Minoxidil is a medication originally used to treat high blood pressure. However, it was later discovered that a side effect of Minoxidil tablets was an increase in hair growth and thickness, which pleased those patients who were experiencing balding. It’s now been formulated as a liquid or foam to apply to the scalp to target the most common type of hair loss, often associated with ageing, called male or female pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia.
Minoxidil tablets can still be used to treat hypertension, but it’s not one of the common treatments.
Minoxidil hair loss treatment can be obtained without a prescription from a pharmacy or online in two strengths, 2% (recommended for females) and 5% (recommended for males). Minoxidil should be applied twice daily, 12 hours apart and allowed to work for at least 4 hours without washing or rinsing the area.
Minoxidil is mainly used for male pattern baldness, which is recognised by the receding hairline from the temples and later the middle of the forehead in men, and female pattern baldness, where loss is more general all over the head and around the crown. It’s available for those over 18 and under 65 years, and for hair loss that is not the result of an underlying medical condition, such as alopecia areata, thyroid disease or iron deficiency anaemia.
It should be avoided in pregnancy as there are reports of birth defects from the scalp application.
Minoxidil works by dilating blood vessels (vasodilation) and thus allowing blood to flow more freely – this makes it effective at treating high blood pressure. Increased blood flow to hair follicles stimulates the return of hair that recently stopped growing, and helps prolong it.
Hair grows very slowly, so it can take six months or more for benefits to be seen after continuous daily use.
If it works for you, you need to keep up the daily treatment to keep seeing hair regrowth – its effects cease once you stop using it.
When used for hair loss treatment, Minoxidil should be avoided in those under 18 or over 65, those who are completely bald or with a shaved scalp, those with a condition affecting the scalp, those with high blood pressure, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
As with all medication, there are side effects, however, not everyone will experience them. Side effects of minoxidil treatment include hair growth, hair loss (which can occur when treatment is initially started), changes in hair nature and skin reactions.
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