Minoxidil is a drug formulation that has proven to be moderately effective in stopping hair loss and growing hair for some people. It does not work for everyone. Since 1996 it has been available without a prescription or over the counter (OTC). Minoxidil was the first topical drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of pattern baldness, to regrow hair in both men and women.
A standard minoxidil solution contains 2% of minoxidil and some extra strength formulations contain 5% of minoxidil. However, presently, only the 2% strength is indicated for women. They are widely available in topical liquid, and foam formulations in the hair care section of many stores. Minoxidil is sold under the brand names Rogaine and is also available at a lower price by other generic brands such as Walgreens, and Kirkland. Minoxidil is also incorporated as an ingredient in many hair loss products.
The liquid or foam is applied directly to the scalp where the user wants to stimulate hair growth. Instructions for use recommend application twice daily.
What Can Users Expect?
Results have shown minoxidil has been proven effective in stimulating hair growth in the vertex area of the scalp which is the top or crown area of the scalp. It is not intended for frontal baldness or receding hairline. Minoxidil results are modest and the product does not work well for everyone.
For most users, noticeable results are usually experienced after 3-4 months of continued application. However, if regular application of minoxidil is not continued, the results of its use will be lost in 2 to 6 months.
Clinical Study Provides Proof of Effectiveness
Various clinical studies have been conducted to provide evidence of the effectiveness of minoxidil. In one study, a multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, evaluated 252 balding men with Hamilton-Norwood patterns III-V hair loss in the vertex area of the scalp. The study published these results: “At the conclusion of a 48-week study, improvements were seen in the vertex area regions of 51% of men using 5% minoxidil, 42% using 2% minoxidil…”
The results of this study are generally supported by other, similar studies, proving that it works for some.
How It Works
In the late 1970s, minoxidil was used as an internal medication to treat severe blood pressure, and was accidentally found to have some hair related side effects such as the ability to reverse or slow down the balding process. This led to the development of the topical form of the drug for the treatment of hair loss.
Minoxidil is a vasodilator, meaning that it opens blood vessels allowing a greater flow of blood. The mechanism of action of minoxidil is not clearly known, but it is thought that by widening blood vessels and opening potassium channels, it allows more oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the follicle. This may cause follicles in the telogen or resting phase to shed, which are then replaced by thicker hairs in a new anagen or growth phase.
Side effects of topical minoxidil are usually minor such as itching, dryness, scaling, flaking or irritation of the scalp.
Pros of Minoxidil
1. Proven results. A number of published studies have demonstrated that minoxidil works in stimulating hair growth in the earlier stages of hair loss. Additionally, minoxidil is indicated to treat both men and women.
3. Relatively inexpensive. Minoxidil costs $50 – $100 for a four-month supply.
4. Easily accessible. As an over the counter medication, minoxidil can be found in the hair care section of many stores, especially drug stores.
5. FDA Approved. Minoxidil was the first topical drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of pattern baldness in both men and women
Cons of Minoxidil
1.Limited effectiveness. Though when introduced more than 20 years ago minoxidil was heralded by much of the media as a “miracle drug,” but over time it has proven to provide more limited effectiveness, and does not work for everyone or for every type of pattern baldness.
2.Difficult, inconvenient, and time consuming to use. Application of minoxidil is has to be applied twice a day and can be messy to use.
3. Initial Shedding. At the early stages of treatment some hair shedding occurs for some users.
4. Takes months to show results. For most users, noticeable results are usually experienced after 3-4 months of continued application.
5. Continued application is required. If regular, daily application of minoxidil is not continued, the results of its use will be lost in 2 to 6 months.
6. Minor side effects. Side effects of topical minoxidil are minor issues such as itching, dryness, scaling, flaking or irritation of the scalp.