With so much conflicting information about minoxidil, it can be hard to know what's fact and what's fiction. And when it comes to hair regrowth, the stakes are high! If your hair loss is affecting your social life, or you want your hair back to before you were 40, then it's important that you get the facts.
Minoxidil is one of the most well-known hair re-growth formulations. Most people will know it by its brand name, Rogaine. People often turn to this product that has lined the supermarket shelves for decades because, well, it can help! And for people who are doing everything right to encourage hair growth (like good hair and scalp care, supplements, healthy diet, good hair care, and gentle styling), minoxidil is often the only thing that actually yields results. But before you run to the store to grab a box of minoxidil, you need to get all the facts.
The Discovery of Minoxidil?
If you search minoxidil on the internet, you likely will find search results about blood pressure medication. In fact, the two are the very same chemical compound but delivered in different routes.
Minoxidil was identified as a hair regrowth solution at the start of the 1960s. However, its discovery was almost by accident. People at the time were taking minoxidil in an oral medication to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). A peculiar side effect was noted in the people taking this medication: they experienced hair growth, particularly on their scalp.
With further research and development, minoxidil was formulated into a topical solution that could be applied directly to the scalp for only localized results. This medication was a wonderful solution for people who did not need medication to treat high blood pressure but struggled with hair loss. Initially, minoxidil was only for men. Indeed, male hair loss has always been much more accepted and acknowledged than female hair loss (until recently, that is). Eventually, the FDA also approved minoxidil 5% for women to use for hair loss as well.
How Does Minoxidil Work?
There is some dispute among scientists and medical professionals on how exactly minoxidil works. The leading theory is that it works by dilating (or widening) blood vessels in the scalp. Often decreased blood flow is a component of thinning hair and hair loss, especially in some of the most common hair loss conditions like male and female-pattern hair loss. This theory seems to make sense as it is congruent with what happens in the body when you take oral minoxidil to lower blood pressure.
Other more recent theories suggest that minoxidil may increase the anagen phase of the hair cycle. Anagen is the phase of the hair cycle where the hair is growing. It may also correct shrinking hair follicles by widening them again to give the hair more density and thickness.
No matter the theory, we know that minoxidil can help with hair loss. It works by:
- Stimulating hair growth within 2-3 months of consistent use in most individuals
- Boosts hair thickness and density
- Encouraging new growth along the vertex and in areas that have seen balding
Who Can Use Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is safe for most hair types. However, it is not effective for everyone, as people can have hair loss for various reasons. For example, hair loss due to autoimmune conditions is harder to grow back with minoxidil. Similarly, it is not as useful for people with traction alopecia (usually women), which is often caused by hairstyles that pull on the follicles.
People who dye their hair will have a more challenging time tolerating minoxidil because it can irritate the scalp. Also, women who are pregnant or are trying to conceive should avoid using minoxidil.
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How to Use Minoxidil 5%
How you use minoxidil generally depends on the formulation and brand you are using. Each product has special instructions on the frequency of use and how much you should use at a time. You can find minoxidil in 2% and 5% concentrations. Most women should start at the 2% concentration because high percentages can cause hair growth in other body areas (like the face).
To apply minoxidil, you will want to do the following:
- Make sure your scalp and hair are clean and completely dry before application.
- Apply the amount as directed to the area you are treating.
- Start in the middle of the area you are treating and work your way out.
- Avoid shampooing for at least 4 hours to allow the medication to work.
- Make sure to wash your hands after use to avoid skin irritation.
- You will want the medication to fully dry before you wear a hat or go to bed, as it can stain fabric.
- Do not blow-dry your hair to quicken the drying time, as it can make the medication less effective and irritate your scalp. Also, if you dye your hair, avoid using the product the day you dye your hair.
Side Effects of Using Minoxidil 5%
Increased hair shedding - Do not be surprised if you notice an uptick in the amount of hair you lose once you start using minoxidil. Many people find that they have more shedding when they start using the product. Rest assured, this usually is only temporary and resolves after consistent use.
Scalp irritation - One of the more common complaints with minoxidil is that it can irritate the scalp. The formulation can cause burning, itching, rash, redness, and flaking. In rare cases, they may experience swelling, including on the face.
Systemic effects - Although rare, taking too much medication can cause your body to absorb minoxidil and distribute it throughout the body via your bloodstream. It can lead to lightheadedness, fast and irregular heartbeat, headache, numbness, and tingling.
Is There a Newer Option for Hair Regrowth with Fewer Side Effects?
Yes! Nanoxidil 5% is a newer alternative to minoxidil that has high efficacy and a low molecular weight. This means that it is absorbed much more readily in the scalp and is more effective. Aside from its powerful results, one of this product’s most significant achievements is that it has no known side effects.
People who have found disappointment in the limited scope of minoxidil see better results for treating early to moderate stages of hair loss with Nanoxidil products. Furthermore, it effectively treats some of the peskiest types of hair loss, including on the vertex, crown, and hairline. Nanoxidil products can also be used in a complementary fashion with minoxidil products to enhance treatment efficacy.
To find a solution for your hair loss woes, shop the Spectral line at DS Laboratories.