A Comprehensive Review of Minoxidil
If you are a man with hair loss and suffering with male-pattern baldness, Minoxidil is most likely not a foreign word to you. Minoxidil is, in fact, the active ingredient in many hair loss formulations and has been found to be effective in stopping and even reversing hair loss. Minoxidil belongs to a class of drugs known as vasodilators, which work by dilating blood vessels to increase blood flow to a certain area. This increased blood flow to the scalp could lead to hair loss prevention and potentially regrowth.
Treating Hair Loss With Minoxidil for Men
Minoxidil is one of few hair loss prevention products that is backed by scientific research and clinical trials. Not only is it one of the few ingredients that are proven to stop the loss of hair follicles, but it is among an even smaller list of active ingredients that will stimulate the regrowth of hair. By the age of 35, approximately 40 percent of men have noticeable hair loss. This number continues to rise with age. Hair loss can take an emotional and mental toll on a man, especially the younger that it occurs. For that reason, the medical community has sought to find answers to the hair loss dilemma.
The Different Types of Minoxidil 5%
Minoxidil was approved as a non-prescription hair loss prevention treatment by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 at a maximum five percent active ingredient rate only, no higher. While some products exist which contain two percent minoxidil, it is five percent that has been shown through studies to be the most effective.
There are four primary types of minoxidil for the treatment of hair loss; liquid, beard treatment, aerosol, and foam. The type chosen for use is generally dependent on preference or area being treated. The two most popular methods are liquid and foam. These two are generally more popular due to their application process. Some minoxidil users prefer the ease of applying foam while others feel more control when using a liquid.
The liquid version was the original and is still heralded as probably the best and most effective means of minoxidil application. The liquid formulation of minoxidil generally contains propylene glycol, water, and alcohol, along with the active ingredient.
Liquid minoxidil, when compared to other types, takes the lead as most preferred when it comes to cost. It is generally more cost effective to purchase the liquid version, but only by a couple of dollars, so many minoxidil users may prefer the trade-off of convenience to cost. However, some minoxidil users believe that more foam is needed to get the same amount of coverage as a liquid, so depending on the amount that is used at application it may be even cheaper than originally thought.
The foam formulation is rapidly growing as the most popular method of application. Minoxidil foam was developed as an answer to adverse reactions from hypersensitivity to propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is the carrier agent of the active ingredient, minoxidil, in the liquid version of this hair loss product. By removing this ingredient, the foam application could be developed. It has been convenient for this reason, as well as foam minoxidil users feel they are more in control of where the product is applied.
Users of Minoxidil foam application also feel that they waste less of the product because they can control exactly where it is being applied. Foam users also agree that it is easier and more convenient to use in relation to the application because it is “less messy” than the liquid version. The foam is quick drying and is thought to be not as greasy as its liquid counterpart. So for general aesthetic reasons, it is also rated high.
Minoxidil Beard Treatment
The beard is rapidly becoming a popular male “accessory” and the market for facial hair products is growing just as quickly. For those men who cannot grow facial hair or are unable to grow their beards to the thickness that they desire, minoxidil may be the perfect solution. While minoxidil was not traditionally developed for beard growth there have been anecdotal reports of significance and scientific data that suggests minoxidil 5% can be effective at growing beard hair.
Begin with a small supply, around three months worth, of either liquid or foam. Apply the product one a day for the first week to rule out any potential irritation, then move on to the recommended twice a day dosage. It is best to leave the product in for around four hours, but it can be washed out after four hours. However, some people choose to leave it in all day until their evening application.
Patience is important with any type of minoxidil, but especially for the would-be beard grower. It can take around eight to 10 weeks before a difference is apparent and after that, there may be shedding observed. This is normal as new growth patterns develop.
The final method of application is aerosol and spray versions. These are a mixture of the foam and liquid versions. An aerosol is a white foam that is thought to allow for easier application. A spray allows application of a liquid type with a bit more control than a traditional dropper applicator.
Does Minoxidil Work?
In a word, yes. Minoxidil has proven itself to be one of the most effective hair loss prevention and regrowth treatments on the market. It works by activating prostaglandin endoperoxide synthase-1, which is an enzyme heavily correlated with hair and hair growth. Minoxidil has been around for over 20 years and was originally used for the treatment of hypertension. It is still not fully understood how minoxidil works to stop hair loss and encourage regrowth, but studies and results show that no matter how it works.
One primary study of minoxidil in the treatment of male pattern baldness showed men who used five percent versus two percent minoxidil had a 55 percent increase in hair regrowth within five months. This was compared to men who used two percent for the same amount of time and only saw a 25 percent increase in hair regrowth.
