One of the few available medicines to treat hair loss is minoxidil. It is sold under several different brand names. Minoxidil was originally developed as an oral drug for the treatment of high blood pressure. For that, it was not effective enough, but in the context of the tests, it was noted that it accelerated hair growth.
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What is Minoxidil?
For its current purpose of preventing baldness, Minoxidil was launched under the brand name Rogaine already in 1988, but it is still unknown what its effect is based on.
Minoxidil is a vasodilator, i.e. it widens blood vessels, and it is suspected that its hair-related effectiveness might be based on this feature. Minoxidil may possibly expand the blood vessels, thus carrying more oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles from which the hair grows. At present, there are two active ingredients against balding, minoxidil and finasteride.
Although Minoxidil was originally designed as an oral pill against hypertension, it is used to treat hair loss in its liquid form. It is either a solution or a spray that is applied directly to the problem area on the scalp. The product is perfect for both men and women. The difference is that men usually use a 5% concentration, while for women 2% is enough.
The purpose of the product is twofold, to prevent hair loss and to accelerate the growth of new hair. However, the effect is individual, and not immediate. Usually, it takes at least three months after the start of the treatment before the effects begin to appear and hair loss stops. The achievement of the desired results often takes a year for men and about 8 months for women. If the use of Minoxidil is discontinued, the effect of the product disappears and the condition of hair return to its original state about three to four months after discontinuation of the drug.
Most of the side effects from Minoxidil are skin-related. One of the most common ones is redness of the skin and itchiness where the substance has been applied. Other problems may be, for example, dry skin, skin flakiness, hair growth somewhere else than on the scalp, hair colour or texture change, headaches and hypotension. There may also be an accelerated hair loss at the beginning of the treatment, but this usually stops in a few weeks.
A very small proportion of Minoxidil is transported to the bloodstream, so the likelihood of counter interactions with other drugs is small. However, it is always advisable to talk to your doctor about the use of other medicines for safety reasons. In any case, a doctor should be consulted before starting to use the medicine although Minoxidil can be bought without a prescription.
Is the medication safe to use?
In a study by the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, side effects from Minoxidil were experienced by 3.9% of users but these were not serious ones. Minoxidil can, therefore, be said to be a fairly safe drug to use if you want to treat your hair loss in some way. However, it is worth to remember that Minoxidil will get thinner and shorter hair to grow better and more efficiently. However, if the hair has completely disappeared, minoxidil does not help.