Minoxidil - benefits, uses and side effects

About Dr Jaspreet Sarna
Dr. Sarna is an MD (Skin & VD) and Gold Medalist from Baroda Medical College. She has a decade long experience in treating hair loss and working on hair regrowth. She believes stress management is the key to good health.
Read the blog to know more about Minoxidil- a topical solution which stimulates regrowth of thicker hair and elongates growth phase. Also get to know if it can cause any side effects.
Minoxidil - benefits, uses and side effects

 

If you are facing androgenic alopecia or male/female pattern baldness, chances are you've heard about minoxidil and minoxidil side effects. So let us dig a little deeper into this. 

What is the history of minoxidil?

Minoxidil is a vasodilator. It means it dilates blood vessels to increase blood flow wherever you apply it. It was accidentally discovered as a hair loss treatment. During clinical trials for an oral BP medication that contained minoxidil, people started noticing increased body hair and people who had androgenic alopecia saw improved hair density and volume. So, pharma companies decided to create a topical solution with 5% minoxidil to treat and reverse androgenic alopecia. In 1986 the 2% Minoxidil solution was launched and the 5% solution in 1993.

How does it work for pattern hair loss?

Androgenic alopecia is triggered by multiple factors such as genetic history, excess levels of DHT, internal health, diet and lifestyle. Minoxidil is used to reverse the damage that DHT causes to your hair follicles. 

Also Read: What Does Minoxidil Do For Hair Regrowth?

What does DHT do to your hair follicles and how does minoxidil work to fix it?

Dihydrotestosterone is a byproduct of testosterone. Excess DHT converts into an enzyme that attaches itself to your hair follicles and causes them to shrink. Shrinking follicles means reduced blood flow. Lesser blood flow reduces the supply of oxygen-rich blood and nutrition to your hair follicles. This causes them to age prematurely. With every cycle that your hair follicle shrinks your hair starts to get thinner. And the anagen or growth phase of your hair starts getting shorter. Meaning your hair will take longer to grow, and will grow less than normal. Hair follicles will shrink for several years before they die. Once dead they cannot be activated and only a hair transplant can restore hair growth in that area. 

Enter minoxidil. Minoxidil increases the blood flow of oxygen and nutrient rich blood to your hair follicles. This stimulates and revives them. Thereby, elongating the anagen or growth phase. This means once again the hair will start growing thicker and healthier with each cycle. 

Because it is used in a topical solution the absorption is limited and does not affect the body.

What are the side effects of minoxidil?

A lot of people believe that minoxidil and finasteride are interchangeable. However, finasteride is a completely different hair loss treatment compound. It is a DHT blocker that helps reduce the excess production of DHT in your body. It can be taken topically and orally. When used orally it can interact with your hormonal balance. About 2% of the people who use finasteride orally may experience side effects such as erectile dysfunction or low sex drive. However, when used topically on its own or combined with minoxidil it has no side effects. Coming to the side - effects of minoxidil. Minoxidil is a prescription medication in India. It is prescribed in concentrations of 2%, 5%, 7% and 10%. When used with a doctor prescription it has minimal side effects. In some people with sensitive or dry scalp, it can cause flakiness, dry hair and scalp irritation. 

However, in some very rare cases minoxidil usage can result in: 

  1. Scalp acne 
  2. Burning of scalp 
  3. Dizziness or lightheadedness 
  4. Face swelling 

This is why when you are on the Traya hair loss treatment. Not only does a doctor analyse your health and hair history before prescribing you minoxidil. But you are also assigned a hair coach to ensure that you have assistance in case you experience any minoxidil side effects.

Also Read: How To Regrow Thinning Hair

So, does this mean minoxidil is safe for everyone? 

No, serious minoxidil side effects risk are higher in people who should not be using minoxidil. Minoxidil is not recommended for people with hypertension, heart diseases, palpitations, pregnant and breastfeeding women and anyone with a history of allergy to minoxidil. In fact, there is a handy test to check if you are allergic to any topical solution. Take 1 ml of the solution and apply it to the back of your neck and wait for 24 hours. If you have a reaction you are allergic and should look for alternates, if not then you are good to go. 

But isn't excess hair fall one of the minoxidil side effects?

No! In fact, it is a sign that minoxidil is working. Minoxidil works by getting your hair cycle back to normal. For this, it needs to get rid of the unhealthy hair from the existing hair cycle. So, it pushes hair that is in the growth phase into the falling phase sooner than it would normally. So it can be replaced with thick and healthy hair from a new cycle. This is why when you apply minoxidil you start seeing increased hair loss after a few weeks. Which can last for a few weeks. This sends people into panic and they stop using minoxidil and miss out on seeing its benefits. It is like quitting your weight loss journey after your first cardio session. Doesn't make sense right? Now you know that excess hair fall is not one of the minoxidil side effects but instead a part of the process. 

But what about the side effects after stopping the use of minoxidil?

Androgenic alopecia or male/female pattern baldness is not a curable condition. It is a manageable condition. It means you can prevent baldness by taking control of your hair loss condition at the right time. Some people are okay to use minoxidil for a long time and why not? It has been deemed safe for long term use by doctors after years of research. But if you are someone who wants to stop using minoxidil and are worried about minoxidil side effects after stopping its use. You should read on. 

  • Minoxidil should not be stopped abruptly. You need to reduce the frequency of application slowly if you want to stop using it 
  • You should consider replacing it with an alternative like redensyl, procapil or capixyl. 
  • You should be prepared to use it again in case hair loss increases due to other triggers 
  • You should commit to healthier diet and lifestyle choices in the long term 

How to use minoxidil to avoid minoxidil side effects?

Make sure you get a proper diagnosis and prescription before using minoxidil. You can get a free hair expert consultation on Traya. Use minoxidil only in the prescribed quantity and way. Minoxidil only needs to be used in the affected area and gently massaged to facilitate absorption. Don't use excess amounts which might cause dripping to other non-affected spots. And make sure your scalp is healthy and free from dandruff before applying it. 

Is minoxidil enough for hair growth?

No! Now you know about minoxidil side effects, history, usage and function. So you understand that minoxidil can only influence the follicle health factor of hair loss and not the internal health bit. For that, you need a holistic approach and that's where Ayurveda and nutrition come in. That's why Traya combines three sciences to fix your hair loss. 

Take away

Minoxidil is FDA approved, safe to use and is effective in treating androgenic alopecia when used as part of a complete treatment. But make sure you use it with a doctor prescription and in the correct dosage. If you want more information about your hair loss condition and minoxidil side effects then book a free call with Traya's hair experts today. 

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