Minoxidil: non-surgical treatment for thinning hair
Minoxidil is an over the counter medication for the treatment of androgenic alopecia. As with Finasteride, Minoxidil stops hair loss and promotes hair growth and has been proven to be most effective in the early stages of hair loss. Unlike Finasteride, which is an oral tablet, Minoxidil is applied directly to the scalp daily.
At the start of treatment, the new hair can be lighter in colour and downy and has less visible benefits. However, as you continue treatment, the hair begins to colour and thicken to match the healthy hair on your head.
You will see Minoxidil marketed under a range of brand names, including: Rogaine, Avacor Physician’s Formulation, Loniten (oral), Amexidil, Spectral DNC, Vanarex and Mintop.
How does Minoxidil work to prevent hair loss?
Put simply, it is not fully understood how Minoxidil works. Its application to promote hair growth was actually discovered by accident as the drug was originally used as a treatment for high blood pressure.
It is thought to work by widening blood vessels (hence its use in treating high blood pressure), which allows more oxygen, blood and nutrients to reach the hair follicle. This is thought to stimulate the hair follicles to proceed through the natural growth cycle, causing hairs to leave the Telogen phase (the resting stage) and be replaced by thicker hairs in a new Anagen phase (the active growth stage).
What are the downsides to Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is less effective when there is a large area of hair loss, so it is not the best solution for more advanced alopecia. If you have a medium to large amount of hair loss, a hair transplant procedure would generate a more desirable result.
The effectiveness of this medication has mostly been demonstrated in younger men who have only experienced hair loss for less than 5 years. And like with many non-surgical treatments for hair loss, when you stop taking the medication your hair will start to fall out again at the rate it was before you began treatment, usually within 30 to 60 days.