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Everything You Need to Know about Minoxidil (and 3 Myths We Busted!)

For those who are taking up hair regrowth treatments for your scalp, minoxidil could be a more familiar name. Or perhaps you’ve seen the other name for the hair loss treatment product: Rogaine. Despite its alien-like name, minoxidil is one of the most common topical treatments for hair growth out there—you can even find 2% – 5% minoxidil lotions on Amazon. The chemical’s functions as a stimulant for the hair follicle, encouraging hair regrowth as it strengthens the hair strands. Read on as Tropika Club finds out more.

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What’s in Your Topical Minoxidil Solution or Minoxidil Foam?

Usually, the topical minoxidil formulations or solutions typically include inactive ingredients. That includes ingredients such as water, ethanol, and propylene glycol. Those ingredients are used to increase the solubility of minoxidil in the solution, so that the hair follicles can better absorb minoxidil.

As for minoxidil foam, it was developed after propylene glycol was discovered to cause irritation in the area where it’s applied. So minoxidil foams are usually formulated with non-medical ingredients, including stearyl alcohol, and cetyl alcohol.

How Does Minoxidil Work?

To understand how minoxidil works, it’s best to understand the different growth stages of your hair growth. It’s a lot, we know. But bear with us!

There are four stages of hair growth:

  • Stage 1 – Anagen Stage: This is when hair grows out from the follicles, and when there is a continued creation of the shaft—this is how you increase the amount of your hair. This stage usually lasts around 2 to 6 years.
  • Stage 2 – Catagen Stage: Your hair prepares to enter the resting stage. It lasts around 2 weeks.
  • Stage 3 – Telogen Stage: This is the final phase of growth. During this resting stage, the hair stops growing and begins to fall off to allow new hair to grow. This stage usually lasts 5 to 6 weeks.
  •  Stage 4 – Neogen And Exogen Stage: The hair follicles regenerate during the Neogen Stage, where new follicles replace the old ones. Then, during the Exogen Stage, the hair follicles from the older Anagen Stage are released.

One theory is that minoxidil is an effective arteriolar vasodilator. In other words, it dilates the blood vessels in the applied area, possibly allowing for better blood circulation. So far research shows that there’s a higher rate of cell renewal in the applied area. 

Studies have shown that, with minoxidil, the hair follicles shifted from the Telogen Phase to the Anagen Phase more quickly. As a testament to its effectiveness in promoting hair growth, there are clinical trials that showed a considerable increase in hair growth for androgenetic alopecia (male/female pattern hair loss) patients that applied dosage of 2% or 5% minoxidil solution.

So, as you apply minoxidil, it thickens your hair strands as it extends the growing phase of your hair. The improvement varies from person to person. Though according to the National Skin Centre, it takes around 3 to 6 months for the medicine to take effect.

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Common Side-Effects to Take Note

Minoxidil works on most hair types without any complications. It could even stimulate hair growth in more uncommon, or unwanted, areas of the body. Most of the time, women experience facial hair growth as a side effect when they use a more potent dosage.

Some side-effects are not uncommon. But it could disappear during treatment. Such milder side effects that you could experience is temporary hair loss. Though it may occur in the first 1 or 2 months of the treatment, stop using minoxidil if hair loss continues afterwards.

Minoxidil could cause irritation on the scalp too, including, scaling, dryness, itchy skin rashes, and redness. If such side-effects on the scalp persist, you could decrease the dosage or frequency of application. You could also ask your doctor to prescribe a different form of minoxidil preparations, or medications that treats scalp irritation. Otherwise, stop using the medication.

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Avoid contact with the eyes, ears, nose, mouths, or broken skin. In rare cases, minoxidil could be absorbed through the skin and into your body, thus causing severe side-effects and adverse effects. The rare, but serious, side-effects include dizziness, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, headaches, swollen hands or feet, and unusual weight gain.

As a precaution, do check if you have a sensitivity towards minoxidil itself, or towards ingredients to the medication such as propylene glycol or ethanol. Also, do inform the healthcare professional if:

  • Your scalp is inflamed, irritated, infected, or sunburned.
  • You have high blood pressure and/or heart problems.
  • You are pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding.

To prevent any unintended side-effects, refrain from using minoxidil at least a day before and after any hair treatments (hair colouring, hair perm). That way you can avoid chemical interactions between the different hair products.

How to Use Minoxidil:

  1. Wash your hands before applying it to your scalp
  2. You needn’t shampoo your hair before applying. But if you do, dry your hair with a hair dryer on the cool setting.
  3. If you’re using a minoxidil lotion, apply to clean and dry hair and scalp. You can apply minoxidil foam on damp hair. 
  4. Don’t use a hair dryer after applying! It’ll reduce its effectiveness.
  5. Apply a tiny smidge (1ml, if you’re counting), one or two times a day, or as recommended by your doctor.
  6. Let the medication dry before going to bed, or before you apply other hair products like hair mousse, hair dye, hair gel, and hair relaxers. Wash your hands after you finish applying!
  7. Minoxidil can stain bed linens and clothes. So remember to wash your hands afterwards!
  8. Don’t wash or wet your scalp for at least 4 hours after applying the medication to maximise its effectiveness.

Busting the Top 3 Myths about Minoxidil

Myth #1: It affects your libido.

No, it doesn’t! While there is one 2014 study that discovered that minoxidil affects the androgen receptors, the authors of the study had been clear that this effect is only found in the hair follicle itself.

Myth #3: It worsens hair loss when you stop using it.

Untreated hair thinning is a progressive problem. So as you stop using it, your hair returns to the point where it would have been, instead of going back when it was when you first applied it.

Myth #3: Women can’t use minoxidil.

Because there’s this idea that most hair loss solutions are only effective in treating male pattern baldness, it’s no wonder this myth is still sticking around. Minoxidil has actually been successfully tested on women with female pattern hair loss. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved minoxidil for use on women. 

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Terence is Tropika Club Magazine's deputy editor who loves learning about animals and their behavior. He is also an anthropologist, so he is very interested in how different cultures interact with animals. He has worked in the publishing industry for over 10 years, and have been lucky enough to work with some amazing authors and editors.

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