What Is Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is an antihypertensive vasodilator medication that was once used as a high blood pressure medication. Many patients using the medication for blood pressure found that hair growth occurred as an unusual side effect. Further research was then conducted on the drug, which found that it had a positive effect on thinning hair and balding- the medication was then patented as Rogaine by the UpJohn Corporation as the first FDA approved treatment for adrogenetic alopecia, or hair loss. Minoxidil came off patent in the 1990’s and is now available as Minoxidil, its generic form.
How Does It Work?
It’s unclear exactly how Minoxidil works. Some researchers believe that its role as a vasodilator means that it widens the blood vessels around the hair follicle, allowing extra oxygen, blood and nutrients to flow in, promoting growth in a new anagen phase. This theory has not yet been proven. Other researchers believe that the drug can increase DNA synthesis in the cells of the hair follicles. When Minoxidil is applied to the scalp it is a stable and inactive drug, but its absorption into the skin causes it to convert into Minoxidil Sulphite, which then goes on to activate potassium channels in the cells. These channels are thought to lead to increased hair growth. Minoxidil has no effect on DHT levels, which sets it apart from treatments like Propecia.
Should Women Use It?
There are several factors that can influence how effective Minoxidil is on a person, from genetics to the length of time that the hair loss has been taking place and the location of the hair loss on your scalp. Although men are more likely to experience hair loss as they age, particularly if they’re genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness, women can also experience hair thinning. Luckily, Minoxidil is just as effective on women as it is on men, and is the only topical medication that is currently approved in the UK for female-pattern hair loss.
The only real difference when it comes to the use of Minoxidil in women is that only the 2% solution should be used, rather than the stronger 5% solution. This milder treatment will also reduce the likelihood of side effects.
Although Minoxidil can be used by women, it isn’t suitable for those who are pregnant of currently breastfeeding, or who have been known to have a sensitivity to any of the ingredients in the product.
In clinical studies, Minoxidil has actually been found to be more effective in women than in men suffering from hair thinning. The studies looked at the use of Minoxidil in women between the ages of 18 and 24 who were experiencing moderate levels of hereditary hair loss. In their findings, two out of three of these women showed some degree of improvement and re-growth having used the Minoxidil 2% solution. The improvements first began to be apparent at four months, but the maximum results weren’t clear until eight months into the study. This positive outcome shows Minoxidil to be a very effective treatment for women facing premature hair loss.
Minoxidil has been shown to be more effective in women who begin treatment earlier in life, when they first begin to see signs of hereditary hair loss, rather than later once the problem is already established. It’s best to begin using Minoxidil within the first five years of hair loss in order to see the best possible results and prevent future balding.
The higher concentration solutions of Minoxidil are currently approved for men but not women, as these stronger medications don’t seem to show any marked improvement in results and may come at a greater risk of unwanted side effects.
How Long Will It Take To Work?
It is possible to see some improvements from Minoxidil from as early as eight weeks into treatment, but it’s more likely that it will take quite a bit longer than this to see results, so use consistently and with patience in order to get the best from this product. As long as you use the treatment consistently and follow the instructions given on application, you should begin to see some positive results within a year.
Minoxidil isn’t a cure for hair loss- the problem won’t disappear having applied the treatment. You’ll need to maintain it if you want the results to continue on. If you discontinue treatment prematurely you may find that you lose some of the hair that has re-grown. Luckily, Minoxidil is completely safe and has shown no long-term risks, so maintained use over a long period of time is recommended.
Are There Any Side Effects?
When you start any kind of medication, topical or otherwise, it’s natural to be concerned about potential side effects that could occur. Minoxidil is a great product in this respect- the side effects are very minimal compared to the potential benefits if the treatment is effective.
As Minoxidil is applied topically, only a small amount of the medication is absorbed into the bloodstream, so it’s very rare for any internal side effects to occur.
Side effects that have been noted in clinical trials and by Minoxidil users tend to be mainly dermatological in nature. Some irritation has been reported, as well as redness and itching in the area of the scalp where Minoxidil has been applied. Some patients have also reported headaches, although this is a less common side effect.
Certain topical Minoxidil solutions can include alcohol, which can cause additional dermatological side effects, including dandruff, dermatitis and dryness of the scalp.
A side effect which may cause more concern to women using Minoxidil than men is potential hair growth in unwanted areas if the solution comes in contact with them. To prevent this from occurring, ensure that you don’t allow any Minoxidil solution to dry on the face if you accidentally get it there during application. If you do get Minoxodil on an area other than your scalp, simply rinse it away with lots of cool water to ensure that no hair grows where you don’t want it to.