Category Archives: Rogaine

How Does Minoxidil (Rogaine) Work?

How does Minoxidil work in growing hair? The below was originally written in 2014. It has now been updated with newer studies discussing Minoxidil’s mechanism of action in stimulating hair growth.

How Minoxidil Works -- Chemistry

Minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) is known to be one of only two medications officially approved for hair loss treatment (the other being Finasteride).

Minoxidil was first approved by the US FDA to treat hair loss in men in 1988. In 1991 the product was also made available for women with hair loss. Make sure to read my post on whether Minoxidil can grow a beard.

Also see some before and after results of Minoxidil and Finasteride.

How does Minoxidil Work?

Scientists do not know the exact mechanism via which Minoxidil® has a positive effect on hair growth. However, there are a number of proven mechanisms of action that suggests how Minoxidil works to stimulate hair growth.

The original use of Minoxidil was as an oral medication for high blood pressure. See my post on oral Minoxidil. The side effect of hypertrichosis (excessive body hair) led to its becoming a popular treatment option for hair loss.

To date, the main hypothesis about how does Minoxidil work relates to its vasodilatory, potassium channel opening and increased blood flow effects. There are also other theories about how Minoxidil helps grow scalp hair, and further below I have outlined all of the main ones.

It should be noted that Minoxidil, besides prolonging the growth phase of the hair cycle, has also been shows to increase the diameter of existing hair follicles. According to a study from 1988, seven subjects who received a 5 percent dose of minoxidil had a mean hair shaft diameter of 0.029 mm before treatment. This hair width then increased to 0.043 mm at 12 weeks.

Minoxidil Mechanism of Action Hair Growth Studies

The current findings provide evidence that minoxidil could be used to treat both cancer and age-related disease, and open a new avenue for applications of minoxidil in treating androgen-AR pathway-related diseases.

Minoxidil enhances hair keratinocyte proliferation and activates hDP cells to induce growth factors. IGF-1 is among these growth factors, and has been shown to exhibit a potent hair elongation effect.

Minoxidil Side Effects

In general, topical Minoxidil is well tolerated in most people at the typical 5% dosage. Most people even tolerate higher concentration levels of the drug. However, some people will get side effects.

The most common entail adverse skin reactions such as burning, itching, redness and stinging in the areas of application. Another common complaint is an increase in body hair growth after taking Minoxidil, especially in the forehead, eyebrow and beard regions.

In rare instances, people complain about dizziness or breathing difficulties after taking Minoxidil. Allergic reactions, including rashes, are also possible in some cases. Please see a doctor immediately if you get such serious side effects. Also make sure to stop using this medication right away.

Some people will shed a lot of hair after changing their Minoxidil® dosage. For those who quit Minoxidil entirely, a major shed of scalp hair is almost always guaranteed. Sometimes this can take weeks or even months after drug use cessation. In many instances, sheds are temporary and just the regular part of the hair cycle.

Minoxidil Toxicity in Cats

If you own pets, note that Minoxidil® is very poisonous to some animals, especially cats. If your cat is exposed to Minoxidil via a spill or accident, some side effects to look out for include:

  • Fatigue and lethargy.
  • Changes in heart rate due to cardiac damage.
  • Dehydration.
  • A drop blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Coughing.
  • Changes in appetite.

Prompt action and treatment by a veterinarian will prevent your cat from dying. If the medication was applied topically, make sure to wash the cat’s paws and fur promptly and thoroughly.

Do Finasteride and Minoxidil work?

On this blog, I try to somewhat limit discussion of the two main approved existing medications (Finasteride and Minoxidil) for treating hair loss, since I consider those treatments to be subpar in the modern world considering the tremendous progress that has been made in science and technology in the past several decades. The problems with Finasteride (brand name Propecia) and Minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) can be summed up as follows:

1)  Neither of the two medications work on everyone.

2) Even when they work, they tend not to grow lengthy hair, and they almost never grow decent quality hair on totally bald regions of the scalp.

3) They can both cause side effects, with Finasteride being the more dangerous of the two in that regard.

4) It seems that for most people, the medications stop working after a number of years.

5) You have to keep buying and using these medications permanently (or more accurately, till they lose their positive effects), or else any gains go away. Besides the significant expense involved, this is a nuisance since you have to regularly replenish supplies. If you travel away from home, you have to remember to take an appropriate quantity of these medications with you.

6) In the case of Finasteride you need a doctor’s prescription, which is yet one more expense and hassle. I get my prescription from a hair transplant doctor, and the last time I had to renew it, he charged me $50 for the visit plus wasted one hour of my time trying to convince me to get a small hair transplant in my frontal area. Luckily, I only take one pill every two days, and won’t need another prescription for a while.

Although this post has been very anti-medication thus far, it is also important for readers to take a look at the best case scenario, and for that I leave you with the a collection of links to before and after patient photos showing success with Finasteride and/or Minoxidil.

Moreover, even I have seen some success in hair growth with Finasteride and Minoxidil, despite only taking a quarter tab of 5mg Finasteride (Proscar) every two days and not using Minoxidil every day as recommended. However, I think that these medications are only giving me some short hair and an appearance of coverage in certain lighting. Overall, almost none of my hair can grow more than 2 inches anymore, and I am sure neither of these two medications will give me back most of the hair that I have already lost for more than a few years.