Minoxidil - Hair Loss & Hair Transplant Surgery Guide

What is Minoxidil?

Treatment for male hair loss has rapidly grown into a £multi-million industry in the UK. There are now a bewilderingly wide array of products and treatments available, but how do you know whether they will work?

Currently, there are only two types of medicine that research has shown to work and that have been approved by the FDA. The first is Minoxidil, while the second is Finasteride. The majority of hair restoration products and treatments use one or both of these medicines as their basis. In this article, we will take a closer look at Minoxidil. How successful is it? How much does it cost? Where can you get it? And does it have any potential side effects?

Minoxidil: the background

Minoxidil was not originally developed as a treatment for male pattern baldness. In its first inception, it was a tablet taken as a remedy for high blood pressure. However, patients who took Minoxidil reported that their hair thickened as a side effect.

Minoxidil was therefore re-packaged as a treatment for male-pattern baldness and first marketed in the 1980s in the USA as a product called Rogaine. It was later launched in the UK under the brand-name Regaine.

In its new form, it is a solution that is massaged into the hair and scalp twice every day. There are now a number of versions of Minoxidil products, which vary in strength and which can be applied in different ways, as a spray, a foam, a liquid or a gel.

Minoxidil: how it works

The truth is that nobody really understands yet why Minoxidil can stimulate hair re-growth. There are lots of speculative ideas. Some experts suggest that it is because Minoxidil reduces calcium in hair cell follicles. Others suggest it is because Minoxidil increases the flow of blood - and therefore vitamins and nutrients - to the hair follicles. But any theory is yet to be conclusively proved correct.

It is also important to mention that Minoxidil does not work for every case of male-pattern baldness. Some research suggests that Minoxidil is more effective when treating earlier cases of alopecia and less effective when the hair loss is already more extensive. For around half of the men who try Minoxidil, male pattern baldness slows down noticeably.  About fifteen percent of individuals will see their hair strengthening and thickening. Around 33%, unfortunately, see no change at all to their male-pattern baldness. Minoxidil also seems to work better for younger men.

Minoxidil: application

The recommended application of minoxidil products is twice daily, directly to the affected areas. As minoxidil promotes hair growth, it is important to remember to wash your hands after applying it to your scalp, so that you do not accidently transfer the Minoxidil to your face, for example. You should also avoid applying it directly before you go to bed, to avoid the Minoxidil transferring to your pillow and therefore onto your face during the night.

As we mentioned earlier, Minoxidil can now be applied in different forms and via different types of applicator mechanisms. Different applicators are designed to suit male-pattern baldness at different stages, enabling you to concentrate on smaller areas or to apply it more evenly over a larger area.

Minoxidil: potential side effects

As Minoxidil is applied directly to the scalp, the most common side effect is caused by applying too much. This can cause itchiness, dandruff, soreness and inflammation of the scalp. It some cases, which are very uncommon, it can provoke an allergic reaction which results in dermatitis. This will vanish once the treatment has been stopped.

Because Minoxidil was originally created as a drug to reduce high blood pressure, some of the side effects can be related back to its original use. Some people experience reduced blood pressure or an increase heart rate. For this reasons, if you have a history of heart conditions you should seek medical advice.

Minoxidil is also poisonous to cats and can result in their death if it is applied directly to their skin.

Minoxidil: the costs

Minoxidil is an over-the-counter medicine that does not require a prescription. The recommendation is that you use it for at least six months before evaluating whether the treatment has been successful or not. It is also a good idea to take pictures before you start and at regular intervals, so that you can judge objectively how much difference the treatment has made. Usually, a six-month supply of Minoxidil will cost between £80 and £100.

Minoxidil: summary

It is fair to say that Minoxidil has mixed results, a fact which is probably exacerbated by the realisation that the science and medical communities do not have a clear understanding of how or why it works. As a treatment, it can give the impression of being slightly hit and miss.

However, it does produce results  for many men with alopecia. If it is applied regularly over a sustained period of time, it can be responsible for thicker hair and stronger follicles that make a real difference to some individuals and their self-esteem.

At the same time, don’t forget that applying Minoxidil-based products is not going to cure your alopecia. Minoxidil only has a temporary effect and if you stop using your Minoxidil, then your hair can relapse back to a weakened state the next time it enters the telogen, or resting phase.

What happens if Minoxidil does not produce the results you require? If, over a number of months of using Minoxidil, there is no visible improvement, you may need to explore other avenues. There are other articles on this site which can give you detailed information about treatments such as Finasteride or procedures such as hair transplant surgery.

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