Using minoxidil for the beard is a common use of the drug. However, the mechanism for minoxidil on the beard is a tad bit different from its application on the hair. With scalp use, minoxidil is a maintenance drug. That is not necessarily applicable to beard gains.
There is no proof that minoxidil beard gains are permanent for everyone. The idea that hair will stay if it is terminal (thick, dark hair) is anecdotal evidence that only a handful of people have achieved. However, minoxidil beard gains can be permanent on some people, and it could potentially work for you.
Minoxidil is not FDA approved for use for anything but the scalp. However, many online communities have found that using minoxidil can improve their beard, and support has grown ever since. In beard forums such as Reddit’s Minoxbeards, you’ll see many people who rave about how permanent minoxidil beard gains are. There are even a couple of YouTube video creators that dedicate time to this topic as well.
There is no solid consensus, however. On the one hand, many people believe that minoxidil gains are permanent once the hairs turn terminal. But on the other hand, some people are skeptical about the legitimacy of minoxidil giving permanent results. The skepticism is completely rational, given the lack of concrete evidence for minoxidil permanent gains. I’m not even referring to research studies, although they exist. But even in YouTube channels or forums, there is a lack of evidence regarding permanent beard gains after the use of minoxidil.
The rest of this article will attempt to get to the bottom of this. The mechanisms behind minoxidil are relatively unknown. Understanding what Minoxidil does for beard hair is critical in making an objective decision about whether using it or not is worth it.
To learn how to apply minoxidil to your beard, check out our guide.
Minoxidil for the Beard
As previously mentioned, minoxidil is not FDA approved for the beard. Yet, many people find that it is effective in stimulating growth for their beards. The way that minoxidil works is a bit of a mystery. Yes, it has been around for quite some time, but researchers are still hazy on the way it works specifically.
The closest we can come to an accurate depiction is to call minoxidil a vasodilator. The job of vasodilators is to essentially expand the blood vessels. In hair growth, minoxidil will open up the blood vessels feeding the hair follicle and allow for an extended version of the hair growth phase. Basically, the hair will fall out considerably slower than without minox.
Essentially, when you use minoxidil on your beard, it stimulates hair growth through your vessels’ expansion, thus stimulating the hair growth process. Areas where beard hair previously grew sparsely will have more hair and thicker hair. The hair should grow out more evenly, and there will be fewer patches.
How Is It Different From Minoxidil on the Scalp?
Hair loss problems on the scalp are largely due to pattern hair loss. Balding occurs in people due to issues with DHT inhibiting hair growth and cutting shorter the growth phase of the hair. It also heightens the speed at which hairs fall out until hair can no longer feasibly grow back without assistance. This is why there are many treatments for balding that involve DHT blockers.
The problem is DHT is good for beard growth. While DHT causes hair loss in the scalp, DHT is also the hormone responsible for beard hair in the long run. Luckily, minoxidil doesn’t address DHT, and the mechanism of minoxidil and how it works from DHT blockers is completely different. Minoxidil is more of a band-aid fix for male/female pattern baldness.
There is no pattern baldness on the beard, though. Androgenetic alopecia occurs in the scalp, not on your face. The reason you put minoxidil on the beard is completely different from why you put it on the scalp. For one, putting it on the scalp is a bit like damage control. You are trying to fix the damage that DHT is doing by growing hair faster than DHT can cause it to fall out.
With beard hair, it’s a different story. You are trying to actively stimulate growth just like in your scalp hair, except that no enemy is attacking your beard hair follicles. Instead, the hair follicles on your beard are just dormant or non-existent, which is why you don’t have hair where you want it.
But Minoxidil for Hair Loss Is Not Permanent.
Yes, true. Minoxidil for pattern baldness is a maintenance drug, and if you no longer use it, you will slowly lose the hair you managed to grow. There is no debate about this one. Without minoxidil to fight off hair follicle damage, DHT will continue to shorten the hair’s growth cycle and cause pattern baldness, even with continued minoxidil use.
If we follow that line of thinking, then minoxidil should also be a maintenance drug for the beard, right? So, where does the idea that minoxidil beard gains are permanent come from? Most of the articles and content that we see advertising that minox beard gains are permanent. Are they telling us lies, or is there a basis for their conclusion?
Minoxidil will stimulate hair growth on the beard, but quitting it will bear no harmful effects. Quitting minoxidil for the scalp will kill your gains over the next year or so. But that won’t happen with the beard–or at least that’s the theory. In reality, the effects may not be so simple. Even when most internet sources say that beard gains are permanent, there is a pretty big caveat and condition to that, and it has to do with terminal hairs.
Terminal vs. Vellus Hair
Vellus hair is the tiny and thin hair that you’ll find all over your body. We also call these hairs baby hairs and other variations. Whatever the name is, they are all referring to the same thin strands of hair. If you have vellus hairs, you have the potential for the hair there to mature.
On the flip side, terminal hairs are the thicker and darker hairs you will find on your head. These hairs are what you want to grow on your beard. You don’t want small vellus hairs since they will ultimately fall off if you stop using minoxidil.
However, you can only get terminal hair with long term use. Using minoxidil for one year and up allows you to grow these thicker terminal hairs. Any less than that and you are likely to lose your gains. Previously, the theory was that you’d have to use minoxidil for upward of six months. But lately, that number has gone up to about a year. After that, you’ll be growing terminal hairs, and it will be safe to stop using Minoxidil. And even when you do, you won’t lose your gains.
It seems like a great prospect: to use medication for a year or so and then retain the gains forever. But, it’s not as black and white in real life. Many people have reported losing all their gains pretty soon after stopping minox use. Some people even say that they lost more than what they had to begin with. Other people don’t respond to minoxidil at all, regardless of whether it’s on their scalp or beard. Using minox indefinitely can be expensive, and some feel like it’s not worth the effort. It’s up to you to analyze the pros and cons of using it.
On the bright side, there are, of course, people who have positive results. These are people who had used minox for more than a year before they stopped using it. Even then, they managed to keep their gains and show no other effects otherwise. There is even a research study by Ingprasert et al. (2016) that clinically supports Minox’s positive effects on the beard. However, it says nothing about long-term effects.