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Does Minoxidil Work for Hair Loss?

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Minoxidil has been helping balding patients for years. Read this review to learn some interesting facts about this product.

Minoxidil is another popular ingredient for well-known products in the hair loss prevention and hair regrowth industry.  This was an interesting find because the original use for Minoxidil was for treatment of high blood pressure.

Side effects, however, included an increase in hair growth in many cases. While one time a strictly prescription only medication, Minoxidil is now available over-the-counter.

About Minoxidil

Minoxidil was first introduced as a prescription drug taken orally for the treatment of hypertension. However, the very common side effect of new hair growth was reported.

Soon, the drug’s potential in the treatment of hair loss became evident and has even now overshadowed its first use in lowering blood pressure.

Minoxidil works to relieve hypertension by acting as a vasodilator. This means that it opens and relaxes blood vessels enough to reduce the force with which blood is pumped through them.

This same vasodilatory property is responsible for the effectiveness of Minoxidil in stimulating hair regrowth.

Minoxidil causes vasodilation of the blood vessel by releasing nitric oxide which is known to widen the diameter of the vessels.

As an antihypertensive, Minoxidil (sold as Loniten) is not the first-line drug in the management of high blood pressure. This is because oral Minoxidil produces some serious side effects on the circulatory system.

Because of its systemic side effects, when it was formulated for hair loss treatment, Minoxidil was presented in topical preparations to be applied directly to the hair.

While Rogaine was the first such preparation of Minoxidil, other brands of the medication are now available and sold as over-the-counter products.

For those who struggle with androgenic alopecia, Minoxidil may be the right hair regrowth method to use or at least try.

There are a few basic things to know about this blood pressure medication turned hair growth stimulant.

  • The reason for the ability to cause or stimulate hair growth in users is actually unknown.
  • Minoxidil contains moiety, which is a nitric oxide.
  • Minoxidil is designed for topical use for treatment of baldness or hair loss.
  • For men the products that contain Minoxidil generally use five percent, while women's products use less at around two percent.

Minoxidil and Hair Growth

Before Minoxidil was available as a topical hair loss solution, it caused the fortunate side-effect of new hair growth in those taking Loniten for hypertension. Minoxidil also caused the darkening of fine hair all over the body. These effects are, however, not long-lasting.

To stimulate hair growth, topical Minoxidil preparations are mostly effective in people under 40 years and who have just recently started losing hair.

Minoxidil is not a cure for baldness since hair loss resumes within 2 months after Minoxidil use is stopped.

Minoxidil does not stimulate considerable hair growth in receding hair lines. However, it is more effective in promoting hair growth at the crown.

Furthermore, Minoxidil is more effective when used on small areas rather than large areas of hair loss. 2% solution of the medication is found to be effective in reversing hair loss in 30% of male patients.  Female patients, however, have much success with this concentration.

5% Minoxidil preparations produce a higher success rate, and is currently the preferred formulation for men.

Apart from stimulating new hair growth, Minoxidil thickens existing hair shafts making even sparse hair look thicker.

While the exact mechanism of Minoxidil role in hair loss reversal is not completely clear, two possible pathways have been proposed for its activity on the hair.

First, Minoxidil releases nitric oxide which is a known vasodilator in the body. This effect is further helped by the drug’s action on the potassium channels of the cell.

Therefore, Minoxidil causes the blood vessels to dilate and transport a greater volume of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to hair cells. On the other hand, it opens the potassium channels in cell membranes.

For hair follicle cells this means that they are perfused with more blood rich in oxygen and nutrients, and these nutrients can easily flow into the cells. The combination of the two effects increases hair follicle cell metabolism which leads to an increase in the production of new hair.

Secondly, Minoxidil directly stimulates the hair follicle growth through a pathway involving prostaglandins. It also produces an increase in the number of papilla cells.

These two pathways combine to shorten the telogen phase and prolong the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle. The net effects are increased hair growth and thicker hair strands.

Minoxidil Formulations

Minoxidil is available both in 2% and 5% topical solutions. While the 2% solution stops hair loss and encourage hair regrowth in 30% of men using it, the 5% solution has a success rate of 65%.

The 2% solution is prepared with alcohol while the 5% solution uses propylene glycol as solvent. Therefore, some may find out that the higher concentration makes their hair sticky and irritates the scalp.

While there are topical Minoxidil preparations with higher concentrations of the active agent (up to 15% Minoxidil solutions), these are not more effective and may even pose a health risk to users.

Minoxidil is also available in a spray foam form prepared in alcohol and glycerin base.

This formulation is provided for those who experience contact dermatitis with Minoxidil liquid preparations. When applied to the skin, it melts at room temperature.

Foam Minoxidil contains 5% Minoxidil and is just as effective as the liquid form.

Many Forms of Minoxidil 
Loniten - An oral antihypertensive drug with a side effect of stimulating hair loss. Loniten is not recommended for long-term hair loss treatment
2% Topical Solution - The first liquid Minoxidil formulation introduced as Rogaine. No longer recommended for men but still used by women to reverse hair loss
5% Topical Solution - A newer formulation of Minoxidil recommended for men. It has twice the success rate of the 2% solution
5% Aerosol Foam - Newest formulation of Minoxidil introduced for men who develop contact dermatitis to Minoxidil liquid preparation. Has a success rate of 85% in men
Higher than 5% Formulations - Do not provide significantly more hair regrowth compared to the 5% formulations but produce more side effects of Minoxidil 

The Pros and the Cons

Before deciding on a hair loss product or treatment for your own hair loss prevention or reversal, it is a good idea to know the potential pros and cons for each alternative you have.

Minoxidil Pros:

  • It has proven effective in many products for certain users.
  • In some cases, this ingredient has helped cause significant increase in hair growth.
  • This can be obtained over the counter in different types of products.

Minoxidil Cons:

  • Minoxidil may not work well for larger surface areas of hair loss.
  • This product also has proven to show better results when it comes to men who are younger and have not been suffering with hair loss for more than five years.
  • It appears that once users discontinue it, the effects wear off and the hair may even revert to previous status.

Potential Side Effects of Minoxidil

It is also important to know what you may be getting into when it comes to side effects. This is important so you know what to watch for and also what issues you may need to discuss with your doctor before agreeing to use it.

  • Irritation or burning of the skin or eyes has been reported by some users. Apart from skin irritation, Minoxidil can also cause dandruff and itchy scalp. Some women report hair growth in the forehead and cheeks when using the medication. 
  • With increased chance for hair growth comes the possibility of having hair grow where you don't want hair to grow thicker.
  • Some users may experience more serious side effects, and all users should carefully monitor for these issues. These include chest pain, shortness of breath or an elevated heartbeat. Also unexplained weight gain could be the sign of a more severe reaction to using a product that contains Minoxidil. Although you may notice skin irritation, a more serious reaction such as hives could be the indication of a more severe side effect.

Examples of Reviews from Some Minoxidil Users

A good majority of consumers who used products containing Minoxidil to help treat hair loss had good news to report. There were, as expected, a certain percentage of users who claimed there were no results.

The problem with this is it is difficult to determine if the users followed the twice a day regimen required to make this a successful hair regrowth treatment.

In general, users of this product shared some similar experiences. For example, many users could certainly report a good amount of regrowth but did feel the new hair was not as thick as their original, natural hair.

In addition, many hair loss sufferers using this product reported actual filling-in, along the hairline.

Not to mention a general consensus seemed to be that the results actually began to be noticed earlier than expected. Since it can take at least half a year to see results those who were seeing promising results within two and a half to three months.

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