Minoxidil For Hair Loss – Uses, Precautions & Side Effects

What Is Minoxidil And Can It Cure Hair Loss?

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Hair loss and hair thinning are a very common occurrence and many people face this as early as their 20’s. It affects both men and women but with varying strengths, based on their genetic makeup, hormonal structure, health and lifestyle choices. Though hair loss and balding are common signs of aging, but there are ways you can control and delay these signs effectively. Especially in men, where hair loss and balding are more prominent. Minoxidil is one such drug that is known to treat hair fall and restore hair growth in both men and women.

What Is Minoxidil?

Minoxidil is a vasodilator, that is, it relaxes blood vessels and enriches the blood flow. Minoxidil’s topical drug works wonders in stopping hair loss when it is directly applied on the affected area of the scalp. It comes in two different forms; either as foam or in a liquid solution, that can be directly applied onto the scalp. It tends to widen blood vessels, which in-turn increases the blood flow and therefore the amount of nutrients that reach the scalp proportionally increases. This leads to healthier and thicker hair growth.

In early 1960, this drug, while still on clinical trial as anti-hypertensive agent, started showing signs of hair growth. That was when Upjohn, a drug company, began trials for Minoxidil on macaques. This concluded that Minoxidil induced hair enlargement. Finally, in 1996; FDA approved this drug for treating baldness in men and later even in women. And since 2014 it is the only topical product which is approved by FDA for androgenic hair loss, and it is now available over the counter, in many countries.

Does Minoxidil Prevent Hair Loss?

Minoxidil is a topical treatment that is very popular for treating hair loss. In cases where the hair loss has just started then minoxidil will be able to prevent this condition from deteriorating. It is the first US-FDA approved drug for treating hair loss in women. Minoxidil shows marginal improvement in hair fall and hair thinning, within the first few months. This helps in preventing hair loss, and in some cases, it can help in recovering the lost hair, while making your current hair thicker and healthier than before.

But, if your hair is naturally thin and you are not having a hair loss problem, then there is not much that Minoxidil can do in strengthening your hair. Also its effect in treating alopecia areata is still unclear.

How Does Minoxidil Work?

We know that hair growth happens through several phases, anagen, catagen and telogen. Anagen is the first phase, wherein; hair growth happens.

Minoxidil is induced during the early anagen phase when it is applied onto your scalp, causing the hair follicles to go through the growth process prematurely. As it promotes the survival of human dermal papillary cells or DPC’s by elongating the anagen phase of hair growth. This is why in majority of cases, on initial usage of minoxidil, you will observe an increase in your hair fall, because, while the hair follicles are going through a growth phase, the old hair tends to fall out in more than a normal amount.

Also Read: How To Control Hair Fall In Men And Women

Can Minoxidil Regrow Your Hair?

Before we proceed let us understand does minoxidil regrow your hair? Yes, minoxidil not just prevents hair fall any further but it also helps in re-growing your hair stronger and richer. It is the only USFDA approved topical medicine for treating hair loss in women. And it is also popular in men too.

How Long Does Minoxidil Take To Work?

It typically takes about six months, to show noticeable results. In one study, it is reported that 26% men, on consistent use of minoxidil (2%), observed dense hair regrowth after 4 months. It can be stated that although this solution is a slow starter, but you will be able to see remarkable results with approximately about one year of consistent usage.

It acts as a channel opener and opens the vessels thus enabling more flow of oxygen, blood and nutrients to the hair follicles. In the first few applications of this solution, you may notice that you are shedding more than a normal amount of hair, but, it is important to understand that your hair is going through a transition from being at rest into growing phase. And thus hair in telogen phase shed.

Studies also suggest that Minoxidil is effective in treating the baldness which is near crown and top of the head. And for some people this treatment may work wonderfully but for others it may not work. This all can be evaluated by your dermatologist, only after determining the root cause of your hair fall situation.

Also Read: What Are The Causes Of Hair Loss In Men & Women

How To Use Minoxidil For Hair Loss?

Minoxidil comes in two forms, foam and liquid. It is recommended to apply minoxidil twice a day on your scalp, and it is to be used exactly as directed by your dermatologist.

To Apply Minoxidil Liquid Solution –

1. Before you apply this solution to your head, ensure that your scalp and hair are dry
2. Apply the prescribed amount of this solution on the affected area of the scalp that is to be treated
3. Note that after applying minoxidil, you cannot shampoo your hair till at least 4 hours
4. Wash your hands thoroughly immediately after applying this solution
5. Do not use a hairdryer after the application of this solution
6. You need to let the minoxidil set in and leave it alone for at least 2 to 4 hours after application
7. Avoid touching your hair while minoxidil is still wet, as you may end up spreading this solution to other parts of your body, which is not healthy

To Apply Minoxidil Topical Foam –

1. Part your hair and divide them into two to three sections to reveal the affected area of the scalp
2. Take a handful of foam and gently perforate it into your scalp, by constantly massaging
3. Ensure that you wash your hands immediately after the application
4. Open the container by matching the arrow on can-ring with the arrow on cap
5. Allow the foam to settle into the scalp. Comparatively the foam sets in faster than the liquid solution

Is Minoxidil Safe For Long Term Use?

Yes, minoxidil is extremely safe and is US FDA approved for treating hair loss and hair thinning in both women and men. Minoxidil may have certain side effects if taken without expert guidance. Though it is available over the counter but it is recommended to first consult your dermatologist before opting for this treatment.

