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Minoxidil Guide: Uses, Results & Side Effects
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani
Updated on November 16, 2022

Although there are many causes of male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness like diet, stress, lifestyle, and illness, it’s genetics that accounts for 80% of cases [1].

Whatever the cause is for you, experiencing hair loss can be a really stressful experience that can take a toll on your self-confidence and self-esteem. If like many people out there, you want to do something about your hair loss, there are plenty of different options that are available to you.

From hair loss products that work to permanent surgical procedures, there’s no need to get too down about losing your hair.

The treatment you choose will all come down to how much hair has been lost already, the rate at which your hair is thinning and, sometimes, how old you are.

If you’re just getting started with hair loss treatment, you may be intrigued by topical medicines that promise to stop balding. One of the most popular treatments of this kind is Minoxidil, which you’ll often find under the brand name, Rogaine®. Learn if Rogaine works for hair loss.  

In this article, we’re going to be sharing a wealth of knowledge on Minoxidil with you, so you can decide whether this treatment is right for you. 

We’ll be covering everything from what it is, how it works, how effective it is, and whether you can expect to experience any side effects.

Keep reading to find out more!

For more information on similar medications please see our guides on Finasteride and Dutasteride, and our comparison of Finasteride vs Minoxidil.

What is Minoxidil?

Minoxidil is a popular medication for treating hair loss. It’s a topical medication that you can apply directly to your scalp and is designed to be used twice a day, every day.

It’s most commonly found under the brand name, Rogaine® but you can also find off-brand versions of the medication – that are normally cheaper.

How does Minoxidil work?

Minoxidil belongs to a family of medications which are known as ‘vasodilators’. 

They are products that are designed to widen your blood vessels – something that naturally happens anyway when the tissues in your body are in need of an increase in blood flow.

At the moment, there is a lack of evidence that pins down exactly how Minoxidil works to increase hair growth. 

However, some of the existing studies [2] that have conducted research into the efficacy of Minoxidil corroborate the theory that the medicine acts as a vasodilator that improves the blood flow to your scalp.

By improving the blood flow, Minoxidil is thought to encourage the flow of nutrients to your hair follicles which encourages them to enter the growth phase of the hair cycle – which helps guys suffering from hair loss prevent further balding. 

Minoxidil was actually discovered by accident after the medicine was given to severe refractory hypertension patients in the ‘70s. It was only after these patients started to see abnormal hair growth around their bodies that experts realised Minoxidil could be an effective remedy for hair loss.

Does Minoxidil work?

Like any hair loss treatment you’re looking at, the most important thing to know is whether it works or not. Luckily for those that are interested in this treatment, there has been a range of studies that have yielded positive results for this hair loss solution.

In one four-month study [3], 773 men suffering from androgenetic alopecia were instructed to apply 1ml of Minoxidil to the areas of their scalp where they were experiencing baldness, twice a day.

At the end of the study, only 54 of the 725 subjects who managed to see the trial through to the end found that the Minoxidil solution was ‘very effective’. However, 399 subjects said that they found it ‘effective’ and just 45 users didn’t find it effective at all.

In this same study, 74.2% of the 721 eligible subjects noticed an improvement in hair density. Also, around 60% of participants started to see results after just two months of daily Minoxidil application.

In another study [4], nine men aged between 18 and 49 were given 5% Minoxidil foam to apply twice daily for eight weeks and four men were given a placebo solution. 

By the end of the eight-week study, four out of the nine men using the Minoxidil solution had experienced hair growth.

Similarly, in a 2002 study [5] of 393 men aged between 18 and 49, experts compared 5% topical minoxidil with 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in an 8-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, multicenter trial.

During the trial, the group of participants who used the 5% topical minoxidil experienced quicker results and up to 45% more hair growth than the group using 2% topical minoxidil.

Does Minoxidil work for facial hair?

Minoxidil shows some very promising results for improving hair growth for men who are balding, and luckily for those who are also struggling to grow facial hair, there is evidence to show that Minoxidil is just as effective at stimulating hair growth on the face.

One study [6] discovered the effectiveness of Minoxidil for facial hair in a 16-week randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial of 48 men aged between 20 and 60 years. During the trial, participants were instructed to apply 0.5 ml of 3% Minoxidil to their chin and jawline twice daily.

At the end of the study, the hair count for men in the Minoxidil group was significantly higher than those taking a placebo solution. Overall, the study concluded that Minoxidil 3% lotion is safe and effective for beard enhancement. See before and after Minoxidil beard growth photos for more information.

