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Minoxidil 5, 10 or 15 %? Does Extra Strength Work Better? (Research Based Review)

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If you are a die-hard enthusiast of hair loss treatment like I am, or you are just starting, then you must have encountered this medication – minoxidil.

If you ever care to ask anyone any treatment option that they can recommend for your hair loss, they are very likely to mention minoxidil even without thinking.

But why is this so?

Since therapeutic treatment of hair loss started gaining traction in the 1970s, minoxidil was chiefly the only go-to product.

And here is how it happened:

The Amazing History of Minoxidil

minoxidil chemical formula

As far back as 1963, Upjohn pharmaceuticals developed a product which they believed could be very helpful in the treatment of high blood pressure. They named the product, minoxidil. Consequently, in the year 1979, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved minoxidil for use by patients who are suffering from high blood pressure.

However, “disaster” began to strike soon after it was approved. The patients that were being treated with minoxidil started growing unwanted hairs. On realizing this complication, Upjohn decided to harness this side effect onto developing a new mechanism of action.

Long story short, several tests were done on the effects of minoxidil on hair growth, and that is how minoxidil for hair loss came to be. Since then, it has become one of the favorites in the treatment of hair loss. There exist different minoxidil solutions for the purpose of treating hair loss.

Various Minoxidil Concentrations

Currently, there are four major solutions for minoxidil: 2 %, 5 %, 10 % and 15 %. When you see these different solutions, the questions that instantly come to mind are:

Does it really matter which strength you use? Does the extra strength of minoxidil have any effect on the results you expect?

These are the questions we will be exploring henceforth. But do you know? Of the four solutions of minoxidil, only 2 % and 5 % solutions are approved by the FDA for the treatment of hair loss.

Studies that compare the 10 % and 15 % minoxidil are limited. However, those that compare the lower solutions (2 % and 5 %) have incredible results which can help establish a fruitful hypothesis about how the minoxidil 10 % and 15 % minoxidil work.

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Minoxidil 2% vs 5%

In the year 2002, a randomized study comparing 2 % and 5% minoxidil was published to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). This study was set to evaluate the effectiveness of these solutions in the management of varying degrees of hair loss in male test subjects.

Details of the study

The study involved a group of 393 men who ware categorized into three groups:  those receiving 2 %, those receiving 5 % and the placebo group. All these men were studied for a period of 48 weeks. Baseline measurements were obtained at the very beginning of the study. Subsequently, measurements were taken once every four weeks until the 32nd week followed by evaluation every eight weeks after that.

The results

As the study progressed, one particular aspect of the results stood out. Those test subjects who were being treated with minoxidil 5 %, showed better results than those using 2 % minoxidil.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12196747

When considered in terms of results, the study above clearly agrees that 5 % minoxidil is way better than 2 % minoxidil in the treatment of hair loss.

Minoxidil 5 % vs. 10 % vs. 15 %

Hitherto, there are no studies which have specifically compared minoxidil 5% vs. 10% as well as 10 % vs. 15 % high strength minoxidil. Nevertheless, the results from the study conducted in 2002 can help us predict a pattern here about minoxidil.

What makes me more certain about the pattern in minoxidil as far as concentration is concerned is another study done in 2004 which also compared minoxidil 2 % vs. 5 %. The only difference between this study and the former study is that this study involved female subjects, unlike the 2002 study which involved male subjects.

As expected, the results were in favor of 5 % minoxidil. In scientific research on drugs, this pattern is called dose response on drug effectiveness. What this means is that; when you increase the dose, the effectiveness of the drug also increases. In our case, increasing the dose of minoxidil to 5 % works better than the 2 % or the placebo for both men and women as evidenced by the previously described studies.

Dose-response for evaluating the effect of 10 % and 15 % minoxidil?

Currently, no studies are comparing 10 % and 15 % minoxidil. However, we can use the results available on 2 % vs. 5 % solutions to extrapolate a hypothesis. It suffices to note that this rule of dose-response doesn’t apply to all medications though minoxidil seems to follow this rule.

That means, we can comfortably argue that; since 5 % minoxidil works better than 2 %, the 10 % solution will work better than the 5 %, and the 15 percent solution will also work better than the 10 % solution when treating hair loss. But is that the case?

The Law of Diminishing Returns Applied to Minoxidil

minoxidil strength effectiveness graph

See, you may be asking: why don’t you use a higher dosage of minoxidil then, if the higher the dose, the better the results?

Well, it doesn’t work that way with medications. As common with all other therapeutic agents, the more the dose, the better the result – but, the side effects will also increase significantly, thus you need to understand how minoxidil works. Therefore, as much as 15 % minoxidil may be effective, you are most likely to experience serious side effects compared to using lower concentrations such as 5 % or 2 %.

Moreover, some medications (of which minoxidil is one) reach a point where a further increase in the dose does not lead to a corresponding increase in the therapeutic effects of the drug. This is the law of diminishing returns. And with minoxidil, this law starts kicking in at about 10 % concentration where the results begin to plateau.

As a result, there is not much difference between minoxidil 10 % and 15 % in terms of the desired therapeutic effect. However, minoxidil 15 % far much outweighs the 10 % in terms of side effects.

The Possibility of Side Effects With Increased Dosage of Minoxidil

Here is something that will throw you into a little controversy. The active ingredient in minoxidil, minoxidil sulfate, is harmless. So, technically speaking, you shouldn’t expect any side effects with minoxidil even when you increase the dosages.

Now here is the catch:

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Where does the side effects come from if the active ingredient is safe? The mystery lies within the non-active ingredients such as propylene glycol and alcohol. When you increase the dosage of minoxidil, it also means that you are increasing the concentration of these non-active yet harmful ingredients.

Has this phenomenon been proven by studies? Of course!

This 2004 study that was previously mentioned in this text highlights that the side effects that were observed among the test subjects using 5 % minoxidil included intense pruritus, hypertrichosis (excessive growth of hair) and local irritation.

These side effects were determined to be caused by the non-active ingredients of minoxidil. If 5 % minoxidil yielded these side effects, how much should be expected with minoxidil 10 percent or 15 percent minoxidil?

Price And Availability of Extra Strength Minoxidil

Minoxidil is found in quite some drug stores, both online and in physical stores. You can also get it as a prescription from your doctor, however it is quite hard to find stores where extra strength minoxidil is sold.

Currently, Minoxidilmax is one of options to purchase extra strength minoxidil online. Products at Minoxidilmax range from 2 % minoxidil to 15 %. That gives you the freedom to choose your desired minoxidil and give a try for higher concentration solutions.

Prefer buying from original manufacturers rather than from re-sellers to ensure that you get what is promised. Links for high strength minoxidil are provided below.

The price may vary depending on the store you are purchasing it from as well as the concentration. However, prices between $23 and $59 are very common.

Conclusions

For the treatment of hair loss, the FDA has only approved the 5 % and the 2 % minoxidil. The other concentrations are not approved. However, you might find them only through prescription.

Most people always agree that lower doses work just as well for them. Trying out larger doses can cause significant adverse effects. If your minoxidil is not working the way you expect it to, then you should consult your doctor or seek other alternative treatments for hair loss.

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