How Does Minoxidil Work On Scalp And Hair?

When minoxidil is applied on to the scalp it is converted into an active form of minoxidil sulphite with the help of certain enzymes. This opens (widens) the channels or vessels and thus enables hyper-polarization of cell membranes. This helps in making the oxygen supply readily available for hair follicles on the scalp. This converts the hair in telogen (rest) phase to anagen phase (growth). Additionally, minoxidil also stimulates new hair growth.

Also Read: PRP Vs Other Treatments For Hair Fall-Which Is Better?

What Are The Uses Of Minoxidil?

Minoxidil, whether it is in the form of foam or solution, effectively helps in hair growth and in treating male pattern baldness. And, it is used by both men and women for treating the problem of hair thinning. Minoxidil is a vasodilator – a class of drug which is used for widening blood vessels.

Although, minoxidil may not be used for patchy/unexplained hair loss, but it can stop hair loss and also promote hair growth in some cases. Check with your dermatologist if it can be used for your skin condition.

What Are The Side Effects Of Minoxidil?

● You will observe a slight burning and stinging sensation or redness during the initial application on the affected site. This is a common side effect, but if this persists or becomes worse, seek help from your dermatologist

● Some people may also have rashes, itching/ swelling, shortness of breath, and dizziness after using minoxidil. In case you happen to have a similar experience, notify your dermatologist immediately

• If you use minoxidil on any other body part by mistake, then you may see unusual hair growth in those areas as well, so it is very important to follow all sterile precautions as prescribed by your dermatologist

● If you are on medication, ensure that you seek some expert help on analysing how minoxidil will interact with the medicines you are consuming, to avoid any kind of complications

● Although it is rare, but, if you experience unwanted facial/body hair, rash, itching, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, swollen hands/feet, sudden weight gain, fatigue, etc. consult your dermatologist immediately.

Also Read: Female Pattern Baldness Causes And Treatment Options


Does Minoxidil Work For Receding Hairline?

Yes, minoxidil can work on receding hairline if there is a smaller area to be treated. For larger areas of baldness, minoxidil may not be as effective. Minoxidil can also help in preventing further hair loss, and it is typically used on the top of the head.

Can Minoxidil Cause Hair Loss?

Yes, during the initial few weeks of application, you will observe that you are losing a lot of hair. This happens due to your hair follicles being shocked because of application of this solution, and this condition is called telogen effluvium. It is important to note that this shedding of hair is temporary, and you will see noticeable results after using this solution for at least six months consistently.

Can I Use Hair Oil With Minoxidil?

Absolutely! Only ensure that you apply minoxidil first while your scalp is dry. Then, let this solution settle in for about an hour or so, such that it properly sinks into your skin. Post this you can certainly indulge in hair oil massage.

Can Minoxidil Work On Bald Head?

No. Minoxidil can help in preventing further damage, but, it cannot undo the damage that is already done, and thus there are negligible chances of regrowth of hair on a completely bald scalp.

What Stage Of Hair Loss Will Minoxidil Work?

Minoxidil belongs to a class of drug called vasodilators that are known to widen the blood vessels (in this case hair follicles). In this process, minoxidil helps in attaining thicker and healthier hair. Additionally, it is also known to prolong the anagen stage of hair growth, causing an increase in the growth of hair strands.

Can Minoxidil Effectively Treat Frontal Balding?

As the early stage of hair loss is frontal baldness, minoxidil is known to work effectively on the frontal areas. However, it is important to note that you have to be consistent with your approach, as the stimulation of hair growth persists as long as you use the topical solution.

What More Treatments Are Available If Minoxidil Doesn’t Work?

Apart from Minoxidil one can consider trying finasteride, DHT blocker, low level laser and PRP as an alternative treatment to hair loss/ hair thinning problems. PRP is a permanent hair regrowth and restoration procedure which helps in bringing back the natural hair.

Can Minoxidil Cause High Blood Pressure?

There are no studies suggestive of the same, but in a certain research minoxidil was found to increase heart beat by 3-5 per min. In healthy individual, short term usage of minoxidil is safe but in people with cardiac troubles, it is recommended to meet an expert before opting for minoxidil.

Can Minoxidil Cause Impotence?

This is a myth, rather minoxidil is used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. And there are no studies evident of the relation between minoxidil and fertility.

Can Minoxidil Cause Headaches?

Tenderness and heaviness of head may be felt by some people. If this headache is persistent and intolerable, visit your dermatologist immediately.

Can Females Use Minoxidil 5?

Yes, FDA approved 5% minoxidil foam for usage in women in 2014. It is proved to be efficient for treating hair loss and hair thinning in women.

Does Minoxidil Work For Alopecia Areata?

Though there are no suggestive studies, but topical minoxidil may induce certain amount of hair regrowth in few people suffering from alopecia areata.

How To Use Minoxidil For Beard Growth?

It is recommended to visit your dermatologist before proceeding with the same. As there are no studies suggesting the efficacy and safety of using minoxidil for beard growth or otherwise.

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About The Author

Kushneet Kukreja

Kushneet Kukreja

A postgraduate in Biotechnology from Kingston University and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition, Kushneet Kukreja is a passionate writer who works in close association with the dermatologists at our head office to generate valuable and scientifically accurate content for our blog.

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