Minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine) was originally developed to treat high blood pressure (Minoxidil-Oral). Its use for preserving thinning hair was discovered when it was noted to cause increased hair growth as a complication of this treatment.
It works by increasing the local blood supply of the thinning area thus stimulating new hair growth, particularly in the crown of the scalp BUT objective evidence shows that minoxidil is effective in frontal areas of the scalp, and not just in the vertex area in male-pattern hair loss.
This led to the development of topical (solution applied to the skin) minoxidil for the treatment of male-pattern baldness. In women, it is used to treat diffuse loss of hair or thinning of hair in the frontal areas of the scalp.
The key to using this topical treatment is to begin using it early. The best candidates are those who are thinning but not bald. Those with a higher density of hair at the beginning of treatment are good candidates.
Minoxidil solution comes as a 2% and 5% topical solution and as a 5% Foam solution.
Women should only use the 2% minoxidil solution as the 5% solution is too strong and will have increased side effects, Also Minoxidil should not be used in pregnancy because it has not been studied adequately in pregnant women.
Minoxidil should not be used with other topical medications because they may increase its absorption and side effects.
The most common problem is irritation of the skin. If the medication is stopped, after prolonged use, hair loss may increase.
Minoxidil should be applied as 1 ml of solution or half a cap full of foam to dry hair and scalp once in the morning and again in the evening. It should be spread evenly over the affected areas, and then the hands should be washed with warm water (if the hands are used for application).
The soution must be applied on the scalp at least twice daily and for at least four months to see results. Note it is common for there to be an temporary increase in hair shedding, this is NORMAL and it can last up to two weeks.
It works less well in patients that are older, have larger areas of baldness, and have been bald for longer periods of time. Minoxidil should be applied to a dry scalp only, and left in place for at least four hours. Minoxidil must be continued in order to maintain or increase the hair growth achieved.
Minoxidil Side Effects
Adverse reactions include irritation of the skin, itching, contact dermatitis, and dryness of the scalp or flaking. An increase in the absorption of minoxidil from the scalp can occur in patients with damaged skin, leading to increased side effects.
Because it contains alcohol that can irritate the eyes wash you hands after each application. In case of accidental contact with eyes or other sensitive areas, the exposed area should be washed with cool water. If the medication is stopped, after prolonged use, hair loss may increase.
*Note, Minoxidil is highly toxic to cats and can cause death when applied to their skin.
Major complications are rare, but patients who suffer from heart disease or hypertension should check with their doctor before beginning treatment.
Actual Minoxidil Test Results: At the conclusion of a 48 week study, improvements were seen in the frontal scalp regions of 51% of men using 5% minoxidil, 42% using 2% minoxidil, and 13% of placebo users. Among these men, moderate to great increases in hair growth were seen in the frontal scalp regions of 19% of men using 5% minoxidil, 10% using 2% minoxidil, and 3% of placebo users.
One study in healthy males aged 18–50 years with androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) found that compared to a baseline of 103 to 106 hairs/cm2, those who applied of a 5% solution of minoxidil for 32 weeks increased their non-vellus hair counts by an average of 39 hairs/cm2, in contrast to 5 hairs/cm2in subjects who received a placebo.
Minoxidil Storage: Minoxidil should be stored at room temperature, 20-25 C (68-77 F).
Minoxidil products involve contact with hair strands, which may cause problems with hair styling since minoxidil must be in an alcohol solution.
To keep the minoxidil solution from affecting normal hair styling applications, it can be washed out after at least 40 minutes, although this will decrease the hair regrowth effect.
For maximum effect, the solution should be in contact with the scalp for four hours before being washed out. If the solution is not a problem, hair styling devices can be used as soon as the minoxidil solution has dried.