So, you’re beginning to suffer with signs of hair loss? Minoxidil is one of the most popular treatments available today that helps with thinning hair and hair loss. Minoxidil treatment works by increasing the blood flow to your scalp, strengthening the follicles on your head and keeping them happy and healthy. But are there better better options? Scroll down and find out.
What is Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is a chemical treatment used to manage treat hair loss. Coming in oral and topical solution, Minoxidil is freely available over the counter of most supermarkets and pharmacies. Currently, one of the most popular ways to buy minoxidil is by monthly subscription, getting it delivered straight to your door without the hassle and awkward looks from your cashier!
This medication is a vasodilator, meaning it widens the blood vessels. This increases the blood flow on your scalp, thus delivering more oxygen to your hair follicles. With added blood and oxygen, this helps to strengthen your hair follicles and keep your locks looking curly and thick.
Minoxidil for hair loss does seem to be an effective treatment for hair loss. It works for about 2 out of 3 men, and inmost effective for people under the age of 40. As with other drugs (like Finasteride), chemical treatments are a great pre-emptive measure you can use to manage early signs of hair loss and pattern baldness.
What is Minoxidil Used to Treat?
Minoxidil is used to treat a condition called pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia). Androgenetic Alopecia is a heredity condition that affects both men and women. Although this is not a serious medical problem, the patterned balding of hair can cause distress amongst its sufferers.
Minoxidil topical solution can be used to manage and treat symptoms of male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss. It works by slowing the usual pattern of balding in men and women; for men this usually manifests in a receding hairline and for women, thinning hair on the top.
Whilst topical minoxidil is good for slowing down pattern baldness, it is not a “cure” or “solution”. Minoxidil will only work for as long as you take it, and a missed dose will cause your hair loss to continue as it once was. This treatment, then, will only delay the inevitable.
With regards to conditions like traction alopecia or alopecia areata, minoxidil does not seem to be as effective. So, other treatments may need to be devised for these condition.
How does Minoxidil work?
Before we explain how minoxidil solution works, it is important to first understand the life cycle of a hair follicle. The life of a hair is split into three functions: anagen phase (growing), catagen phase (shedding), and telogen phase (resting).
For a full explanation on the life cycle of hairs, see our telogen effluvium article.
Broadly speaking, Minoxidil solution looks to extend the growing phase of your hair, and reduce the resting phase. The medication does this by increasing the blood and oxygen flow to the scalp. We call Minoxidil a vasoconstrictor.
There are four stages to a minoxidil hair loss treatment.
- Reversal of Follicle Miniaturisation – during the telogen phase, your hair follicles will be slowly resting and recuperating after growing and shedding their last air. They become miniature and do not protrude through the skin, giving the appearance of baldness. The first stage of this treatment, then, is to promote new hair growth.
- Increase of Follicle Blood Flow – In order to achieve new hair growth, minoxidil solution increases the blood flow around the hair follicle. This provides plenty of nutrients needed for your hair to grow.
- Stimulation of Growth Phase – with an increased blood flow to the scalp, your hair begins to grow quicker than if you had not been taking Minoxidil.
- Extension of Follicle Growth Phase – Minoxidil helps to extend the growing phase of your hair follicles, enabling your hair to continue growing for longer.
When taking minoxidil, patients report an increase in hair thickness and sometimes an improvement in hair length. Often, they may also report that they are experiencing less hair shedding on their comb, pillow, of shower plug.
How Effective is Minoxidil for hair loss?
Minoxidil seems to be most effective for patients suffering with early signs of male pattern baldness. When the hair has not receded very far up the temples, it is easier to manage your hair loss with Minoxidil. Obviously, the balder you become, there difficult it becomes to hide your hair loss symptoms.
In a Study conducted by the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (2022), Minoxidil was shown to reduce signs of hair loss in 62% of patients. Furthermore, on the study, investigators concluded:
In evaluating minoxidil effectiveness in stimulating hair regrowth, the investigators found the 5% solution very effective in 15.9% of patients, effective in 47.8%, moderately effective in 20.6% and ineffective in 15.7%
So, Minoxidil does seem to be effective at reducing the signs of hair loss in over half of the people who use it. However, it is also important to consider that Minoxidil is (as stated earlier) not a “cure”, but a treatment to manage symptoms.
Does Minoxidil have any side effects?
Yes Minoxidil does have side effects, but most are fairly mild.
The most common side effects come through the absorption of too much medicine into the body. If this occurs, you may experience some the following side effects:
- blurred vision
- fast heartbeat
- swelling of hands or face
Although incredibly rare, minoxidil solution does also come with some other side effects, such as:
- acne on application site
- burning/scalp inflammation
- redenned skin rashes
- increased hair loss
As Minoxidil is a chemical that you are putting into your body, it is always wise to consult your doctor before applying this. It is also wise to start your treatment with a low dose, and slowly increase concentration over time. This can help to reduce chances of side effects.
Is Minoxidil safe for men and women?
Yes Minoxidil solution is safe for use with men and women. However, it is recommended that women should use a maximum of 2% concentration, while men can use anything up to 5%.
Should your health condition change, it is always wise to speak to your doctor. Nobody likes to experience adverse effects.
How Expensive is Minoxidil?
How you view the cost of Minoxidil is dependent upon how long you have been taking it. in the short term, Minoxidil may seem like a cheaper alternative than a more drastic measure like a hair transplant.
However, the cost of Minoxidil quickly tots up. Especially, when you consider that this treatment is not a cure, meaning you’ll have to take it continually if you don’t want your pattern baldness to further.
It is not uncommon for people to use Minoxidil treatments for years, even decades. Such an endeavour costs thousands of pounds, and leaving many wondering why they did not get a hair transplant.
Whilst a hair transplant may seem like taking drastic action for your hair loss, costing roughly £4,500 in the short term, it can actually cure your hair loss for many years, unlike Minoxidil. Not to mention, a hair transplant saves you the hassle of applying topical minoxidil twice a day.
Are there better options available to me than Minoxidil?
There may certainly be “better” options available than Minoxidil for people suffering with hair loss. However, this would be dependent upon a patient’s age, gender, and severity of balding.
For younger people that are only burdened with the early signs of pattern hair loss, then there may be no harm in trialling Minoxidil solution for a couple of months. Minoxidil is likely to be more effective at hiding signs of hair loss, or thinning at this stage.
Studies have also shown a drug called Finasteride to be more effective at slowing hair loss, than Minoxidil. Whilst Minoxidil is a vasodilator, Finasteride looks to change your hormonal balance (inhibiting the production of DHT). This may be worth considering.
As you get older and pattern baldness begins to really set in, a hair transplant would seem like a more steadfast option than Minoxidil or Finasteride. A Hair Transplant is the only way to replenish the hairline and enable new growth to continue for years to come.
Whilst Minoxidil may be the weakest form of treatment when compared to competitors on the market, it does also pose the fewest health implications. In any case, discuss this with a healthcare professional, or hair transplant surgeon.
Do you want to find out more?
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