What’s the difference between 2% minoxidil solution and 5% minoxidil foam when it comes to women’s hair loss?

Thinning hair, starting at the centre part and then continuing throughout the scalp, is the main symptom of female pattern hair loss, a condition shared by 40% of women1. No matter how normal or common it is, hair loss is never fun, and it’s especially difficult for women, likely because it’s usually associated with age. This makes it all the more frustrating that most medications and treatments are targeted towards men.

The first medication approved to treat women’s hair loss was a 2% minoxidil topical solution that is applied directly to the scalp twice-daily2. In more recent years, a 5% once-daily minoxidil topical foam has become available3–5. Requiring half the number of applications, the 5% foam no doubt offers a less time consuming and more convenient option. Maybe more importantly though, does the 5% foam work as well, or possibly better than the 2% solution?

A previous clinical trial has concluded that once-daily 5% minoxidil topical foam had a similar effect as compared with the twice-daily 2% solution for stimulating hair growth in women experiencing pattern hair loss5. Recently, results from a new phase III trial which compares the two products on 322 women has become available6.

Once-daily 5% minoxidil topical foam was used by 161 women for 52 weeks with the same number of women given twice-daily 2% minoxidil topical solution for the same duration. Both products induced hair regrowth similarly with an increase in about 24 hairs/cm2 in the target area by 24 weeks into treatment. An expert panel review also concluded that there was an overall modest improvement for both treatment groups. The majority of improvement was seen prior to 12 weeks of treatment and lasted throughout the 52 week study period.

Side effects were mild and similar between treatments as well. In the once-daily 5% minoxidil foam group, there was one report each of brittle/breakable hair, hypertension, skin irritation and itching. In the twice-daily 2% minoxidil topical solution group, there was one report of itchy rash and eczema. There were reports of stinging/burning, skin reddening, dryness and inflammation in both groups.

Therefore, according to this recent study, you are likely to see the same results whether you choose the foam or the solution.

Article by: Dr. J.L. Carviel, PhD, Mediprobe Research Inc.

References

  1. Santos Z, Avci P, Hamblin MR. Drug discovery for alopecia: gone today, hair tomorrow. Expert Opin Drug Discov. 2015 Mar;10(3):269–92.
  2. Price VH. Treatment of hair loss. N Engl J Med. 1999 Sep 23;341(13):964–73.
  3. 5% Minoxidil: Treatment for Female Pattern Hair Loss [Internet]. [cited 2016 Jul 27]. Available from: http://www.skintherapyletter.skin.ca/2014/19.6/2.html
  4. Olsen EA, Whiting D, Bergfeld W, Miller J, Hordinsky M, Wanser R, et al. A multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of a novel formulation of 5% minoxidil topical foam versus placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007 Nov;57(5):767–74.
  5. Blume-Peytavi U, Hillmann K, Dietz E, Canfield D, Garcia Bartels N. 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. 2011 Dec;65(6):1126–34.e2.
  6. Blume-Peytavi U, Shapiro J, Messenger AG, Hordinsky MK, Zhang P, Quiza C, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Once-Daily Minoxidil Foam 5% Versus Twice-Daily Minoxidil Solution 2% in Female Pattern Hair Loss: A Phase III, Randomized, Investigator-Blinded Study. J Drugs Dermatol JDD. 2016 Jul 1;15(7):883–9.

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