5% Minoxidil has outperformed the 2% Minoxidil.
By comparing the effectiveness of the Minoxidil Shampoo 1% (as it was described in the previous study) to 5% topical solution (FDA approved MX solution for androgenetic alopecia), the latter one will likely win the battle!
Minoxidil Shampoo for non-responders to the traditional Minoxidil 5% solution
It has been shown, that patients with a very low activity of sulfotransferase enzyme on the scalp are less likely to have a less favorable clinical response to Minoxidil. That’s the reason why only every other person can actually regrow hair after using Minoxidil 5%.
Sulfotransferase enzyme is responsible for converting the inactive ingredient Minoxidil to Minoxidil Sulfate (MXS). By applying Minoxidil on the scalp, this conversion happens topically.
This study on individuals with low/no sulfotransferase activity on the scalp has shown that applying Minoxidil Sulfate directly helped improve their clinical response. The concentration of MXS solution was 10%..
The problem with MXS though, is its instability. Therefore it should be supplied in a small package.
Individuals with little to no clinical response to traditional 5% topical Minoxidil in the past who are considering Minoxidil shampoo, should rather do the following:
3 Ways to boost Minoxidil effectiveness for non-responders
1. Minoxidil Solution enriched with Tretinoin
Topical tretinoin application influences the expression of follicular sulfotransferase. It has been shown in this cohort study. Another study compared Minoxidil 5% vs Minoxidil 5% + 0.01% Tretinoin and also confirmed potential benefits of including tretinoin in the topical Minoxidil formulations.
Among very few available Minoxidil solutions with Tretinoin I’d suggest this one with 0.025% Tretinoin called Dualgen – 5R (Minoxidil 5%, Tretinoin 0.025%, Azelaic Acid 5%, Adenosine, Biotin and Caffeine).
Although topical application of Biotin hasn’t shown any significant stimulatory benefits on hair growth, Adenosine and Caffeine have been shown to positively affect the anagen (growing) phase of the hair follicle.
2. Minoxidil Solution enriched with Diclofenac sodium 0.5% and Tea Tree Oil 5%
In this study, they created a special micro-emulsion with Minoxidil 5%. Micro-emulsions are mixtures of liquid, oil and surfactant.
Topical Diclofenac 3% is often times used as a treatment for Actinic Keratosis. This skin condition develops over time due to sun overexposure. This study accidentally included males with Actinic Keratosis who were also suffered from androgenetic alopecia.
As a side effects of this treatment improvements in terminal hair growth was observed.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any topical micro-emulsion with Minoxidil incl Diclofenac sodium which is commercially available.
The good new is, that Diclofenac sodium has been shown to be pretty stable. In this study they found out that a suspension with Diclofenac sodium stored in 60ml bottles for 93 days still retained 99.5% of its original concentration.
3. Derma rolling or Micro-needling
Using derma roller regularly in conjunction with Minoxidil therapy helps open the pores in the skin and results in better transcutaneous absorption.
In the Derma Roller (DR) and Minoxidil (MX) study on 99 patients (50 in the DR+MX group and 44 in the MX only group), they observed:
8.5% increase in the mean hair count after 12 weeks in the MX only group
40% increase in the mean hair count after 12 weeks in the MX+DR group
In this article you can read more about how to use a derma roller, best derma roller frequency, and how to clean it after every use.
Although adding extra Minoxidil into your Shampoo could be superior compared to not including it there at all based on this randomized placebo-controlled trial, the additional benefits of such a shampoo should be still taken with a grain of salt before further research will be conducted.
There is also no reason to use such shampoo if one is already a user of topical Minoxidil 5%.
Short shampooing times compared with relatively long Minoxidil absorption time is really unfavorable for the efficacy of all Minoxidil-containing shampoos.
For a more effective hair loss prevention regimen it would be much more advisable to use the standardized 5% Minoxidil solution topically together with the Ketoconazole Shampoo to maximize the results instead. This is the Shampoo I use myself and recommend.
Also you can read more about why Ketoconazole Shampoo is good for hair loss prevention here.
Individuals who were previously non-responders to conventional MX 5% are likely to get no additional benefits from using Minoxidil-enriched shampoos. In such case, additional use of tretinoin, diclofenac sodium or MXS can be considered for better clinical response to Minoxidil.