How Does Minoxidil Work?

How Does Minoxidil Work?

If you’ve even vaguely done any reading around possible hair loss solutions, you’ve undoubtedly heard of minoxidil. Minoxidil (aka Rogaine) was first developed in the 1970s as an antihypertensive drug to treat high blood pressure, however one of the unexpected (and perhaps serendipitous) side effects of taking minoxidil orally was that it produced hair growth.1 This led to its introduction as a topical medication to treat male pattern hair loss (MPHL), for which it was approved by the FDA in 1998.

Despite the exact mechanism behind how minoxidil produces hair regrowth being poorly understood, it is still one of the most widely prescribed first-line medications for the treatment of hair loss in both men and women. As a topical medication, it’s effects beyond the scalp are minimal (hence its popularity) and is used in varying strengths from over-the-counter 2% to widely-used 5%, and in higher concentrations off-label. Clinical trials have demonstrated that 5% minoxidil is about 50% more effective than the 2% solution with respect to hair regrowth, and those using 5% reported an earlier response to treatment.2 The most common side effects reported with using topical minoxidil are redness of the scalp and itching, but these are usually short-lived and disappear as you continue to use the treatment.

For many years it was assumed that minoxidil worked by acting as a vasodilator, thereby allowing more blood, oxygen and essential nutrients to reach the hair follicle leading to superior growth. However, in other studies, more potent vasodilators were shown to be less effective in promoting hair growth. New research has shown that the active compound may in fact be minoxidil sulphate, one of its major metabolites which acts on various pathways to produce ATP (the major energy currency in your body) as well as a number of growth factors, which ultimately leads to your new head of hair.3

Minoxidil has been shown to shorten your hair’s telogen phase (when your hair is at rest and about to shed) and prematurely pushes it into the anagen phase (your hair’s growth phase) as well as increases the rate of follicular stem cell differentiation and DNA synthesis, all of which contributes to your hair growing back thicker, longer and stronger.3,4 Because minoxidil shortens the telogen phase, starting minoxidil will result in an increase in hair shedding in the initial 2-3 months while the new hairs in the anagen phase will lag behind as they take time to fully develop. This is the reason why most minoxidil users will only start to see results after 6 months of treatment.1

Along with finasteride, minoxidil is the only other FDA-approved treatment intended specifically for the management of male pattern hair loss. However, unlike finasteride, minoxidil does not affect the levels of any hormones and therefore may be a more suitable medication for those wishing to avoid any of the potential side effects that finasteride can cause. For more information on finasteride, check out our blog post on it.

The &BAM solution

The &BAM medical hair loss solution is a convenient all-in-one topical formulation with active pharmaceutical ingredients that you can simply apply directly to the affected areas of your scalp and leave on while the meds work their magic. It’s important to note that the positive effects of using minoxidil (and finasteride) persist only while you continue to use the treatment! Once you stop using the treatment your regrowth will stop and hair loss will resume. Proactive and consistent use of these medications over a minimum treatment period of 6 – 12 months will show the best results, with improvement continuing the longer the medications are used.

Feel like you could use a helping hand with your hair loss? Take our free online hair consult, which will be reviewed by a medical doctor and is 100% confidential.