How effective is Minoxidil for hair growth?

If you’re using a medicated hair growth spray, it’s probably formulated with a medication called Minoxidil. But what exactly is Minoxidil and how does it work?

Let’s go over the basics of Minoxidil, how it compares to other hair loss medications and whether or not using it can help with your hair loss.


What is Minoxidil?

Minoxidil is a form of medication used to treat hair loss in both men and women. In the US, it is the only FDA-approved “over-the-counter” medication to help those who suffer with hair loss and balding, meaning you don’t need a prescription to use Minoxidil.

The brand name for Minoxidil is Rogaine (or Regaine in Australia) and is commonly used as a hair growth spray or foam for its effective treatment of hair loss in women and balding in men. 


How does it work?

Although the use of Minoxidil for hair loss is widespread, doctors and scientists don’t fully understand how exactly it works. However, many researchers think that it stimulates hair growth by widening the blood vessels in your scalp to therefore increase the blood flow to your hair follicles. It’s also thought to increase the growth phase of your hair follicle’s life cycle.

So, in other words, Minoxidil doesn’t necessarily prevent hair loss. Instead, it promotes hair growth. In a best case scenario, this hair loss treatment can help you grow more hair than you’re shedding, creating the effect that your hair loss has been reversed. 


How to Use Minoxidil

Minoxidil comes in various forms, most often as either a hair growth spray or foam that you apply once or twice a day directly to your scalp wherever your hair has begun to thin. 

Keep in mind that it can take up to four months to see results. So, using Minoxidil requires a bit of patience which is easier said than done when you’re dealing with hair loss. Still, it’s a decent solution considering all forms of hair growth spray require a bit of waiting.

Another thing to note is that Minoxidil doesn’t cure baldness. In fact, if you use Minoxidil and then suddenly stop using it, your hair may start to fall out more rapidly than before. So, again, the key is patience when using Minoxidil.


Side Effects of Minoxidil

Minoxidil may produce mild side effects in some rare occasions. You may experience redness, itchiness, dryness, flaking or some other form of scalp irritation. However, these side effects are uncommon and tend to only occur if you’re using a stronger concentration of 5% Minoxidil.


Minoxidil vs Finasteride

Another common medication to treat hair loss is Finasteride. While Minoxidil is applied topically to the scalp as a hair growth spray or foam, Finasteride is taken orally as a pill. Another difference is that Minoxidil formulas are available for both women and men, while Finasteride should only be taken by men experiencing hair loss, a receding hair line or balding.

Comparatively, Finasteride is more effective than Minoxidil offering positive results for around 90% of men. 

It works by interfering with the hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone) which causes patterned baldness in the first place. In other words, Finasteride stops baldness at the root. However, similar to Minoxidial, it doesn’t necessarily cure hair loss and baldness. If you stop taking Finasteride, your hair loss will return.

Finasteride also seems to have more serious side effects when compared to Minoxidil including erectile dysfuction and other sexuallly related issues. However, these are also rare.


Who should use Minoxidil treatments?

man checking hair growth in the mirror

Minoxidil works best for those suffering from hereditary hair loss and patterned baldness, usually such that occurs just under the crown of the head. In other words, Minoxidil isn’t recommended if you’re experiencing a receding hair line.

Additionally, Minoxidil hair growth spray and foam seems to be most effective for those under 40 who start using this treatment at the earliest stages of hair loss. So, it won’t help if you’ve already gone completely bald. 

You also shouldn’t use Minoxidil treatments if:

  • Your hair loss isn’t hereditary
  • Your hair loss comes on suddenly with hair falling out in large patches
  • You’re under 18 years old
  • Your scalp is red, itchy and sore to the touch
  • Your hair loss seems to be caused by your hair products or hair style
  • Your hair loss is caused by a medical condition, nutritional deficiencies, scalp scarring or medications such as chemotherapy

It’s essential to speak with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing hair loss to ensure using Minoxidil is right for you.