How Does Minoxidil Work?

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 before and after results of patients on Minoxidil and/or Finasteride.

How does Minoxidil Work?

However, even as of 2014, scientists do not know the exact mechanism via which Minoxidil has a positive effect on hair growth. The original use of Minoxidil was as an oral medication for high blood pressure. 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 Minoxidil works relates to its vasodilatory, potassium channel opening and increased blood flow effects/properties. 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, which then increased to 0.043 mm at 12 weeks.

Minoxidil and Hair Growth Related 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.

  • In February 2017, an unrelated study from Japan had this to say about Minoxidil:

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.

One thought on “How Does Minoxidil Work?”

  1. Hi
    I had hair loss a couple years ago due to some underlying issue, which has now been resolved.
    I resorted to Minoxidil immediately (which in hindsight I wish I hadnt), and my hair began to shed like crazy.
    I stopped using for a month, and almost a year later my hair has not recovered from the shedding period.
    The underlying issue is no longer present, I have no real hair loss, and no miniturisation of the hair shafts.
    Can you shed some light as to why this might be?

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