Relative influence of ethanol and propylene glycol cosolvents on deposition of minoxidil into the skin

J Pharm Sci. 1994 Oct;83(10):1508-10. doi: 10.1002/jps.2600831026.


Minoxidil, a potent antihypertensive, is moderately effective in the treatment of hair loss when it is applied to the scalp as a 2% solution in 60% ethanol, 20% propylene glycol and 20% water. Important questions remain concerning both the mechanism of delivery and the pathway of penetration of this drug from its ternary solvent system. Since preliminary studies in our laboratory indicated that water in the formulation influenced permeation far less than the other two solvents, we examined the relative deposition and penetration influences of binary combinations of ethanol and propylene glycol. When 50 microL/cm2 of the formulations was spread over hairless mouse skin sections mounted in Franz diffusion cells, only small amounts of minoxidil were actually recovered from the receiver compartments. Nevertheless, more minoxidil penetrated the skin as the proportion of ethanol in the mixtures was increased. To determine if these in vitro results formed a representative picture of the in vivo behaviors of these vehicles, selected deposition experiments were performed on live, anesthetized mice under experimental conditions similar to those used in the diffusion cell work. The good agreement between in vivo and in vitro studies may be a result of the relatively fast partitioning of the drug into the skin as compared to its diffusion through the skin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Drug Interactions
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Minoxidil / administration & dosage
  • Minoxidil / pharmacokinetics*
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Propylene Glycols / pharmacology*
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin Absorption / drug effects*
  • Solvents


  • Propylene Glycols
  • Solvents
  • Ethanol
  • Minoxidil
  • Propylene Glycol