With so many labs researching hair loss treatments around the world, it’s a surprise to find that one of the strongest candidates for the Best Hair Tonic award was discovered by accident!
We are not talking about a specific product, in fact, but about minoxidil , the active ingredient in many internationally renowned anti-loss products (Rogaine, Regaine, Neoxidil, Tugain, Mintop, Ylox and Lacovin are some of them).
Minoxidil was originally sold as a vasodilator in hypertension, in the form of tablets under the trade name Loniten. Some users began to develop hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth on the body) and found that the areas of the scalp affected by alopecia were recovering .
From there, lotions for topical application of minoxidil began to be developed , specifically marketed to combat hair loss and stimulate the strengthening and growth of hairs.
( Fun fact : two other very popular substances in the fight against hair loss, finasteride and ketoconazole , were also discovered “by accident” during the research of prescription drugs for the treatment of other diseases).
How does minoxidil work?
Since the discovery of the effects of minoxidil in the control of hair loss, several researchers have tried to understand exactly how it works, but so far there is no consensus in the scientific community about how the substance works in the Hair follicles.
One of the hypotheses is that it acts as a vasodilator. Minoxidil would be able to stimulate blood flow and the arrival of more oxygen and nutrients to the follicles, however, since other vasodilator substances do not produce the same effect, it is believed that the mechanism of action is somewhat more complex.
Another possible explanation is minoxidil’s ability to open potassium channels in cell membranes that control various functions and can interfere with the life cycle of hair.
The fact is that minoxidil seems to increase the size of the follicles and prolong the duration of the anagen phase of the hair ( learn more about the hair growth phases here ).
Several people observe a period of severe hair loss shortly after the start of the treatment, and then the results of the product begin to appear. The initial shedding (called shedding ) is believed to happen because minoxidil anticipates the shedding of hair that is already in the telogen phase, so that new hair in the anagen phase can be born.
Whatever the actual mechanism of action of minoxidil, seems to directly affect the production or activity of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), considered the most responsible for the clinical pictures of the androgenic alopecia . In such cases, many people see even more encouraging results when using minoxidil is combined with any other treatment that works on hormone levels, such as finasteride or other antiandrogens.
As in any other currently known treatment for androgenic alopecia, the results obtained with minoxidil are not definitive , and are only preserved during treatment, if it is stopped, the progression of the alopecia pattern will resume normally with time.
How is minoxidil used?
The first version of minoxidil, in tablets, is not considered ideal for the treatment of hair loss because its performance is systemic , that is, it impacts the entire body . Remember that the drug was originally made for the treatment of hypertension: if it is consumed by a person with normal or low blood pressure, it can cause serious health problems.
Hair toners and other topical versions (by direct application to the skin in the form of lotion, cream or gel) are safer , as they do not allow the product to be largely absorbed by the body. The formulations are generally produced in concentrations of 2% and 5% .
A 5% version is contraindicated for women . It is believed to be stronger, so it is likely to stimulate hair growth on other areas of the body such as the face (5% minoxidil use by women is considered off-label ). As there are not many studies on use during pregnancy and lactation, it is generally not recommended in these cases (ideally, you should speak with your doctor to assess the risks and benefits).
The product should be applied twice a day to the affected areas with dry scalp . There are a variety of applicators (sprays, droppers and massagers), but every time you use your fingers to apply the product and massage you should wash your hands immediately afterwards. For best results, it is recommended to leave the product in contact with the scalp for at least 4 hours before wetting the head .
The effects can take from 2 months to 1 year to appear, so it is necessary to maintain the long-term treatment to observe satisfactory results. The most significant effects were seen in people under the age of 40, especially when the hair loss is recent (starting 5 years ago or less) and the area treated is small.
Minoxidil should not be applied to irritated areas, wounds or sensitive scalp (do not use it if you have sunburn or if you have recently done a chemical procedure a discoloration, which can cause unpleasant reactions, such as burning and itching). It is recommended to avoid exposing the treatment area to the sun, as the skin may become more sensitive. Some formulations contain alcohol or propylene glycol as support substances that cause dry scalp and contact dermatitis, in these cases, formulas with liposomes can be good substitutes and reduce the possibility of irritation.
It is worth noting that any medication, systemic or topical use, should always be prescribed and supervised by a doctor , who will examine your specific case, evaluate possible risk factors (for example, contraindications and possible interactions with other medications) and guarantee the efficacy and safety of your treatment. If during the use of minoxidil you show any signs of allergy, pain, swelling, rapid heart rate, dizziness, sudden weight gain or any other unexpected symptoms, stop using it immediately and inform your doctor.
Is minoxidil worth using?
Unless you have a sensitivity to the product or a frame of extremely severe and advanced alopecia (as in cases of scarring or total alopecia ), minoxidil seems to be a good option to integrate your arsenal against hair loss . For a reason it is the active ingredient in some of the best hair toners in the world, right?
One of the main advantages is that it can be useful in different frameworks of hair loss in the treatment of the androgenetic alopecia classic areas attacked in episodes of recovery of the alopecia areata , telogen effluvium and trichotillomania , or to stimulate growth of hair after a hair transplant , for example. Additionally, topical application greatly reduces the chances of side effects , and makes it quick and easy to learn how to use the product.
The cost of the products is no longer a problem, as minoxidil is becoming more and more popular, with options available in the market ranging from € 20 to above € 200 (depending on the quantity of the product, the duration of treatment, presentation of the formula, method of application, etc.), that is, there is something for all tastes and pockets. There are many laboratories that produce it, and the best known brands are: Rogaine, Regeine, Ylox, Lacovin, Kresse, Minoxile, Tricoplus, Locemix and Neoxidil . But to buy it online is complicated from certain countries.
Results are not quick or miraculous, and ideally minoxidil is not your only hair loss treatment – a product alone is often not as effective as a kit that attacks the problem on several different “fronts”. But with patience and discipline, it can be rather a valuable addition to your arsenal against hair loss!
Kathie Sand always saw the world of beauty as the terrain on which to build her professional career, a goal that was clear to her when she was only 15 years old. Her great concern to expand knowledge led her to settle in Paris where she studied hand in hand with the best beauty professionals and with the most advanced techniques for skin care.