Other studies have also detailed the application of Minoxidil for eyebrows. In one particular study [7], it was found that Minoxidil 2% lotion was effective at promoting eyebrow hair growth.

Does Minoxidil work for men and women?

Unlike some other hair loss treatments, Minoxidil can be used by both men and women. There have been many studies, as we’ve listed above, that have proved the effectiveness of the topical treatment for men suffering from hair loss.

Some treatments, like Finasteride and Dutasteride, which are hormone-blockers, can cause negative reactions in women. However, because Minoxidil is a topical treatment that doesn’t alter hormones, it’s perfectly safe for women who are experiencing hair loss to use as well.

In a study carried out in 2004 [8], 381 women aged between 18 and 49 with female pattern hair loss helped to compare the efficacy and safety of 5% topical minoxidil with 2% topical minoxidil and placebo.

After 48 weeks, it was found that 5% topical minoxidil was superior and helped to improve psychological perceptions of hair loss in participants.

See the results of using Minoxidil before and after treatment.

How to apply Minoxidil

Minoxidil can commonly be found in 5% and 2% dosages. If you want to see quicker results, we’d recommend going for the higher dosage. But, if this is your first time using the solution, you may want to start with the lower dosage and see how that works for you first, and to minimise potential side effects.

This hair loss treatment should be applied twice a day – most people will apply it in the morning and evening, a few hours before they go to bed – and it’s best to use 1ml during each application in the areas where you’re experiencing hair loss.

How long does it take Minoxidil to work?

For most people, it will take around eight weeks [2] before you start to notice any improvements after using Minoxidil. It will only be after the four-month mark that you’ll experience the real results, as long as you’ve kept up with consistent use.

If you want to benefit from the full results of taking Minoxidil, it’s important that you take the treatment as instructed in the product’s guidelines – which in most cases will mean using 1ml of the solution twice daily.

You may be tempted to use more than the recommended dosage, but we’d strongly recommend against doing this. It will not help encourage hair to grow quicker and could instead cause a range of side effects like skin irritation.

Are there any Minoxidil side effects?

Although the chances of getting any side effects from using Minoxidil are very slim as it’s a generally well-tolerated treatment, there are a small number of people that may experience some negative effects.

Some potential side effects of taking Minoxidil include:

  • Skin/scalp irritation
  • Rashes or itchiness
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Localized or generalized hypertrichosis – although this is most commonly observed when patients take oral Minoxidil, which is not normally used for hair loss.
  • Hair shedding, which is where your hair starts to fall out, which is a normal part of the hair growth cycle as your hair follicles make room for new growth
  • Changes in hair colour [9]

 

If any of these side effects of Minoxidil are experienced, they will normally go away after the first few weeks of use. If you notice that your side effects don’t clear up, or you’re having a severe reaction, it’s best to speak to your GP.

How to reduce the side effects of Minoxidil?

Although it’s not really possible to completely prevent the side effects that can sometimes occur when using Minoxidil, there are a few things that you can do to reduce your risk of experiencing them, like:

  • Only use the recommended dosage of Minoxidil
  • Washing your hands with soap and water after every application
  • Only applying product in areas where you’re experiencing hair loss
  • Check the shelf life of your product before using it

What to do when Minoxidil doesn’t work?

Minoxidil is an effective treatment to counteract the first signs of hair loss and balding however, it’s not a cure.

If you’ve found that Minoxidil has not worked for you, or you feel that your balding is so severe that a topical treatment won’t make a difference, there are other options available to you.

One of these options is to get a hair transplant. At Wimpole Clinic, we specialise in two of the most common forms of hair transplant: FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) transplants, or FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantations).

Both of these professional treatments are carried out by our team of professionals and can provide you with a long-lasting, natural solution to your hair loss.

Book a hair transplant consultation with Wimpole Clinic

If you’re interested in potentially getting a hair transplant with us, you may have a range of questions – which is good! If you want to find out more about the process with Wimpole Clinic, get in touch.

You can book a no-obligation consultation call with one of our experts where we’ll take you through everything and advise on whether this procedure could be right for you. 

Minoxidil Guide: Uses, Results & Side Effects, Wimpole Clinic

 

References:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308812/ 

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/ 

[3] https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(03)03693-4/fulltext 

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4362890/ 

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12196747/ 

[6] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1346-8138.13312 

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24471459/ 

[8] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15034503/ 

[9] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323951238_Loose_anagen_hair_syndrome_Treatment_with_systemic_minoxidil_characterised_by_marked_hair_colour_change  

Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by Dr Mir MalkaniUpdated on November 16, 2022
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani
Updated on November 16, 2022

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