Minoxidil is an FDA-approved treatment for balding. It’s clinically proven to stimulate hair growth and slow balding. Here’s everything you need to know about using minoxidil to prevent balding.
What is Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is a topical anti-balding treatment applied to the scalp. It’s the active ingredient in Rogaine and can be found in many other balding treatments, where it’s used by both men and women.
As MayoClinic.org reports, we don’t really know how minoxidil works. We just know that it does work in clinical trials and has repeatedly indicated its effectiveness:
“The exact way that this medicine works is not known.”
Typically, minoxidil takes a few months to begin to take effect. The treatment will also only work for as long as you’re taking minoxidil: after you stop applying it, your hair loss will continue within a few months.
The medicine is available without a prescription. You can find it in the form of a liquid solution or as a foam.
How to Use Minoxidil
Using minoxidil is relatively straightforward. Always use it as directed on the product packaging. Avoid applying the medicine to other parts of your body, as it may be absorbed into your blood vessels and cause unwanted effects.
To apply minoxidil, follow these tips:
— Make sure your hair and scalp are completely dry before applying
— Apply the amount to the targeted area, beginning in the center and using the applicator if it was included as part of the product
— Do not shampoo your hair for at least 4 hours after applying minoxidil
— Wash your hands after treatment to cleanse the medicine from your body and avoid unwanted side effects
— Be careful when applying minoxidil, as it can transfer to parts of your clothing, hats, or bed linin and leave stains
— The dose of minoxidil varies from product to product. Always follow the recommended dosing on your product – like Rogaine – when using minoxidil.
Is Minoxidil Safe?
Minoxidil is generally thought to be safe to use. However, like most medicine, it may cause unwanted side effects in certain individuals.
The most common reported side effects of minoxidil include:
— Slightly elevated rate of hair growing in places other than the scalp (like your forehead and sideburns)
— Skin irritation
Nevertheless, as Examine.com explains, minoxidil is generally side effect free and the risk of side effects does not increase with concentration of the medicine:
“A Cochrane systemic review on the efficacy and side-effects of hair loss treatments (for females) noted that, in regards to Minoxidil, that there was no significant difference in side-effects with 1% or 2% but a slightly increased rate of self-reported ‘general' side-effects with twice-daily 5% Minoxidil”
Types of Minoxidil
Minoxidil treatments come in two main concentrations:
— 5% minoxidil concentration (for men)
— 2% minoxidil concentration (for women)
If a minoxidil product does not list the concentration, then consider using a different product. Some manufacturers try to pass off 2% minoxidil concentrations (or weaker) as more powerful formulas. Reputable minoxidil products always list their concentrations.
Does Minoxidil Work?
According to one large study, approximately 40% of men experience hair regrowth after 3 to 6 months of using minoxidil as directed.
Minoxidil must be used indefinitely for continued support of existing hair follicles and the maintenance of any experienced hair regrowth.
The effectiveness of minoxidil has been reinforced in numerous other studies to date. Currently, minoxidil is the only topical product that is FDA approved for androgenic hair loss.
How Does Minoxidil Work?
As mentioned above, the effectiveness of minoxidil has been demonstrated numerous times over the years, but its exact mechanisms of action remain unclear. We don’t know exactly how it works, but we have some ideas:
— Minoxidil is a potassium channel opener that causes hyperpolarization of cell membranes.
— In more understandable terms, that means that it widens blood vessels and opens potassium channels, which allows more oxygen, blood, and nutrients to travel to the hair follicle
— By extension, this can cause follicles in the telogen phase to shed. These follicles are then replaced by thicker hairs in a new anagen phase.
When is Minoxidil Most Effective?
Minoxidil works on most types of balding to some degree, but it’s more effective when treating specific types of balding.
Minoxidil, for example, is particularly effective when treating younger men who have experienced hair loss for fewer than 5 years.
The treatment also seems to work best on the crown of the head as opposed to balding that leads to a receding hair line.
Minoxidil is available for both men and women. If being used to treat baldness in women, you typically use a solution with a concentration of 2%.
History of Minoxidil
Minoxidil was researched and developed in the late 1950s by the Upjohn Company, which was later absorbed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Interestingly enough, minoxidil wasn’t initially used to treat balding: it was used to treat ulcers.
Early trials involving dogs showed the treatment to be a powerful vasodilator. Researchers would eventually synthesize 200 different versions of minoxidil before settling on the version of minoxidil that we use today in 1963.
In 1963 and later years, numerous clinical trials and studies would be completed on minoxidil, including many studies under the trade name Loniten.
When minoxidil was first approved by the FDA, it wasn’t approved as a treatment for balding: it was approved as a way to treat high blood pressure.
Eventually, researchers began experimenting with 1% to 5% concentrations of minoxidil to treat hair loss.
During the 1980s, the drug was widely known and used by doctors as a treatment for balding, although it was not meant to be specifically used as such. There was tremendous pressure on the FDA to officially approve minoxidil as a treatment for male baldness.
In 1988, the FDA finally approved minoxidil for treating baldness in men. The approved drug was named Rogaine after the FDA initially injected Upjohn’s first choice of name, which was Regain (the FDA found the term “misleading”).
By 1991, Upjohn had launched a version of Rogaine for women.
Today, minoxidil is marketed under a wide variety of trade names. Its best known under its original trade name, which is Rogaine, but can also be found on pharmacy and store shelves under names like Amexidil, Avacor, Avogain, Keranique, Loniten, and even Kirkland Signature (Costco’s private label version of minoxidil).
Should You Use Minoxidil to Treat Balding?
Minoxidil is the only FDA approved treatment for male baldness available today. It has repeatedly demonstrated its effectiveness in clinical trials and has proven to be safe when applied topically for an indefinite period of time.
It won’t work on all balding cases, and it won’t work forever on anyone, but it’s one of the few safe, clinically proven ways to naturally improve your body’s ability to grow healthy hair.