Frequently Asked Questions about Minoxidil
1) What is Minoxidil?
Today Minoxidil is most commonly used to treat hair loss. Minoxidil is an antihypertensive vasodilator medication, and the first drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of adrogenetic alopecia, also known as hair loss. Previously used as a high blood pressure medication, many patients found that the drug had a side effect of hair growth and that it seemed to reverse male patterned baldness. As a result, Minoxidil was developed into a topical solution for the treatment of hair loss. The drug slows down the process of hair loss and encourages regrowth, and can be used continuously in the long term to maintain results. Originally only available as an UpJohn Corporation product called Rogaine, Minoxidil went off patent in the 1990’s and is now available in its generic form over the counter.
2) How does it work?
The mechanism by which Minoxidil slows down hair loss and promotes regrowth is unknown. As a vasodilator, it does widen blood vessels and open the potassium channels, which may allow extra oxygen, nutrients and blood to flow to the hair follicle, causing thicker hairs to grow in a new anagen phase. Unlike Propecia, Minoxidil does not effect DHT levels.
3) Who should take Minoxidil?
Young men who are just beginning to experience hair loss are ideal candidates for treatment with Minoxidil, particularly if the balding is occurring in the crown/vertex region of the scalp and the hair loss has been occurring for less than 5 years. Several factors come into play when determining who Minoxidil will work well for, including the predominance of hair loss in your family, or your genetics, the amount of time the hair loss has been occurring, the specific condition that is causing the hair loss, and where the hair loss is occurring on your scalp.
Both men and women can use this product, as it has been proven to be effective for both sexes, but women should only use the 2% solution rather than the stronger 5% option.
4) Is this product safe?
In its topical solution, Minoxidil is very safe. There are no major systemic side effects of any clinical significance, although some dermatological side effects may occur. People commonly experience some irritation, itching and redness on the treated area of the scalp, and some unwanted hair growth in the area around the treatment, which may be more problematic for women than men. Minoxidil may also cause headaches in some patients. Some formulations of topical Minoxidil might include alcohol, which can dry the scalp and cause dandruff and contact dermatitis. Topical Minoxidil is, however, highly poisonous to cats, so pet owners should be cautious, as even skin contact with the product can cause death in cats.
5) Who should not take Minoxidil?
Pregnant or nursing women should not use this product. People who have been known in the past to have a sensitivity to any of the ingredients in the solution or to Minoxidil itself should also avoid this product and try something different.
6) Is Minoxidil safe to take with other medications?
There are no drug interactions known to affect topical Minoxidil, although using other hair products within 4 hours of applying the treatment may make Minoxidil less effective.
7) What if my hair falls out more after starting Minoxidil treatment?
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, hair loss is actually a commonly reported side effect from those using topical Minoxidil treatments. The manufacturers call this process “shedding”, and offer some explanation for it, although it’s not guaranteed that the hair that “sheds” will then grow back thicker. The explanation is that hair growth is cyclical, with a growth phase (anagen) lasting 4-7 years, followed by a resting face for the follicle (telogen) that lasts around 3 months. As the newer hairs of the telogen phase begin to grow in, the older hairs fall away. Manufacturers of Minoxidil believe that the initiation of treatment with the topical medication causes a shift from the resting phase into the growth phase, causing older hairs to fall away earlier and more quickly, causing the increase in “shedding.” This usually begins about 2-6 weeks after starting treatment and should go away fairly soon after, and be followed eventually by regrowth and thickening of the hair.
8) How long does Minoxidil topical medication take to work?
Although some have reported results as early as 4 months from beginning the treatment, with some studies indicating regrowth as early as 8 weeks into treatment. Most doctors recommend that you wait at least a year before expecting significant results. The benefits usually become clear at around 12-14 months, but vary from person to person.
9) How long should I use Minoxidil for?
Minoxidil does not cure balding or hair loss, therefore treatment must be maintained in order to see continuous results. To maintain the effect of Minoxidil, you have to continue using it. Upon discontinuing the treatment, you’ll probably notice that the hair you’ve regained is lost again, and the previous pattern of balding continues where it left off before using the medication. There are no proven dangers of long term use of Minoxidil, so maintaining use shouldn’t be a problem.
10) If I use Minoxidil more frequently, will it work better?
Although the recommended dosage for Minoxidil topical treatment is twice a day, daily, many people choose to use it more frequently to improve their results. There is no proof that this strategy is more effective in promoting hair growth, and it may increase the side effects of the product, along with costing you a lot more money in the long run, so be cautious when applying Minoxidil more frequently.
11) When can I wash or wet my hair after applying Minoxidil?
Be sure to wait at least 4 hours after applying the treatment before you get your hair wet again, as the product needs to be properly absorbed into the skin to be effective. If you go swimming, there’s no need to reapply the Minoxidil solution to your hair afterward, just wait until the next dose time.
12) What if I get Minoxidil on my face?
You shouldn’t allow Minoxidil medication to dry on your face as it can cause hair growth in unwanted areas, so if some goes on an undesired area simple rinse away with plenty of cool water, paying special attention to the eyes if the product has gone near them.
13) Can Minoxidil increase as well as regrow my hair?
In studies conducted by UpJohn, 39% of men reported some regrowth after 12 months of using the Minoxidil topical treatment, with similar results in women. The product is intended more for stabilisation of hair loss rather than an additional increase in growth, but it will vary from person to person. For many people, this may mean that Minoxidil halts the ongoing hair loss they had been experiencing, but doesn’t lead to regrowth of the lost hair. Some people find that they don’t realise how effective the product has been until they stop using it, and then experience a sudden acceleration of hair loss that had been halted by the use of Minoxidil.
14) On what areas of the scalp does Minoxidil work best?
Topical Minoxidil treatments work best in the vertex, or crown area of the scalp, but some people have seen results in the front part of the scalp too.