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What Is Minoxidil? The Science Behind This Prescription Hair Loss Treatment

Minoxidil, or the active ingredient in Rogaine, has been billed as a miracle cure for hair loss. But what is it, really? And more importantly, who does it help? Hair thinning can be a painful process so we take special notice when we find something that can stop or reverse it. While we’ve tried the natural route (hello, rosemary oil) it’s not every day we find an actually clinically proven solution to hair loss. So, to learn more about this ingredient, we checked in with an expert for a guide on what it is, its side effects, benefits, and how to use it.

Person applying minoxidil to their hair to treat hair loss | Mane Addicts

(Image Source: Pexels / Scandinavian Biolabs)

About the Expert

Azza Halim, M.D., is a board-certified aesthetic medicine, anti-aging, and regenerative medicine physician.

What Is Minoxidil?

Minoxidil was originally developed to lower blood pressure in the 1960s, with a happy side effect being hair growth. It was then formulated into a topical treatment to treat hair loss in men as Rogaine, followed by a female-specific product. Board-certified physician Azza Halim, M.D. explains, “It is a vasodilator medication that can be taken as a pill or applied topically.” This means it “expands blood vessels to increase flow, circulation, and add nutrients to the follicles,” she continues.

What Are Its Benefits?

The main benefit of minoxidil is restoring hair—even a little bit back can be a huge confidence booster. According to Dr. Halim, minoxidil “may expand the hair follicles, especially those that shrunk over time or in response to hormonal changes,” which translates to more sustained growth. “It also prolongs the growth phase of the hair cycle,” aka the anagen phase, she notes. Minoxidil can increase hair thickness, density, and treat hair disorders like androgenetic alopecia and female pattern hair loss.

Who Is the Best Candidate for Minoxidil?

“Ideal candidates are those in early stages of hair loss or thinning,” says Dr. Halim. All hair types can take minoxidil, though it may be less effective on women with natural hair who have scarring from alopecia. Pregnant women can’t take minoxidil, and it isn’t safe for nursing mothers either. It can cause irritation when mixed with hair dye, though it can be used on color-treated hair.

What Are the Side Effects of Minoxidil?

“As with everything there are pros and cons/side effects,” Dr. Halim tells us. “Side effects include scalp dryness, irritation, low blood pressure, allergic reaction, and rarely—but it is possible—to trigger interim hair loss before stimulating hair growth.” Other side effects include unwanted hair growth, lightheadedness, and scalp irritation.

How to Use Minoxidil Effectively

“Minoxidil must be applied topically twice a day,” says Dr. Halim. Don’t expect instant gratification, however, as “results take three to four months.” If you stop minoxidil, be warned that hair will revert to the thickness it would have been if you didn’t take it at all, not where it was when you started—this can be a shocker. “The downside is once discontinued, hair then reverts to baseline and new growth will be lost within few months, therefore, it needs maintained use,” she continues. Minoxidil giveth and minoxidil taketh away.

Best Minoxidil Hair Products

1. Hers Women’s Minoxidil 2% Topical Solution: $45

This 2% solution is clinically proven to help fight hair loss by activating hair follicles at the scalp and extending your hair’s natural growth cycle. You can even subscribe to get this product delivered to your door every month so you won’t miss out on a treatment.

(Image Source: Forhers.com)

2. Keranique Minoxidil Spray Hair Regrowth Treatment for Women: $29

With a 4.2 star review from nearly 200 reviews on Ulta, it’s no wonder this treatment is recommended by so many. Yes, it does take about three to six months for results to show, but once they do, you’ll realize why it was worth the wait.

(Image Source: Ulta.com)

3. Women’s Rogaine 5% Minoxidil Foam for Hair Thinning and Loss: $62.99

A 5% topical treatment, Rogaine’s four-month supply will take you to the first stages of hair regrowth.

(Image Source: Walgreens.com)

4. Elevate Hair Growth Oil: $17.05

Promote hair growth with minoxidil and refresh follicles naturally with biotin, thanks to this hair growth oil. You’ll be happy to know it’s free of parabens, gluten, sulfates, and any other nasty ingredients that may irritate your scalp. Translation? You likely won’t experience any minoxidil side effects.

(Image Source: Amazon.com)

5. Musely The Hair Solution: $74

Minoxidil meets DHT blocker Finasteride and Spironolactone, which slows the production of hair loss-causing hormones. People who have used this treatment have said they noticed hair regrowth in as little as one month.

(Image Source: Musely.com)

Think your hair loss may be due to COVID? A derm explains how to combat COVID-related hair loss HERE.

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