What to know before using minoxidil for hair loss?
Minoxidil is a medical treatment, like finasteride, that’s used by men and women experiencing hair loss as a preventative treatment. It helps with hair regrowth for those with hereditary hair loss conditions. This includes male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness (also known as androgenic alopecia).
There are many types of hair loss however androgenetic alopecia is the most common whereby the follicle stops producing hair altogether. Discover the key things to know about using minoxidil for hair loss.
- What is minoxidil?
- How to use minoxidil for hair loss
- How do I know minoxidil is working?
- Are there people who can’t use minoxidil for hair loss?
- What are the side effects of minoxidil?
- How long should I use minoxidil for hair loss?
- What is better than minoxidil or finasteride?
What is minoxidil?
Minoxidil is commonly sold under the brand names ”Rogaine”, “Regaine”, or “Regaine for Women”. Minoxidil was actually discovered by accident during trials for treatment for high blood pressure.
Where, surprisingly, the treatment showed signs of being able to regrow hair. In fact, it’s now the only FDA approved topical treatment for women, whilst men can use Minoxidil and Finasteride.
Minoxidil is an active ingredient used in topical treatments for hair loss. Men typically use a 5% solution whilst women use 2%. Due to being a vasodilator, it dilates blood vessels and works by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles.
This then prolongs and stimulates hair growth. The treatment can be used by men and women however there are different products designed specifically for each gender.
It’s important to realise that minoxidil is the only suitable topical treatment for women. Therefore, women should never use Finasteride.
Minoxidil is usually used for the crown of the hair, however, there’s also potential for minoxidil to treat receding hairlines.
A point that’s often overlooked is that combining minoxidil and finasteride is more effective for hair loss prevention compared to using just one. However, these medications can cause long-lasting side effects including male infertility.
How to use minoxidil for hair loss
Minoxidil is a topical hair loss treatment since you apply it directly to the area that you want to be treated. You should use it twice daily, ideally at twelve-hour intervals.
Use the treatment an hour before bed in order to prevent the solution from transferring to your pillow. The usage instructions are the same for men and women – the only difference is the strength in the treatment.
Ensure your hair and scalp are dry before applying, use the applicator provided to apply the solution to the area of the scalp being treated.
Wash your hands after application and allow the treated area to dry for 2-4 hours. For four hours after application, make sure that your hair does not get wet – this includes rain, going swimming and washing your hair. If you miss an application, apply it as soon as possible when you remember.
Make sure that minoxidil doesn’t get on any other body parts or surfaces such as pillows. If the formula gets on other body parts then it will stimulate hair growth in those areas.
Does Minoxidil regrow hair?
Minoxidil is better at stopping and slowing down hair loss rather than regrowing hair, although sometimes the hair will regrow, it’s purely dependent on the individual.The formula dilates blood vessels to encourage more nutrients to the hair follicle. As a result, the hair grows thicker and faster, thus reversing hair loss.
How do I know minoxidil is working?
Minoxidil must be used twice a day, for at least four months, before any results can be seen. Once it’s working, you should start to see the end of hair loss and the beginning of hair growth.
It takes around four months as the hair follicles must return to the anagen (the hair growth phase) stage of the hair cycle.
If you do not see any results after six months of continuous treatment and you are still experiencing hair loss you should stop the treatment and see your doctor in order to identify any other potential causes for hair loss.
Are there people who can’t use minoxidil for hair loss?
It’s important to know that minoxidil cannot be used by anyone. You shouldn’t use minoxidil to treat hair loss if you are:
- Under 18 or over 65
- Have high blood pressure
- Have a medical condition where the scalp is affected (other than hair loss)
- Completely bald
Do not use minoxidil if your skin is already irritated or if you have a rash or sunburn. Changes in texture and colour of body hair can occur with use. It’s advised to speak to a professional before using minoxidil so that you are aware of any possible side effects.
What are the disadvantages of using minoxidil?
Whilst minoxidil can be effective for some people there are a number of disadvantages to using it. Minoxidil use requires a lot of upkeep and consistency in your routine. It only works when applied correctly – so twice a day, every day.
In addition, it only works as long as it is used. Once you stop using minoxidil your hair loss will return, therefore your hair will fall out as it was previously before starting treatment. There are a number of side effects if you’re using minoxidil.
What are the side effects of minoxidil?
Side effects may be temporary and naturally resolve once the body adjusts to the medication. Also, once you stop using the product side effects go away.
It’s important to know that minoxidil can also cause your hair to shed, especially when you first start treatment. This is because it speeds up the resting phase of your hair, causing it to fall out faster than usual. The higher the concentration, the more likely this will occur.
The most common side effects of Minoxidil are:
- Scalp irritation
- An itchy scalp
- Stinging/ burning sensation
- Scaling/ flaking skin on your scalp
- Red and inflamed scalp
- Nausea/ vomiting
Are there any long-term side effects of minoxidil?
As well as these common side effects, minoxidil can also cause some serious or long term side effects with excessive use such as:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing when lying down
- Swelling of the hands and feet
- Unwanted body or facial hair growth
How long should I use minoxidil for hair loss?
The hair loss treatment only works for as long as it is used, for it to work properly. It must be applied continuously, and some people can use minoxidil for several years and see hair regrowth with no side effects. You can use minoxidil for as long as you see results but at a certain age
What is better than minoxidil or finasteride?
Minoxidil and finasteride are both used for hair loss however it does not always work for everyone, it’s not a permanent solution and can come with some nasty side effects.
Hair transplants are incredibly effective procedures, which have very few side effects. Furthermore, one operation will last you a lifetime.
There are various hair restoration techniques available. A hair transplant is the best solution to reverse hair loss compared to topical minoxidil.
This is because they don’t need to be applied every day or have a lot fewer side effects. Also, there are treatments available specifically for women such as the SDHI hair transplant technique.
When the procedure is done with a qualified and experienced surgeon, getting a hair transplant is a great decision for those wanting a permanent solution to hair loss.
Can minoxidil be used to improve the results of a hair transplant?
Yes. It’s recommended that before a hair transplant you use minoxidil once per day. Then after the hair transplantation, use it twice a day (morning and night with 12-hour intervals). After 6 months you should then revert back to using the treatment once per day.
Although minoxidil has been praised as an effective remedy for hair loss, it comes with substantial side effects. The application process can also be tedious because it requires daily application (usually even twice per day).
After a while, this becomes tiresome especially as you need to apply it every day for years in order to maintain hair growth. Therefore, a hair transplant is a better alternative as it is a one-time procedure that lasts a lifetime.