Minoxidil Foam vs. Liquid: Pick Your Match
Written by
Morgan German
Medically approved by
Ahmad Chaudhry M.D.

Approved by FDA and prescribed extensively for androgenetic alopecia, minoxidil has exhibited exceptional results in multiple studies over the years [2]. But since you're here, we assume you're confused between minoxidil foam vs liquid. Everything you need to know about the differences between foam and liquid form is here!

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What is minoxidil?

Minoxidil is a medication that was initially employed to combat hypertension in the 1970s but the accompanying side effects of excessive hair growth lead to its establishment as a hair loss treatment, or, just treatments for when you need hair growth [1]. The integral form of the minoxidil molecule, minoxidil sulfate, is used in different formulations with water and alcohols which are added as inactive components and are responsible for enhancing absorption.

This drug’s mechanism of action in propagating hair growth is still ambiguous but can be attributed to its vasodilator effect. It elevates blood circulation in the affected area which may induce hair growth [3]. Minoxidil is also lauded for reducing the telogen (resting) phase of the hair and causing a shift of cells to the anagen (growing) phase.

It enlarges the hair follicles and surges the anagen follicle percentage which improves hair density and decreases hair shedding [1]. However, minoxidil has to be applied continuously to maintain the achieved results otherwise hair loss would continue in a few months after treatment is aborted.

Types of minoxidil

Minoxidil comes in different formulations, each with its own set of pros and cons. It is available both as a topical solution and as a foam with varying concentrations. A detailed breakdown of its types is given below.

Concentration

Different products contain varying minoxidil content ranging from 1% to 10%. An increase in its concentration is usually related to an elevated efficacy in promoting hair growth but minoxidil 10% was not found to be as effective as its 5% counterpart and it even caused more irritation [4].

What concentration is more effective?

2% and 5% minoxidil are usually prescribed for combating androgenetic alopecia and female pattern hair loss. In a study comparing their efficacy, 5% minoxidil was found to be better in instigating hair growth by 45% as compared to 2% minoxidil [5].

Women suffering from female pattern hair loss are recommended 2% minoxidil as a 5% concentration can have an undesirable side effect called hypertrichosis which can cause excessive hair growth on the face and body [2].

If you are wary of the side effects, you could always try alternatives.

Form

The minoxidil molecule has two main forms: liquid and foam.

As mentioned above, minoxidil is combined with other components to improve its delivery. The absence or presence of propylene glycol is the only difference between a liquid and foam formulation.

Liquid minoxidil consists of propylene glycol which is speculated to increase its absorbency by the scalp but can be a cause of allergy or irritation in some people. Due to this, a foam version of minoxidil was developed in which propylene glycol was replaced to make it more tolerable.

Which form is more effective?

Studies comparing these two forms of minoxidil are still scarce but an animal study has shown the efficacy of both formulations to be equally effective [6].

How to choose the best minoxidil for you?

While being one of the first in line treatments against alopecia, many people get confused when faced with the different formulations available in the market. You can distinguish and single out the best minoxidil for your condition by keeping the following things in mind.

Allergies/sensitivities

The use of liquid minoxidil has been associated with allergic contact dermatitis, especially in those who are already predisposed to the condition [6]. People who are sensitive to propylene glycol have complained about pruritus, irritation of the scalp, erythema, and eczematous skin reaction [7].

In these cases, minoxidil foam acts as a great alternative because it does not have propylene glycol and is generally better tolerated. It is better to run a patch test to identify the causative agent in case of an allergic reaction.

Absorption

Foams act as distinctive drug delivery systems. When compared to a liquid formulation, foams have been found to distribute more easily at the application site [8]. However, the length of hair and the target areas should be considered as well when choosing between a liquid and foam.

Which is better for your hair length?

People with longer hair and broad hair parts tend to benefit more from a liquid solution since it is easier to get onto specific areas. While for those with shorter hair length and thinning at the top of the head, foam is more easily absorbed.

Aesthetics

Minoxidil foam absorbs quickly and takes only 5 to 10 minutes to dry without making your hair appear oily, which makes it easier to style your hair afterward. Liquid minoxidil, on the other hand, takes at least 30 minutes to dry and leaves an oily residue on the scalp. So if you have to apply minoxidil twice a day and are worried about how it looks, choose the foam formulation.

Ease of application

Liquid minoxidil comes in a bottle that has a dropper, which helps you get an accurate amount of the product. Consequently, it can be easily applied to specific areas of the scalp that are difficult to reach. A drawback of the liquid solution is the fear of it dripping on the forehead. Foam Minoxidil is available in a spray bottle and is more convenient when covering large areas.

Men vs. Women

5% minoxidil has more efficacy than the 2% concentration but it is not approved for women with FPHL by the FDA. A study concluded that once a day application of 5% topical minoxidil solution has similar benefits for women with alopecia when compared to the usage of 2% minoxidil foam twice per day [9].

Patients' compliance with the doctor's recommendation due to minoxidil foam's ease of use is another crucial element in its greater effectiveness [8].

Other options besides Minoxidil

While Minoxidil is effective, it is not without its side effects.

Our founders, motivated by the lack of safe and natural solutions, created Scandinavian Biolabs.

The best-selling Hair Growth Routine is vegan, natural, safe and effective. In fact, it's so effective that we have a whopping 150 days (5 months) money back guarantee.

Still skeptical? Find out about the success cases on our homepage!

minoxidil foam vs liquid alternative

Conclusion

Minoxidil is one of the most effective treatment strategies against androgenetic alopecia. It comes in both foam and liquid formulations, each with its own benefits. When it comes to choosing a form of minoxidil suited to your needs, personal preferences and any observed reactions to the product should be kept at the forefront.

It is important to contact a dermatologist before starting any treatment and get advice on the best options available, according to your condition.

References

  1. Gottlieb TB, Katz FH, Chidsey CA 3rd (1972) Combined therapy with vasodilator drugs and beta-adrenergic blockade in hypertension. A comparative study of minoxidil and hydralazine. Circulation 45:571–582
  2. Suchonwanit P, Thammarucha S, Leerunyakul K (2019) Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther 13:2777–2786
  3. Wester RC, Maibach HI, Guy RH, Novak E (1984) Minoxidil stimulates cutaneous blood flow in human balding scalps: pharmacodynamics measured by laser Doppler velocimetry and photopulse plethysmography. J Invest Dermatol 82:515–517
  4. Ghonemy S, Alarawi A, Bessar H (2021) Efficacy and safety of a new 10% topical minoxidil versus 5% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of male androgenetic alopecia: a trichoscopic evaluation. J Dermatolog Treat 32:236–241
  5. Olsen EA, Dunlap FE, Funicella T, Koperski JA, Swinehart JM, Tschen EH, Trancik RJ (2002) A randomized clinical trial of 5% topical minoxidil versus 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. J Am Acad Dermatol 47:377–385
  6. Purnak T, Senel E, Sahin C (2011) Liquid formulation of minoxidil versus its foam formulation. Indian J Dermatol 56:462
  7. Badri T, Nessel TA, Kumar D D (2021) Minoxidil. StatPearls
  8. Hoc D, Haznar-Garbacz D (2021) Foams as unique drug delivery systems. Eur J Pharm Biopharm 167:73–82
  9. Blume-Peytavi U, Hillmann K, Dietz E, Canfield D, Garcia Bartels N (2011) A randomized, single-blind trial of 5% minoxidil foam once daily versus 2% minoxidil solution twice daily in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in women. J Am Acad Dermatol 65:1126–1134.e2