What is Minoxidil and how it work?

Minoxidil is one of the first products to treat the androgenic alopecia that has received an approval of FDA and has been added to the program of the alopecia treatment in men. It is notably that this drug has been allowed for women unlike Finasteride.

History of Minoxidil

A discovery of the pharmacological properties of Minoxidil happened accidentally. The drug was used for the treatment of the high blood pressure for a long time. Its vasodilator properties lowered the pressure and improved the general state of a patient. But it was detected during the studies that the test persons had the improvement of the hair growth, and the hair follicles were completely restored.

It was proved after short-term studies that Minoxidil was able to improve the hair growth and make them stronger and longer. The results of the studies were published in 1986, and in 2 years, in 1988 FDA approved Minoxidil for the treatment of alopecia. There were no medications with the identical action on the market during that period, and so doctors prescribed million prescription for men with alopecia every year.

In just 3 years, in 1991, Minoxidil for women was represented on the market. This drug was completely safe for women and was even recommended for the everyday use.

How does Minoxidil stop alopecia?

A secret of the therapeutic effect of Minoxidil is still unknown. The scientists could not detect phenomenon of the drug and associate the treatment of alopecia with the vasodilator properties.

The oxygen supply to the hair follicles is improved during the vascular distention. Due to this, dying follicles are gradually restored. They pass from the passive phase into the phase of the active growth.

The intensive nutrition of the hair follicles restores but also strengthens hair. So, men taking Minoxidil have stronger, thicker hair, and they grow faster.

However, Minoxidil is a symptomatic product, it removes the symptoms of alopecia but it is not able to act on a cause of the disease. As you know, a cause of the androgenic alopecia is a high level of dihydrotestosterone and the following influence on the hair follicles.

Minoxidil does not influence on the level of the androgenic hormones, and therefore it cannot arrest the action of dihydrotestosterone. But as the ingredient increases a nutrition of the follicles, a destructive action of dihydrotestosterone becomes less intensive.

Therefore, many doctors state that Minoxidil is effective not for the alopecia treatment, but for the prevention of this disease during the development of the first symptoms.

  • According to the statements of the specialists from FDA USA, Minoxidil acts only during the androgenic alopecia and is not able to help every man.
  • According to the official data of FDA, the efficiency of Minoxidil is more than 40% in the treatment of alopecia.
  • The drug shows the biggest efficiency during alopecia in young men who have the symptoms of the disease for not more than 5 years.
  • Minoxidil is very effective during the prevention of alopecia and an improvement of the hair growth.

The pharmacological effect of Minoxidil is kept only during the prolonged therapy. A process of the hair growth recovery takes from 4 to 6 months. Then, at least 6 months are needed to fix the result. So, most patients have to take the drug for at least a year, and in case of the intensive hair loss, the drug is prescribed on a regular basis.

Presentation and Administration of Minoxidil  

After the expiration of the patent for Minoxidil in 1996, many pharmaceutical companies have started to produce the analogues – Generics. As of today, there are a lot of products on the pharmaceutical market that contain Minoxidil.

The difference between the drugs of the various companies consists in a cost and a concentration of the active ingredient. The market represents: 

  • Minoxidil 2%
  • Minoxidil 5 %
  • Minoxidil 15%

Minoxidil 2% is meant for the treatment of alopecia in women. It contains minimum concentration of the active ingredient, and according to the statements of the manufacturer, it is ineffective during the male alopecia. Women who take Minoxidil 2% achieve the improvement of the hair and prevent the development of alopecia. 

Minoxidil 5% contains a higher concentration of the active ingredient and better copes with the male alopecia. Although, women may also take this product during severe types of alopecia, and it is not contraindicated.

Minoxidil 15% is the strongest formula of the drug which is prescribed during severe type of the androgenic alopecia with vast parts of the baldness. This product is taken for the treatment of the male alopecia. Such concentration may have a negative effect on the female body, and a hair growth may start on other parts of the body in women: arms, and face. Moreover, Minoxidil 15% is used only when 5% solution does not give the results after the therapy, or the results are not obvious. If you do not want to wait a long time, then start taking Finasteride.

How to take Minoxidil correctly?   

  • Minoxidil is released in the form of a solution, spray, and foam for the external application.
  • The efficiency of the active ingredients does not depend on a medical form. The difference is just in a frequency of the drug application and individual peculiarities of the use of every medical form.
  • Do not take Minoxidil orally because it may cause an intoxication.
  • A solution of Minoxidil is applied in a small amount (1-2 drops) on the skin of the head (in the area of the alopecia and/or intensive hair loss), and it is slowly rubbed into the skin within 1 minute.
  • Do not apply the drug to all length.
  • It is not recommended to wash head within 4 hours after the use of the drug. The drug should be completely absorbed into the skin.
  • Minoxidil solution should be applied 2 times per day, with the same interval.
  • The treatment takes at least 6 months even during a fast and a stable effect.

Important Recommendations  

  • Wash your hands after the application of the drug.
  • It is not recommended to touch other parts of the skin with hands having the drug on them because the growth of the unwanted hair is possible.
  • The solution should be applied to the dry skin. If the head is sweaty or wet, it is necessary to delay the use of the drug and dry your hair.
  • If there are ulcers, wounds, cuts, scratches, irritation on the head, the drug application is contraindicated.  

It is necessary to apply Minoxidil in the evening, 2 hours before sleeping, so that it is absorbed. Otherwise, it will dirty the pillow, bed sheets, and then the skin of the face and body.

If you forgot to apply the drug, do not compensate the skipped application by means of the frequent or thicker application. Use the standard therapy. However, if the skipped application took long period (within several days), the efficiency of the therapy is significantly reduced. Try to use Minoxidil on a regular basis and follow the regimen.


The recorded negative reactions during the use of Minoxidil are of dermatological nature in most cases: itching, rash, redness of the head skin, dandruff, and irritation. According to dermatologists, these side effects depend on a concentration of the active ingredient in the drug and a medical type. Yes, using Minoxidil 15%, the frequency of the dermatological side effects is 14-16%, and during the use of Minoxidil 5% – less than 10%.   

The side effects often appear during the use of the solutions for the external application, and the side effects appear seldom during the use of the foam. Therefore, buying Minoxidil, follow your schedule for the increase of the dosing, and the medical form may be changed, if needed.

Other side effects are seldom registered and are often related to the individual intolerance of the drug. In order to avoid more intensive side effects, it is necessary to follow precautions:

  • Minoxidil is not recommended people under 18.
  • The use of the drug is prohibited during pregnancy and lactation, even in the concentration of 2%.

If the skin of the head was damaged, or severe irritation appeared during the treatment, the use of Minoxidil should be stopped for a while.  

This article was written by Vetta Thompson, the founder of The Center, who is one of only 9 internationally certified trichologists in the entire United States, certified specialists in the field of trichology.
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