Minoxidil is one of the advised and prescribed drugs for the cure of androgenetic alopecia (or common baldness). It is the only drug, together with Finasteride, approved by FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) in the USA against hair loss.
It is a topic therapy that has to be applied directly on the scalp. It can be found on the market in a 2% or 5% concentration. It is able to reduce the hair fall and, in some cases, to favour a regrowth, at least temporary.
Minoxidil is present on the market with the following names:
All these versions present a 2% or 5% solution, associated with some other products such as water, glycols and alcohols. The 5% solution is the most effective. This has been demonstrated by a study carried out in 1984 and pubblished on the American Academy of Dermatology Journal. 393 bald people partecipated in the study, taking different percentages of Minoxidil for 48 weeks, as follows:
- To 157 was prescribed Minoxidil 5% twice a day;
- To 158 was prescribed Minoxidil 2% twice a day;
- The last group of 78 people took a placebo twice a day.
At the end of the 48 weeks, those who had used Minoxidil 5% recorded a 45% faster and superior regrowth of the hair than those who had taken Minoxidil 2%. At the same time though, the first group suffered from itching at the scalp. Consequently, the experts usually prescribe Minoxidil 2% for the cases in which baldness is at the fist stages, and Minoxidil 5% in the most severe cases.
The american pharmaceutical company Upjohn Company was the responsable for the birth of the active substance Minoxidil, at the end of the 1970s. At the beginnig, the drug was used against hypertension, thanks to its ability as a vasodilator, which allowed a decrease of the blood pressure. It was assumed orally.
Among the identified sides effectes there were hypertrichosis and hair growth. That is why some experts thought about using Minoxidil against baldness.
In order to avoid sides effects in the individuals who took the drug without suffering from hypertension, the experts though about using it directly on the skin.
Through the years, hypertension started being cured with more effective drugs, and Minoxidil kept on being used against baldness.
Minoxidil can be found only in pharmacies to medical prescription. Moreover, many pharmacies nowadays offer to integrate Minoxidil with some more active substances that make it even more effective. For example, they use progesterone, ciproterone acetate, spironolactone etc. This is called a galenic preparation.
How does Minoxidil work?
Minoxidil is a chemical compound indicated with the following formula: C9H15N5O. It takes action on the hair fall, modifying the cycle of life of the hair follicle. Specifically, it extends the anagen phase, the phase of growth, and reduces the catagen and telogen phases.
The drug brings to an increase in the production of beta-catenina, a specific protein of the dermal papilla of the follicle. This brings to a synchronisation in the cycles of life of every follicle. This is why the hair gets longer and develops a larger diameter.
Minoxidil is a great vasodilator. This feature is not enough to favour an hair regrowth, otherwise every vasodilator drug would have the same good effects on the scalp.
Manner of use
Minoxidil is a drug for topical use, so it has to be applied directly on the scalp. It presents a vaporizer or a dropper. The drug has to be massaged with the fingers on the skin.
The experts recommend not to exaggerate with the dosage and to follow the instruction of the doctor, in order to avoid irritation, flaking and redness. Usually, 2 applications per day are recommended, in order to respect the times of absorption. Some dermatologists think that one application is enough to obtain the good effects and to avoid irritations for the skin.
Formats on the market
Minoxidil is present on the market:
- In the form of a foam: ideal for those who have very shor of shaved hair and a sensitive skin. It does not contain glycol.
- In the form of a lotion: a fluid preparation that contains propylene glycol as vehicle.
- Galenic preparations.
Among the most common side effects there are:
- Contact dermatitis due to an allergy to the components;
- Dry skin;
- Skin irritations;
- The hair will look greasy;
- In case of contact, eye irritation;
- Irregular heartbeat;
- Light headedness;
- Water retention;
- Swelling of the hand and feet.
Minoxidil 2% can be used by women. However, it has to be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Moreover, it is opportune to avoid Minoxidil if you suffer from hypertension, heart disease, arrhythmia, since it reduces the blood pressure.
Hair loss caused by Minoxidil
When experts talk about “induced by Minoxidill fall” they refer to a physiological phenomenon that usually causes concerns in the patients. Since Minoxidil synchronizes the cycle of life of the follicle, it is very likely that much hair will fall. After that, new hair will grow with the beginning of a new anagen phase.
It is totally normal to see that hair falls, in the first months of cure. It is important not to be scared and not to suddenly stop the treatment, since it would cause a severe fall.
How to stop taking Minoxidil?
If you decide to stop taking Minoxidil, it is opportune to turn to a specialist in order to understand how to do it without problems or severe hair falls. This phenomenon may happen since Minoxidil synchronizes the growth of the follicles and so all the follicles will reach the telogen phase, the phase in which it falls, at the same time.
With the time, the cycle of life of the hair will come back as it was before Minoxidil and the hair will grow in an asyncronous way. Of course it is possible to stop taking the drug. However it is opportune to turn to an expert that will help you in planning a gradual suspension. The professionals usually suggest to reduce the dosage in around three months. This way the follicles can gradually get used to the new condition.
When the drug is not taken anymore, its benefits will fade. If the drug is suspendend for just a few days, the follicles will not be demaged. However, it is suggested to avoid interruptions as much possible.