Does minoxidil get absorbed better if the skin is damp?

We know that minoxidil is a powerful tool in the battle against hair loss or for people who want to use it to grow facial hair.

And while we often don’t consider it important, the manner of how we apply the minoxidil does influence its effectiveness.

Let’s take a look at what science has to say about the minoxidil absorption efficiency on a dry skin versus on a damp skin.


What is a damp skin?

Damp skin pertains when the skin has absorbed a small portion of water, but has been wiped and dried off the skin surface.

Our body is created to be waterproof by nature. It’s coated by compressed skin cells. If you pour out water on your skin, it’ll run off instead of getting absorbed. This means that your skin acts as a natural skin barrier to prevent water and other elements from entering your body to protect you.

But that doesn’t mean that water has no way of making it through the skin eventually. Over longer periods of time, a surprising amount of water and fluid can actually penetrate through the skin cells, which acts as the skin barrier.

And while the skin might look dry at the surface level, deeper down some water that has been absorbed can actually significantly change the skin cells. The water that has been soaked up gets absorbed by the thirstiest surface skin cells, which we call coreneocytes.

Corneocytes swell more outward than they do side to side. And not by an insignificant amount either, around 50% to be more specific.

Furthermore, water loosens up the waxy sebum and other material in our natural moisturizing factor. This in turn serves as greasing between the skin cells.


Studies on damp skin absorption rate

There is some evidence that minoxidil gets absorbed better if the skin is damp. Or, in other words, humid.

The following study hypothesized that the use of minoxidil (MXD) on damp scalp may lead to higher drug penetration. They reached the following conclusion:

We hypothesized that the use of MXD on damp scalp may lead to higher drug penetration.

First, because the drug diffusion and consequent deposition into the hair follicle may be favored when follicle cast is humid.

Second, because humidity may also prevent drug crystallization and, therefore, maintain a higher thermodynamic activity for longer periods, which leads to increased penetration.

Following in vitro experiments on rat and porcine skin we confirmed the hypothesis, which could markedly improve treatment effectiveness.[1]

Important to note is that minoxidil absorption may be increased when the skin is humid/damp, but not if wet. If the skin or hair is too wet, then the minoxidil gets diluted, which makes systematic absorption of minoxidil harder.

Furthermore, applying minoxidil on wet hair and drying it afterwards will only cause it to evaporate rather than getting absorbed.


How damp skin improves product penetration

Cellular illustration of the skin.

A damp skin is right in between too dry and too wet. It is the perfect balance to increase product penetration through the skin. Not to mention that a skin that’s too wet waters products down and, thus, makes them less effective.

Studies show that exposing the skin to high water activity leads to increased skin hydration and also increased permeability.

Permeability refers to how easily liquid and gas can pass through something. Like in this particular case, the skin.

We don’t want the upper cells of the skin to absorb the products, as these skill cells are dry, dead, and over time will be replaced with new skin cells. Instead, we want the liquids to penetrate the skin in order to reach the deeper layers.

When the skin is damp, which means not too dry, but not soaking wet either, the outer skin cells are stout. When the outer skin cells are plump, they will stop sucking up any and all skin care you apply, since they’re already saturated. This way, the product penetrates the skin much further until they reach the deeper skin layers.

The biggest advantage of a damp skin however is that it has an effect on the natural moisturizing function of the skin. It’s much easier for the products to reach deep down the cells because the usually water repelling skin has already absorbed some water. This means that the skin temporarily gets less effective at repelling the absorption of the product, which is a good thing if we want to apply a product and reach as close to the dermis as possible.


How to make your skin damp before product application

We know now that a damp skin increases both skin hydration and skin permeability, which is a good thing if we want the products we apply to reach the deeper layers.

The best way to make the skin damp is by taking a long, hot soak. As warm water opens up the pores. Afterwards, dry off your skin and apply your product, lotion. Your upper skin layer will leave through most of the products since it’s already saturated and the pores open up.

A steaming machine, a long warm douche or shower, or simply using hot water in a bowl and a towel over the head can all do the trick of making the skin damp. The humidity is more important than the heat to make a skin damp.

These days, portable humidifiers also exist, and can be used to moisture the skin.

Make sure to let the water soak into the skin before using any products. Don’t rush the process. Make sure to dry off the skin before applying your products, or it will slide right off or dilute the product.

There’s only a short window of time to apply the product after you’ve made the skin damp. Apply your products between 0-30 seconds after dampening your skin.


Products that work and don't work on a damp skin

Dampening the skin works perfectly for a great number of things such as hydrators, vitamins, antioxidants, and peptides.

Basically, whatever product that needs to interchange with the deepest layers of the skin is a good nominee for appliance on a damp skin.

The only possible downside of increasing skin permeability is the increased risk of irritating your skin. Using strong products, medications, and treatments such as tretinoin and hydrocortisone on a damp skin can cause skin irritation. Even more so than using these products on a skin that’s not been dampened due to the increased skin permeability.

You should seriously consider not dampening your skin if using these strong products as it could lead to more side effects. Sometimes, increased effectiveness is not worth the increased risk for annoying side effects.



There is quite some evidence that does seem to suggest that it is indeed the case that a damp skin increases product absorption effectiveness. A damp skin seems to be ideal for the absorption of many products and medications. However, minoxidil will be diluted when your hair or skin is still wet, so take not of that fact.

Further research in humans and with a large sample size is needed to determine if the hypothesis remains true.

Try out applying your products on a damp skin instead of on a dry skin and see if you notice any noticeable effects or improvements in effectiveness. Just make sure to be careful when applying strong products such as hydrocortisone and tretinoin. A damp skin might not be ideal in those cases.