Prescriptions That Blend Retinoids With Minoxidil Can Up Hair Growth—But Please Don’t DIY Your Own Combo

Photo: Stocksy / Sergey Filimonov
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It's fun and easy to combine different skin-care ingredients to enhance the results. Pair retinoids with niacinamide to soothe irritation or pair vitamin C with your SPF to make it even more protective. One combo you don't want to DIY (which is making its rounds on TikTok) is retinoids and minoxidil. Although the ingredients do work well together, hair restoration physician and plastic surgeon Michael Wolfeld, MD, says you're much better off getting a prescription that properly blends the two instead of mixing them at home.

"It could be dangerous if too much minoxidil is absorbed," says Dr. Wolfeld. Before minoxidil was used for hair growth, it was only used as a blood pressure medication—hair growth was noticed as a side effect. And because retinoic acid enhances absorption of minoxidil (which is why the two pair so well together when they're properly mixed), "if you're trying to mix them yourself and you're using a retinoic acid that may be too strong, or you leave on too much, or you apply it too often it can affect your blood pressure or heart rate," says Dr. Wolfeld.

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Plus, it can lead to irritation that can trigger hair shedding—the exact opposite of what you want when you're trying to induce growth.

"Minoxidil by itself can cause scalp irritation and adding a retinoid would increase the incidence of that," says Dr. Wolfeld. "And having an irritated scalp whether from using too much of this combination or from other means that could trigger a shedding of hair."

All that said, retinoids and minoxidil are a great combination when blended by a pro.

"When minoxidil is combined with retinoic acid, it helps to enhance the penetration of the minoxidil into the skin so more can be absorbed, and increases the effectiveness so you get better results," says Dr. Wolfeld. "Sometimes pharmacists also compound a steroid into the mix as well to help soothe any irritation." The retinoid also helps the minoxidil bind to the skin for longer, meaning you only have to apply it once a day instead of the usual recommendation of twice per day, he says.

Even if you don't want to go to the doctor's office, Dr. Wolfeld says you can get a prescribed blend through telehealth. For example, you can get a three-month supply of the Musley Hair Solution ($90), which blends minoxidil with tretinoin (a potent retinoid), prescribed via a $20 one-time telehealth visit through the brand.

"It's best to not even attempt to DIY this combination," says Dr. Wolfeld, who urges you not to mix your minoxidil serum with your run-of-the-mill retinol. "Anytime you would alter something that's being sold as is over the counter, you should see a physician to make sure. It's not safe for everyone. It's not a good idea for everyone. See a physician, make sure it's safe and right for you, and then get a prescription to get it."

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