To fully understand and know that minoxidil is an effective hair loss treatment is important to understand the hair growth cycle. Hair growth cycle includes four stages. One, anagen stage where hair is actively growing. Two, the catagen stage where hair is slowly degenerating in growth. Third, the telogen stage in which the shedding of inactive and resting hairs occurs. And fourth, the exogen stage where there is a primary shedding of the hair.
Minoxidil works by prolonging the anagen phase where hair is actively growing. Hair loss among men is generally related to a shortening of the anagen phase. This phase is generally slowed due to testosterone and DHT levels in the body. Though it is not completely understood how minoxidil will extend this phase.
The Minoxidil Side Effects
As with any medication or treatment, there will be side effects. The side effects of minoxidil in the treatment of hair loss range from minor to severe. Shedding is a common side effect seen at the onset of treatment. The minoxidil user may experience some hair loss initially that is observed through shedding, but this should not be alarming, as it indicates that the minoxidil is working. A new hair growth cycle will begin with some form of shedding or hair loss ranging from a small to a large amount.
There are some side effects that are more serious and may require you speaking with your healthcare provider if they are severe or persistent. Flaking skin, irritation, burning, dryness, or itching are all common side effects, but if they persist consider speaking with a doctor or discontinue use.
Some more severe side effects that are not normal include; weight gain, swelling of the face, hands, ankles, or stomach, difficulty breathing, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and lightheadedness. If any of these are experienced by the minoxidil user, they should discontinue use and seek medical treatment immediately.
Not all side effects are negative. The most common and expected side effect is the slowing of hair loss and hair regrowth. The thickening of the hair is also a positive side effect. Some minoxidil users have seen a decrease in acne when they use minoxidil as a beard growing treatment.
The Recommended Minoxidil Dosage
In most products containing minoxidil, it is recommended to apply topically 1mL twice a day. Do not exceed 2mL a day of minoxidil. However, each minoxidil user should read their specific minoxidil product or speak with their healthcare provider for specific dosing needs. For foam products, the dosage is normally written as half a cap full twice a day. While it is recommended to use the product twice a day, some recent evidence shows that it might be effective at just one application a day.
If a dose is skipped it is not recommended that you apply double to the next scheduled application. Rather, skip that dose and continue with your normally scheduled doses. Do not apply more than recommended in an attempt to speed up hair growth. It is also recommended to avoid using this product on irritated or sunburned skin.
Poison control should be contacted immediately is minoxidil is ingested as it can be unsafe. Minoxidil is also quite flammable and should be stored away from heat or open flames. Some drug interactions may exist. If taking medication for blood pressure a healthcare provider should be notified. Some drugs that interact with alcohol may also interact with minoxidil. Considering the flammable nature of the product the minoxidil user should also avoid an open flame after minoxidil has been applied.
While overdose is uncommon symptoms should be taken seriously. Overdose symptoms include fainting, dizziness, drowsiness, and flushing. If a minoxidil user experiences any of these symptoms they should seek immediate medical attention.
Where to Buy Minoxidil
Minoxidil is an over the counter medication that can be purchased at any local drug store, pharmacy, most retail stores, and online. As with any product quality is important and should be considered in the purchasing of minoxidil. However, as long as the label states that it is five percent minoxidil it should work as effectively as the next product.
Two common brand names of minoxidil are Rogaine and Theroxidi but, there is a wide variety of generic versions. With the rise in popularity of this ingredient, there are a growing number of minoxidil subscription options.
A large number of minoxidil options can be overwhelming. Minoxidil is one of three primary hair loss prevention products; Minoxidil, Propecia, and ketoconazole.
As with any medication or treatment, there are pros and cons to each. The pros of minoxidil include that it is FDA approved, increases blood flow to the hair follicles, stimulates and prolongs the androgen phase of the hair growth cycle, leads to fuller thicker hair by increasing the diameter of the hair shaft, is available over the counter making it easy to gain access to, over two years of use can stimulate new hair growth, provides results after four to six months. Propecia is not available over the counter.
There are some cons to minoxidil as well. Among the top common cons are that it requires discipline for daily and prolonged use, may not work for everyone as effectively, it is non-herbal which some minoxidil users prefer, the same rate of hair loss will ensue if treatment is stopped, can become costly considering the long-term necessity of use.
Final Thoughts on Minoxidil
Minoxidil is not meant to be a cure, but for the man who is wanting to stop hair loss and experience some hair regrowth without surgical intervention, it is a fantastic option. Once minoxidil is stopped hair loss may ensue. But for the minoxidil user willing to put in the time, money, and effort, it could be a life-changing addition to any hair health regimen. When stacked against other hair prevention methods, both medication and surgical, minoxidil is proven to be the best choice.