Minoxidil, the blood pressure drug turned hair growth medication, has found a second life in recent years as a beard-growth solution. Men are turning to it in greater and greater numbers to fill in their bare patches and thicken their facial hair. Many wonder, though, whether minoxidil can really expire and how effective it is post-expiration.
To begin, minoxidil medications all have expiration dates. As with any medicine, manufacturers want to stay on the right side of liability when setting recommendations. Minoxidil won’t harm you if taken after its expiration date, but it will become less effective. You shouldn’t hold onto it forever.
For greater clarity on minoxidil’s effectiveness and safety, let’s explore its active ingredients. With this knowledge, you can make an informed decision on how you want to approach expired medication.
How Minoxidil Works
Minoxidil came into existence in the 1950s when scientists at the Upjohn Company were trying to create a new ulcer medication. While their resulting compound, minoxidil, proved ineffective for ulcers, it found distribution in the 1970s as a blood pressure medication.
For nearly two decades, that was its sole purpose. Over time, minoxidil users reported experiencing an unusual and unexpected side effect: increased hair growth. By 1988, the drug was patented for this purpose and began retailing under the name Rogaine.
Dr. Lela Lankerani of the Westlake Dermatology, Austin, explains this chemical process this way: “Minoxidil … works on hair follicles by vasodilating blood vessels, which opens blood flow to the hair roots. Hair follicles then have more access to nutrients, allowing longer, thicker, and healthier hair, by extending the growth phase.”
So, people using products like Rogaine or Hims for beard growth are essentially using a drug two steps removed from its original purpose. In this case, you need to be aware of its potential risks. A large part of this is understanding its manufacturer’s usage directives.
Minoxidil Products have Variable Shelf Lives
Starting in 1979, all drug makers were required to print expiration dates on their medications. As with food, beverages, and other products with this type of dating requirement, drug manufacturers tend to view expiration dates in terms of legal exposure. They are conservative with shelf lives as a way to relieve themselves of legal liability for deteriorated products.
Minoxidil products have shelf lives ranging from a few months to multiple years. You should pay attention to the packaging of your hair-growth medication and note when it will expire.
Producers of Minoxidil Medication Account for the Expiration
Minoxidil producers are not, however, interested in selling folks a product that they’ll just have to throw out after it expires. Regardless of the shelf life of the medication, it should be sized to account for its expiration.
For example, if your minoxidil foam has a shelf life of six months, the total regimen for that package will not be more than six months. As long as you use the correct dosage and don’t skip lots of applications, you probably won’t run into issues with expired medicine.
That said, if you are using one of these medications for an off-label purpose like promoting beard growth instead of scalp growth, you might be using less of the medicine per application. If that’s the case, you run the risk of having minoxidil left over when the expiration date arrives.
Finally, be careful about purchasing these products from third-party retailers that offer steep discounts. You might end up with a case of medicine that is months or even years past expiration.
The Main Expiration Risk is Ineffectiveness
As already mentioned, drugmakers tend to be extremely conservative with expiration dates. The same is true when it comes to their advice on using an expired product.
Every doctor and manufacturer will hold the party line that expired medication should be discarded immediately. However, it’s worth considering what risks they acknowledge regarding medicine that is past its usage date.
With minoxidil, the primary risk that manufacturers acknowledge is decreased effectiveness. While this might be sub-ideal, it should temper your concerns about using the drug. If Rogaine suddenly turned toxic after the expiration date, manufacturers would be printing that all over the bottle. As it stands, minoxidil’s usage dates are as much about potency as safety.
For the purposes of beardsmen taking hair growth products, the most likely consequence of your medication expiring is that it will be marginally less effective. However, there is also a slight risk of more intense side effects, so you should be extra aware of the common issues that already come with taking minoxidil. These side effects include:
- Chest pains
- Skin irritation
- Weight gain
- Swelling at extremities
Be Sensible In Your Minoxidil Usage
There are gradients, too, when it comes to using expired medication. There’s a difference between using Rogaine that is a few days past expiration, and Rogaine that is a year past.
If you elect to continue using your minoxidil drug after its expiration date, remember to use common sense. Acquaint yourself with its storage instructions to minimize deterioration. Continue usage at the same dosage and frequency. Don’t try to finish it more quickly as though you’re trying to beat the clock.
Finally, you should know when it’s time to call it quits with expired minoxidil. If there’s no longer any beard growth despite regular applications, then the potency of your medicine has truly dropped to zero. It is time to trash the remaining product and get a fresh dose.
Topical Versus Oral Usage
Minoxidil is, essentially, a blood pressure drug. For this reason alone, some forms of these drugs require a prescription. Topical minoxidil medication – like foams and lotions – is fairly low-risk. As such, you can get them over-the-counter.
Oral tablets, on the other hand, require a doctor’s prescription. Physicians want to control for pre-existing issues like heart problems when prescribing oral minoxidil. If you take prescribed oral tablets, you need to be much more cognizant of the expiration date. Your doctor can provide clear and informed direction on how long it is safe to continue taking the drug.
Beard-lovers are finding plenty to love about minoxidil. Its effectiveness in promoting fuller, thicker facial hair is accruing more credence daily. Yet, as with any medicine, minoxidil has a shelf life, and users need to be clear about the drug’s risks and limitations once it has exceeded its expiration date.
To put it simply, if you are taking these medications to fill out your beard, keep a close eye on the date on the packaging. Your minoxidil product is unlikely to become dangerous after its expiration.
Also, while you are looking into minoxidil, why not check out our rundowns of popular beard growth remedies?