Topical treatments for hair loss are a dime a dozen, but few of them have the support of decades worth of scientific research behind them. Minoxidil does.
Minoxidil is a topical medication for the treatment of hair loss originally developed in the 1970s to treat hypertension but later approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the 1990s for the treatment of androgenic alopecia. This topical treatment comes in several forms and, when used daily over the course of several months, it has been shown to boost blood flow to the scalp and improve hair growth.
As is true with any medication, it’s important to administer minoxidil correctly and in the proper dosage to achieve the desired effect.
Below, we’ve explained how minoxidil works and how you should apply it to treat male pattern baldness. We’ve also covered the basics about choosing between minoxidil liquid or foam and how to properly dose and store the medication.
Minoxidil is one of the most popular hair loss treatments on the market, and for good reason: it works. Available over-the-counter or in prescription form, minoxidil is a topical treatment that comes in either a liquid or a foam.
This topical solution is designed to be used twice a day to treat hair loss and help regrow hair affected by male pattern baldness. Male pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia is caused by a combination of two factors: production of certain male hormones and the sensitivity of your hair follicles to these hormones.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen (male hormone) and a byproduct of testosterone.
This hormone plays an important role in the development of male characteristics like body hair, but it may also play a role in triggering male pattern baldness. DHT binds to the hair follicles and causes them to weaken and shrink which can slow hair growth and, eventually, may stop hair growth entirely. Men who are highly sensitive to this hormone may notice hair loss starting as early as their teens or twenties.
Though experts aren’t completely sure how minoxidil works to improve hair growth, current research suggests it acts as a vasodilator to improve blood flow to the scalp. Increased circulation increases the flow of nutrients and oxygenated blood to the hair follicles which may encourage them to move into the anagen or growth phase.
In other words, applying minoxidil may force your hair follicles into the anagen phase so they start to grow again. The thing to remember is that because minoxidil essential restarts the growth phase, it may take several months before you notice the effects.
Applying minoxidil is incredibly simple, though it may take a few applications for you to get the hang of it.
Minoxidil comes in liquid or foam form and both contain the same active ingredient. If you find one form awkward or difficult to apply, give the other a try before giving up on it entirely. We’ve provided instructions for both below.
Minoxidil foam has more substance to it than the topical solution which may make it easier for some men to apply. Here are the steps to follow:
It takes just a few minutes to apply a topical minoxidil solution, so you can easily work it into your morning and evening routine. Here are the steps to follow:
Minoxidil is most commonly used in 2% and 5% concentrations.
Because it is not an oral medication, you don’t have to worry too much about the dosage. We recommend using 1ml liquid minoxidil solution or about ½ capful of minoxidil foam in each treatment.
Minoxidil is generally considered safe when used properly, but all medications come with a risk of side effects.
The most common side effects for minoxidil are irritation at the application site, mild burning or itching, dryness, flaking, and scaling. If you experience any of these side effects, talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting your dosage or trying a different form of treatment.
You should also be aware of the potential for increased hair loss.
Minoxidil works by moving the hair follicles into the anagen phase. Remember, however, that the medication restarts the cycle which means when you first start treatment, the hair follicles may rapidly move through the current growth phase into the shedding phase.
It is completely normal to experience a significant amount of hair shedding when you first start minoxidil treatment. Over the next few weeks and months, the hair follicles will re-enter the anagen phase to start new growth.
Minoxidil is only intended for use on the scalp. If you accidentally get some of the foam or liquid solution on your face or other parts of the body, rinse it away with cool water. Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice irritation or redness developing after contact.
If you miss a dose of minoxidil, there’s no need to worry. This treatment is intended for twice daily application, so apply it as soon as you can after a missed dose. If it’s already close to time for your next dose, simply apply the medication as intended and skip the missed dose.
Store your minoxidil in a visible location so you remember to take it but keep it away from excess heat and moisture. Good places include your bedside table or a place that is cool and dry. If you have children in the household, store it out of reach.
You may even want to place a sticky note with a reminder on your desk or in the kitchen where you’re likely to see it at the proper time.
Between 30 and 50 percent of men develop hair loss caused by male pattern baldness by the age of fifty. Though it may not help you to know you’re not alone if you’re experiencing hair loss, you’ll be glad to hear treatment options are available.
Not only is minoxidil available over-the-counter for the treatment of hair loss, but it comes in two forms: liquid or foam. Application takes just a few minutes twice a day and the results are backed by decades of scientific research.
If you’re curious to learn more about other treatments for male pattern baldness, check out our in-depth guide. Talk to your healthcare provider or complete a free online consultation to discuss hair loss treatment and to see whether minoxidil might be the right option for you.