Minoxidil is a treatment used widely by men and women with hair loss. While 2% and 5% are the most common dosage solutions used, the 10% solution could be a more effective way to improve hair growth results.
This article will compare minoxidil 10% to minoxidil 5%. There are no direct studies available on the topic, but some assumptions can be made based on the research studies that are available.
NOTE: Minoxidil 2% and 5% are the only solutions currently FDA-approved for the treatment of hair loss in humans. More studies are required on the benefits and dangers of minoxidil 10% as it is NOT an FDA-approved dosage. See a doctor before you proceed with treatment.
Minoxidil in the Treatment of Hair Loss
Minoxidil was developed in the 1950s, first marketed as an ulcer treatment drug and then as a vasodilator.
As studies continued, it was found that the use of minoxidil led to unexpected hair growth.
It was believed to be a result of its vasodilating properties, enabling the capillaries in the scalp to become dilated (1). This improves their abilities to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the hair.
Over time, further studies were performed to better understand minoxidil’s role in the treatment of hair loss. This eventually led to its FDA approval in 1988, and it has been available ever since.
Is Minoxidil 5% or Minoxidil 10% More Effective?
While there are no current studies that directly compare minoxidil 10% vs minoxidil 5%, there are a few studies that can help us to better understand how minoxidil works in various doses.
One such study was performed in 2002, and it compared a 5% solution of minoxidil to a 2% solution in men with Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) (2).
The study consisted of 393 participants (with a total of 351 completing it), and it lasted for 48 weeks. At the beginning of the study, 157 men were assigned to the 5% minoxidil group, 158 were assigned to the 2% minoxidil group, and 78 were assigned to the placebo group.
Once baseline data (including nonvellus hair count) was collected, patients were instructed to apply 1 mL of solution (either 5%, 2%, or placebo) to their scalp twice per day (with a total daily dose of 2 mL).
After the initial visit (week 0), subjects returned every 4 weeks until week 32, and then every 8 weeks until the end of the 48-week trial. Safety and effectiveness evaluations were performed at such times.
These were the results as seen in week 48:
The relevant information is located on the right side of the table labeled Pairwise comparison P value. This tells us which of the compared solutions is superior.
In all investigator results (nonvellus hair count, change in scalp coverage, and benefit from treatment), there is a significant preference for 5% minoxidil over 2% minoxidil.
Here is a look at the changes in nonvellus hair count experienced by study participants over the course of the trial:
As shown above, the 5% minoxidil solution performed better than the 2% solution during all evaluations.
This study was not the only one to see such results, though. A similar study was performed in 2004, but this time with a focus on female-pattern hair loss (3).
As expected, the 5% minoxidil solution performed better than both the 2% solution and the placebo.
Dose Response – An Understanding of Drug Effectiveness
As shown above, dose response is a common occurrence in scientific research. In simplest terms, dose response is an expected increase in effectiveness as dosage increases.
For example, when subjects were treated with 5% minoxidil (instead of 2%), their results were better (more hair growth, increased density, etc.).
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. However, as highlighted by the studies above, it seems that minoxidil is one drug that follows this rule. So, while we do not have a study that compares 10% minoxidil and 5% minoxidil directly, it is safe to say that the 10% solution would likely show more results than the 5% solution.
Keep in mind the results are not likely to be proportional to dosage.
Side Effects: Minoxidil 10% vs. Minoxidil 5%
With increased results, will there also be increased side effects?
The active ingredient within minoxidil, minoxidil sulfate, is fairly harmless (4).
It is the non-active ingredients, such as alcohol and propylene glycol, that tend to cause more noticeable side effects (particularly those related to skin irritation).
This means technically speaking, increased side effects should not be seen with increased dosage.
It is possible, of course. In fact, an increase in pruritus, local irritation, and hypertrichosis was noted in the 5% treatment group in the 2004 study referenced.
That is why higher doses (including 10% solution) are only available through prescription and require the oversight of a doctor while in use.
What if Minoxidil 5% Is Not Providing Desired Results?
It is unfortunate, but sometimes even medications with overall beneficial results do not work for certain individuals.
But what if Minoxidil 5% is working moderately well, but you feel that results are behind others on a similar regimen?
You should not compare yourself to others, even those taking the same treatment as you. Hair loss is typically a multi-factored occurrence, and everyone will react differently to the same course of treatment.
Other FDA-Approved Treatments for Hair Loss
If you are considering minoxidil for hair loss, then you may be open to other FDA-approved treatment options on the market.
There are only two FDA-approved treatments for androgenetic alopecia: minoxidil and finasteride.
Finasteride is a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor that decreases the levels of DHT in the body. This can be used to target pattern hair loss, though it does come with the potential for side effects.
The only person who can decide whether an FDA treatment for hair loss is right for you. You will also want to consult with your doctor prior to starting treatment to ensure there are no drug contraindications.
While no studies have been performed to compare minoxidil 10% and minoxidil 5%, the results from 5% vs 2% studies suggest that a higher dosage can deliver better results.
So, should you switch to minoxidil 10% if you are not seeing results with the 5% solution? That is only a question you can answer. Remember to speak with a qualified medical professional before getting started with any FDA approved hair loss treatment.