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Minoxidil vs. Nanoxidil: Similarities and Differences Explained

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Minoxidil is the tried and tested FDA-approved over-the-counter medication meant to help boost hair growth in both men and women. You may be more familiar with its brand name, Rogaine, and it has been around for decades as a way to increase hair growth and density in people experiencing various types of hair loss.

Nanoxidil, on the other hand, is a newcomer to the hair loss industry, claiming to be just as good as Minoxidil as well as inferences on certain products that it may have less irritating side effects and better scalp penetration. But, do we really have enough information to make these claims yet?

Clearly, these are rival ingredients in the hair world, so it is important to lay out the differences and similarities between the two.

Below, we will cover the known similarities and differences between Minoxidil and Nanoxidil, as well as what things we just don’t have enough information about yet. Hopefully, this will help you paint a better picture of just how these ingredients line up.

3 similarities between Minoxidil and Nanoxidil

1. The chemical structure

The chemical structure of Minoxidil and Nanoxidil are nearly identical. The only difference is that Nanoxidil has one less carbon (and the associated 2 attached hydrogens) on one of the two carbon rings.

Minoxidil and Nanoxidil structure

In the molecular sense, these two are definitely very similar, and would be expected to work similarly in the body because of this.

2. The mechanism of action

We don’t know the exact mechanism of action of Minoxidil for hair. But, what we do know is that it functions as a vasodilator and may bring better blood flow, along with oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles to help boost growth. Minoxidil also plays a role in elongating the growth phase (anagen) of the hair growth cycle. Since Nanoxidil has shown promise in hair growth as well, and the structure is very similar, it is likely that the mechanism of action is the same for both medications.

3. The potential hair loss indication

Minoxidil is indicated for use as a hair growth medication, and this is the situation where it is most commonly used. It was also originally used as a blood pressure medication, but it used for this indication far less commonly. While Nanoxidil has not been approved for use for any indication by the FDA as of right now, it is currently only found in products that are meant to be used on the scalp for hair growth and hair loss prevention.

7 differences between Minoxidil and Nanoxidil

1. The molecular weight

Since the Nanoxidil structure differs slightly from Minoxidil by 1 carbon and 2 hydrogens, its molecular weight is slightly lower. Nanoxidil weighs in at 195.22 g/mol, while Minoxidil comes to 209.25 g/mol. Technically, this slightly lower molecular weight could mean that the scalp penetration and absorption may be slightly better for Nanoxidil. Although, this has not been demonstrated by head to head studies yet.

2. The availability of the product

Right now, Minoxidil can be found many places: your pharmacy, your grocery store, any big-box store, online, or even through compounding pharmacies combined with other active ingredients. Nanoxidil may be a little bit more difficult to locate. There is currently 1 product that combines 5% Nanoxidil with other active ingredients, which can be found at some stores as well as online. Nanoxidil is not quite as readily available.

3. The price to purchase

Minoxidil is generally less expensive than a Nanoxidil product. Of course, this may vary depending on the exact product, if other active ingredients are included, your source for the medication, and the amount you are buying.

4. The availability combined with Finasteride

Using Minoxidil along with another hair loss treatment medication, Finasteride, is a common combination. This is because these hair loss treatments function differently and target different aspects of why hair loss occurs. For some androgenetic alopecia patients, the combination turns out to function better than using either ingredient alone.

You can find Minoxidil combined with the prescription-only Finasteride in some formulations, like our Strut Topical Finasteride treatment.

However, there is not currently a formulation of Nanoxidil combined with Finasteride to help round out the therapy.

5. The FDA approval

Minoxidil is FDA-approved for use in male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss. In fact, it is the only over-the-counter medication FDA-approved for hair loss, and has been for decades. Nanoxidil, on the other hand, is still quite new in terms of medications, and does not currently have FDA approval for any indication.

However, this does not mean that it is unsafe or that the FDA approval won’t come at some point. These approvals take time and Nanoxidil just has not been around for very long. It is possible that FDA approval for Nanoxidil could occur at some point in the future.

6. The length of time it has been available

Minoxidil has been approved and available for the hair loss indication since 1996, and has been available since 1988 as a blood pressure medication. Nanoxidil has been around since 2011.

7. The studies available

There is a vast difference in the studies available for these two medications. And, this makes sense due to the big difference in time that these have been around. With Minoxidil, there are lots of studies in large groups of people, including head to head comparisons, strength studies, side effects studies, functionality studies when combined with other actives, etc. Basically, we have a pretty good grasp on how minoxidil will work, what strengths may be best, how it works together with other hair loss ingredients, and what side effects might pop up.

With Nanoxidil, we have only a handful of small studies, that do not directly delve into the potential side effects on a large scale, or pit the ingredient head to head with similar medications -- including Minoxidil. There is definitely more left to figure out (or confirm) about Nanoxidil.

2 Things we don’t yet know about Minoxidil Vs. Nanoxidil

It is good to be optimistic about new potential treatments, but the science needs to be there to back it up before making any conclusive claims. Currently, there is still a lot to confirm about how Nanoxidil may work compared to Minoxidil for hair.

1. Which one works better for hair growth?

We do not yet know if Minoxidil or Nanoxidil works better for people experiencing hair loss or thinning. This is because no studies have looked at these actives compared to one another in a controlled study. Once we have studies structured like this, with enough participants, it will become more clear if the lower molecular weight and slight structure difference of Nanoxidil can make a difference in practice over Minoxidil.

2. Does one have fewer side effects than the other?

Even though some products are claiming that Nanoxidil has fewer side effects than Minoxidil, we simply do not have that data yet. Often, it can take years of a medication being available, along with lots of well-structured and controlled studies to figure out what all the potential side effects are. We do not have large-scale studies figuring out all the variables here with Nanoxidil, while we have had decades to figure out more with Minoxidil. It is possible that we just know more about the potential Minoxidl side effects due to how long it has been around and how extensively it has been studied. With drugs that are so closely structured, it is likely that they will have similar side effects as well.

Minoxidil vs. Nanoxidil bottom line

Minoxidil and Nanoxidil are similarly structured medications, both meant to target hair growth. But, they have some similarities and differences, as well as factors that we don’t have clear answers to yet.

As far as similarities go, Minoxidil and Nanoxidil have almost the same chemical structure (aside from 1 carbon in a carbon ring), they likely have the same mechanism of action, and they are both used for hair growth treatments.

The differences between Minoxidil and Nanoxidil include the molecular weight (Nanoxidil is slightly lighter), the availability, the cost, being able to find it paired with Finasteride, the current FDA approval status, how long they have been around, and how many studies we have on them.

When it comes to conclusions on which one is better than the other, or if one has fewer side effects, there are not currently any comparison studies that can give us this information.

It will be interesting to see what we figure out about these two similar drugs as more information is gathered, but right now there is still a lot to confirm.

Strut Health Minoxidil combination hair loss formulas online

Here at Strut, we do not currently carry medications with Nanoxidil, but we do utilize the well-studied Minoxidil in many of our combination hair loss formulations for both men and women.

We utilize Minoxidil, Finasteride, Dutasteride, Spironolactone, Biotin, and Tretinoin in our customized formulas as needed to help craft topical or oral hair loss formulations that suit your hair needs and preferences.

If you are interested in seeing if one of our hair medications is a good fit for you, you can have a free online questionnaire and image-based consultation with our U.S. licensed doctors today.

If you are a good candidate for treatment, your medication will be shipped to your front door with our free shipping. If you have any questions, or need treatment adjustments, our staff and doctors are available for free unlimited follow-ups.

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