Tretinoin enhances minoxidil response in androgenetic alopecia patients by upregulating follicular sulfotransferase enzymes

Dermatol Ther. 2019 May;32(3):e12915. doi: 10.1111/dth.12915. Epub 2019 Apr 23.


Minoxidil sulfate is the active metabolite required to exert the vasodilatory and hair growing effects of minoxidil. For hair growth, sulfotransferase enzymes expressed in outer root sheath of the hair follicle sulfonate minoxidil. The large intra-subject variability in follicular sulfotransferase was found to predict minoxidil response and thus explain the low response rate to topical minoxidil in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. A method to increase minoxidil response would be of significant clinical utility. Retinoids have been reported to increase minoxidil response. The purported mechanism of action was retinoid modulation of skin permeation to minoxidil; however, evidence to the contrary supports retinoids increase dermal thickness. In order to elucidate the effect of topical retinoids on minoxidil response, we studied the effect of topical tretinoin on follicular sulfotransferase. In this study, we demonstrate that topical tretinoin application influences the expression of follicular sulfotransferase. Of clinical significance, in our cohort, 43% of subjects initially predicted to be nonresponders to minoxidil were converted to responders following 5 days of topical tretinoin application. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to elucidate the interaction mechanism between topical minoxidil and retinoids and thus provides a pathway for the development of future androgenetic alopecia treatments.

Keywords: alopecia; minoxidil; tretinoin.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Alopecia / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minoxidil / administration & dosage*
  • Sulfotransferases / genetics*
  • Tretinoin / administration & dosage*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Tretinoin
  • Minoxidil
  • Sulfotransferases