Ten Things to Know Before Using Minoxidil for Facial Hair
A rash of recent news stories has sparked a lot of interest among men in using minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) to grow facial hair. Stories have appeared in recent weeks in Men’s Health, the Daily Mail and The Sun, among others. Although this latest surge of media coverage suggests this is a new trend driven by social media excitement, it has actually been bubbling for a decade of more. For instance, a story appeared in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago that profiled an entrepreneur marketing minoxidil for use on the face.
As a medical organization, we at Arocha Hair Restoration have serious reservations about people using any medication beyond the purposes for which it is intended. We don’t want to be a downer, but this a big part of why the U.S. is dealing with an opioid crisis. It can be dangerous to ignore the directions for any medication. Doing so essentially makes you a guinea pig.
Here’s a bit of advice: Don’t be a guinea pig.
In the interest of sharing factual information with the community, we’ve compiled the following 10 things you should know about minoxidil for facial hair.
- Minoxidil is not approved by the FDA for application to the face. It is only FDA approved for application on the scalp. Through extensive research more than 30 years ago, minoxidil 5% solution was found to be safe and effective for growing hair and preventing hair loss caused by male pattern baldness when applied to the vertex of the scalp (the area just behind the crown) and for female pattern baldness when applied on the top of the scalp.
- Researchers exploring the use of minoxidil on the face have indeed published their findings. “Efficacy and safety of minoxidil 3% lotion for beard enhancement: A randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled study,” was published as a letter to the editor of The Journal of Dermatology of the Japanese Dermatological Association by a team of researchers from the Department of Dermatology, School of Anti-aging and Regenerative Medicine at Mae Fah Luang University Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.
- The study sought to answer the question: can minoxidil by used to safely stimulate beard hair growth? They signed up 48 men between the ages of 20 and 60 years. Twice each day for 16 weeks half of the patients applied 0.5 mL of minoxidil solution on the chin and jaw line. The control group applied a placebo solution. After 16 weeks, three doctors examined photographs of the patients and the findings were very encouraging. The global photographic score in the minoxidil group was significantly higher than that in the placebo group. Mean change in hair count from baseline significantly increased in the minoxidil group compared with the placebo group. For patients’ self-assessments, the minoxidil group again was significantly superior to the placebo group.
- The researchers reported no statistically significant difference in mean change of hair diameter between the minoxidil and placebo groups. We view this as an important finding because a lot of the buzz online among those promoting the use of minoxidil for beard growth is that it makes whiskers thicker. This not what the research indicates.
- The researchers reported that adverse reactions were mild. This is encouraging because minoxidil’s known side effects when applied to the scalp include the possibility of redness, dry skin and itchiness. When that happens on the scalp it normally isn’t noticeable, but on the face it would be hard to miss.
- The Thai research team concluded that, “minoxidil 3% lotion is effective and safe for beard enhancement.”Despite these encouraging findings, as far as we could determine, no subsequent research has been completed and no additional research into the safety and efficacy of minoxidil for use to stimulate facial hair growth is planned.
- There are lots of theories, but nobody really is certain why minoxidil would grow facial hair for those without it. We know it helps blood flow to existing hair follicles, increases follicular size and hair shaft diameter, which stimulates hair growth and extends the growth phase. However, if minoxidil is applied to an area of the skin with no hair – whether a person with a bald scalp or a bald chin – we would not expect hairs to magically sprout.
- When used as directed on the scalp, minoxidil only works as long as you can continue the applications. If you stop applying it, the hair returns to its prior state. While we know of no research on this subject, we would expect that the same would be true when using minoxidil on the face. Once you stop using it, you can expect that any hair stimulation that occurred would end and hair that grew could fall out.
- Before getting swept up in the excitement of people posting pictures and videos showing their experiences with any experiment or treatment, consider “positive results bias.” This is also known as “reporting bias.” Generally, people are more likely to publish positive results than neutral or negative results. For every person who is celebrating, there may be many who were disappointed but just weren’t interested in calling attention to it.
- When we contacted Johnson & Johnson, which acquired Rogaine in 2006, about people using minoxidil to stimulate beard growth, they told us in no uncertain terms that minoxidil should not be used on the face. It should only be used as indicated: twice daily on the vertex of the scalp.