Does Minoxidil Increase Testosterone?

Minoxidil and Testosterone
Written by
The Manual Team
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
19th November 2020

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Does Minoxidil increase testosterone? Although scientists have considered such a possible link, there’s no evidence to show a connection between the hair loss treatment and your hormones.

Unlike Finasteride, which treats male pattern baldness (MPB) by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), Minoxidil works as a vasodilator. It widens the blood vessels in the area of application, to increase the local flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients. As such, it leaves your hormones well alone.

Yet, there are side effects of Minoxidil treatment. These include low blood pressure, headaches, and an irregular heartbeat. These are mild – and they stop when you cease treatment.

Minoxidil and Testosterone

Minoxidil – or Regaine or Rogaine, as it is often known – is the original treatment for androgenetic alopecia (the technical term for male pattern hair loss). A topical medication, it tackles balding and promotes hair growth by boosting the health of your hair follicles. And, as you may know, it is remarkably effective.

In this article, we want to explore the mechanisms behind this hair loss treatment in a bit more detail. And we want to pay attention to one rumour about the drug in particular. This regards its possible link to testosterone, the famous male hormone.

So, does Minoxidil increase testosterone? While a number of studies have looked into this, there is not enough conclusive evidence either way. Let’s take a look at what science has to say.

What is Minoxidil?

Minoxidil was the first treatment for male pattern baldness that was approved for medical use – and it remains one of the most effective treatments available.

Topical Minoxidil promotes hair regrowth by encouraging blood flow to the hair follicles in the scalp. It does this by widening the blood vessels in the area where the topical solution is applied. The wider the blood vessels, the more blood, nutrients, and oxygen can flow through them – and, supported by these resources, the healthier the hair follicles can be.

As a result, Minoxidil has been found in clinical trials to improve hair coverage in as much as three quarters of men.

Minoxidil and DHT?

Yet, Minoxidil has never been thought to tackle the fundamental cause of MPB – namely, dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. This is the hormone that damages the hair follicles in the first place and leads to the progression of the condition.

DHT is an androgen that is naturally produced in the body as a result of the metabolism of testosterone, by an enzyme known as 5alpha-reductase. Throughout life, this hormone accumulates in your system. However, in one of those unfortunate biological ironies, most of us are genetically sensitive to it. It’s our hair follicles specifically that suffer, as DHT causes them to weaken, shrink, and ultimately stop producing hair.

Other treatments for MPB tackle this hormone head on. Finasteride (or Propecia) is the main player, and it targets that 5alpha-reductase. By inhibiting this enzyme, less testosterone is converted into DHT.

However, Minoxidil has sought to solve MPB in a different way entirely – which makes the rumours around the relation between the drug and testosterone a little perplexing.

Does Minoxidil Increase Testosterone? A Look at the Science

To the question, does Minoxidil increase testosterone?, the answer is probably not. While scientists are not convinced that they know the whole picture on Minoxidil’s precise mechanism of action, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that the drug affects your testosterone levels.

A study in 1987 sought to test a hypothesis on a possible relationship between Minoxidil and testosterone, by looking at the potential ‘anti-androgenic effect’ of topical Minoxidil. Anti-androgens are drugs that inhibit the production of androgens – such as testosterone or DHT – and they are used in hair loss treatment, prostate cancer management, and in gender reassignment.

Yet, the study found no anti-androgenic effect at all – suggesting that Minoxidil neither increases nor decreases your hormones

A more recent study, from 2014, however, complicated the picture slightly. Rather than looking at Minoxidil’s impact on androgens, it looked at the possibility of the drug impacting androgen receptors. These are proteins found within male reproductive tissue – such as the prostate – that bind androgens like testosterone and DHT. Without them, the hormones would not become active.

What the study showed was that Minoxidil may suppress the functions of these androgen receptors. While it definitely didn’t show that Minoxidil increases testosterone, it did suggest a potential link between drug and hormone.

Finally, in the interests of completeness, a third study looked at the relation between Minoxidil and hormonal activity. This one investigated the link between the drug and testosterone metabolism. Here, they found that 5alpha-reductase was slightly increased by Minoxidil, but to a degree that was not significant. Again, testosterone levels were not seen to be changed by the drug.

Minoxidil and Testosterone: An Unestablished Link

As the science suggests, no strong link has yet been established between Minoxidil and testosterone. While studies have looked into different aspects of the connection between hair loss therapy and hormone, nothing firm has yet been established.

Minoxidil will not increase your testosterone. If you are considering using the medicine, you can rest assured. However, if you were considering using it to boost your own levels of the hormone, you shouldn’t try.

Forget Testosterone: What Minoxidil May Do

Part of the discussion online around the relationship between Minoxidil and testosterone comes from rumours surrounding the impact of the drug on male sexual health. Let us say quite clearly now: there is no evidence that Minoxidil will affect your libido, sexual function, or overall manliness. None at all.

However, that is not to say that Minoxidil doesn’t have any adverse effects. These are in fact completely possible – although very rare – but they are completely unrelated to your hormones.

Most commonly, in fact, the drug affects your blood pressure. As it works as a vasodilator, it lowers your blood pressure – and side effects can result from this. These include dizziness, drowsiness, and irregular heartbeat. These are more common in those men with low blood pressure already.

Apart from that, you may experience irritation of the scalp where you have applied the solution – and allergic reactions are possible too.

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Key Takeaways: Does Minoxidil Increase Testosterone?

Does Minoxidil increase testosterone? No – there is absolutely no evidence to suggest this. While studies have looked into the possible effect of the hair loss treatment on your hormones, no definitive conclusion has been reached. In fact, Minoxidil may well have the opposite effect.

If you are looking for a hair loss treatment that tackles the hormone responsible for male pattern baldness, you want Finasteride. It is the most effective MPB treatment on the market, but that doesn’t increase your testosterone levels either.

References

  1. Barbara A. NuckStephen L. FogelsonAnne W. Lucky, MD (Arch Dermatol 1987;123:59-61). Topical Minoxidil Does Not Act as an Antiandrogen in the Flank Organ of the Golden Syrian Hamster: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/547872

  2. Cheng-Lung Hsu, Jai-Shin Liu, An-Chi Lin, Chih-Hsun Yang, Wen-Hung Chung, and Wen-Guey Wu (2014). Minoxidil may suppress androgen receptor-related functions: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4039155/

  3. T SatoT TadokoroT SonodaY AsadaS ItamiS Takayasu (1999 Feb;19(2):123-5). Minoxidil increases 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and 5 alpha-reductase activity of cultured human dermal papilla cells from balding scalp: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10098703/

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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