Guys have two options when using minoxidil for beard growth: foam or liquid. Sometimes people believe there’s a third, spray, but that is simply liquid with a spray head attachment.
Between the two options we have, which is superior for growing more facial hair? Let’s dive in and take a look.
5% is superior to 2% minoxidil
The first thing we want to look for are any comparative studies between the two. But first, we need to decide which percentage to look at, which in this case will be 5%.
That’s because 5% has already been deemed more effective in studies compared to 2%, the two percentages that are legal in the United States and most other countries.
CONCLUSION:A randomized clinical trial of 5% topical minoxidil versus 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men.
In men with AGA, 5% topical minoxidil was clearly superior to 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in increasing hair regrowth, and the magnitude of its effect was marked (45% more hair regrowth than 2% topical minoxidil at week 48). Men who used 5% topical minoxidil also had an earlier response to treatment than those who used 2% topical minoxidil. Psychosocial perceptions of hair loss in men with AGA were also improved. Topical minoxidil (5% and 2%) was well tolerated by the men in this trial without evidence of systemic effects.
Comparing foam and liquid minoxidil
Sadly, there is only one study that used hamster ears to compare foam and liquid minoxidil. Without human trials, we can really only infer what might happen in humans. This is not ideal and we have seen, many times, different results in animal trials compared to human trials.
When using mice, rats, or other animals besides humans, we need to take results with a grain of salt. They can be a good starting point to determine whether human trials can be conducted, and they’re easier to actually do, both in terms of the trial itself and simply being able to start the trial legally. Although, they can also be misleading and many people will put too much faith in animal studies when there have been many times where the results were different in humans.
Why the foam solution was created
Propylene glycol, found in liquid minoxidil solutions, causes skin irritation in a lot of people. Because of this, a foam solution was made as an alternative.
Also see: Side Effects of Minoxidil for Beard Usage
Why propylene glycol is important
The reason that the liquid contains propylene glycol is because it is both a good vehicle to carry minoxidil and it helps transport it past the skin’s barrier.
Getting past the skin’s barrier is important with not only minoxidil, but many cosmetic products on the market. The skin is resilient and very water resistant, and importantly so: it keeps out unwanted chemicals and debris from entering our bodies.
Using PG is important and not simply as a filler. It plays a big role in getting the drug to work.
Excluding PG in foam solutions
As I stated above, PG is excluded in foam solutions because it can be a skin irritant for many people. To be objective, we can’t simply believe that just because a product exists, it works. Few of us are that naive.
However, the hamster trial concluded that foam is effective. As well, we have seen hundreds of men use foam minoxidil successfully to enhance their facial hair. With so many anecdotal cases, we do know that foam is effective. But does that mean that foam is as effective as liquid minoxidil? That’s a question that remains to be answered scientifically. Human trials need to be conducted before I can give a definitive answer on this.
So I should use liquid instead of foam minoxidil?
Not necessarily. I’ve seen so many people use the foam solution successfully to grow fuller beards. And while I did not use foam exclusively, I did use it myself and could not determine whether it was any worse than liquid. I feel that liquid was superior in my case, but liquid was also what I used for the first several months — the time in which you should notice the most progress.
Admittedly, I do lean toward liquid being more effective for more people due to PG, but that does not mean that foam is not as effective for others. This mindset is taken because of how I view the human skin barrier, and how liquid seems to produce more body hair compared to foam in general. That means that more minoxidil is being taken in systemically (i.e. more is getting past the skin barrier).
Note: systemic introduction of minoxidil isn’t necessarily what we’re after, as minox works at the follicle-level.
On top of that, some people are resistant to minoxidil. As we’ve seen in human trials, we can work around resistance by using a higher percentage of minoxidil. We can infer from this that more minoxidil is what gets around resistance; the propylene glycol helps more minoxidil get through the skin barrier.
Anecdotally, there have been people that have been balding with no success using minoxidil to regrow their hair over many months. They then decided to try applying more than twice per day, which then allowed them to regrow their hair. This implies, unbeknownst to them, that they had minoxidil resistance. Their persistence of more applications got them past the resistance while using the same minoxidil percentage.
Also read: How Many Times Per Day Should I Apply Minoxidil (for Beard Growth)?
What this means…
There’s no right answer as to which version of minox you should use. If you want less potential side effects, foam is the right option in this case. Less gets into the body, and we’ve seen that it works for many people.
If, however, you’re not seeing very much progress after several months of using foam, consider trying liquid. Because it’s more aggressive due to the PG, it might be what you need to get more progress.
Everyone has different thickness in skin, and not everyone’s skin barrier is as yielding as the next person. Like with many drugs, the form you take as well as the amount you take are highly individual.
Much of the time with drugs, more isn’t better. One form can be better than the other for your body. And with more in mind, we come to…
5% vs 10% (either foam or liquid minoxidil)?
We’ve discovered that 5% is superior to 2%, so many people are curious about 10%. If the higher percentage is better than the lower, shouldn’t this be the case again? Not necessarily. Read this article to find out why. You might be surprised: