What is Minoxidil?

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Minoxidil is the leading hair loss product available and the first drug to be approved for this purpose. Over several decades of use it has proved itself effective on millions of men and women at reversing hair loss which resulted from pattern baldness. Generic versions of the drug have been available since the 1990s and treatment is surprisingly affordable, meaning that no matter what your financial circumstances there is no reason to simply accept pattern baldness as a fact of life.

Minoxidil was originally developed as a drug to treat high blood pressure or hypertension, an all too common chronic medical condition than can be a major factor in stroke and heart attack. When used to treat hypertension the minoxidil was taken orally in the form of a pill and was only used as a back up option if other treatment options had failed to have the desired effect.

Patients who took the product noticed some rather unusual side effects. Hairs darkened and there was increased growth. Doctors were baffled by the side effect, but noticed that so many patients were reporting it that it couldn’t be coincidence.

Realising that the drug they created had much greater commercial potential in helping to prevent hair loss, Upjohn Corporation, the company that had a patent on the drug, sought and gained approval for its use as a hair loss treatment. Originally this continued to be prescribed as a pill, but in the 1980s a topically applied formula was developed under the brand name of Rogaine (which was changed to Regaine for the UK).

This 2% minoxidil product had good results, but was only available to a minority of men with hair loss due to the high price of the formula. When Upjohn’s patent on minoxidil expired in the 1990s competitors entered the market and launched products at higher strengths, including the 5% which has now become standard. Prices of the product plummeted and more and more men were able to regrow lost hair and prevent further hair loss.

Science

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Minoxidil promotes hair growth and darkening in both men and women who have lost, or are losing hair, due to pattern baldness. Unlike rival products such as Finasteride/Propecia it doesn’t affect the levels of DHT, and the exact reason for minoxidil counteracting the affects of pattern baldness are not yet known. This is in part because the patent had already expired before rivals attempted to make similar drugs, and therefore the financial incentive to discover the science behind the minoxidil miracle dried up.

Minoxidil works as an ongoing treatment for hair loss rather than a one time treatment. You are not simply able to regrow your hair then stop applying minoxidil. The medicine appears to work by blocking or counteracting the bodily process that causes pattern baldness. If that block is taken away then hair loss will restart.

You might think your hair grows quite fast from how often you need to visit the hair dressers, but the stimulating the hair follicle works differently to standard growth, and therefore results can take some time to show.

Generally the best results for a patient are achieved after a year of use, but some patients take a few months longer. Earlier on in treatment results typically start to be seen, for instance thick hairs begin appearing for many within the first six months of treatment.

Proven to work

While we might not know medically the exact method of action minoxidil takes to stimulate hair growth, we do know that the drug has been working in the same way for millions of men and women for decades. Over that time consistent results have been recorded for the drug in everything from which parts of the scalp see most growth to which age profiles have the most success using minoxidil.

While there were initially concerns about the safety of minoxidil due to its use as a medication for hypertension, decades of monitoring the side effects of those using minoxidil topically for hair loss show that side effects are relatively minor and that when compared clinically to a placebo there have been no significant side effects.

Many people start taking minoxidil and give up prior to results being seen. The key to using this product is patience. Results are not going to be seen overnight as it sometimes is represented as doing so in fictional films and television programmes.

Many are put off by the initial shredding of hair that is a common side effect of starting medication. This side effect is due to hair’s natural growth cycle, which includes a shredding phase, being stimulated by the product. While it can be alarming, it is actually a sign that the product is working.