What is Minoxidil & How to Use It [Your Ultimate Guide]
If you’re looking for something to help with hair loss, then you may have already heard about minoxidil.
What Is Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is an FDA-approved hair loss treatment meant to help you regrow hair. You can usually get it from the pharmacy in a topical foam, or as a liquid. In the United States, minoxidil is known under the brand name Rogaine.
How Does Minoxidil Work?
To be honest, no one is quite sure how minoxidil works. It was originally developed as a medication for severe refractory hypertension, but researchers noticed that one of the side effects of the oral pill was an increase in hair growth. A topical version of minoxidil was later developed to help treat hair loss, specifically male pattern balding.
What we do know is that the medication stimulates hair growth. Minoxidil is a vasodilator, meaning that it opens up blood vessels, allowing more blood flow. This increased blood flow is thought to be part of what makes minoxidil effective.
How to Use Minoxidil
Using minoxidil is easy. Just follow a few simple steps:
- Take the prescribed amount of solution into the applicator, or place a dollop of foam into your hand (follow instructions on packaging or talk to your doctor about how much you should be using).
- Apply the solution or foam onto your scalp, taking care to focus on the areas of the scalp where you are experiencing balding.
- Gently massage the product into your scalp.
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
Keep in mind that you should not wash your hair within four hours of applying minoxidil. This will ensure that the product has had enough time to penetrate your scalp.
Minoxidil should be used twice daily. It can take 8 to16 weeks to see the results of hair growth.
Why People Use Minoxidil
People use minoxidil to combat hair loss. For many men, pattern balding can cause embarrassment or even shame. Since minoxidil is an FDA-approved drug for both men and women and has had approval since the 1990s, many people trust it as being a well-established and relatively safe treatment for hair loss.
Minoxidil Side Effects
Although minoxidil is FDA approved, it still has some side effects users should be aware of. While many of these side effects are rare, they should be considered seriously before starting treatment.
Some of the known side effects are:
- Hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth in one location or all over the body)
- Skin irritation or rash
- Hair shedding
- Allergic reactions
If you experience any side effects while taking minoxidil, you should consult with your doctor immediately.
Pros and Cons of Using Minoxidil
While minoxidil can dramatically improve hair growth for some, it’s not for everyone, nor will it fix all kinds of balding. Take your time to decide if minoxidil is right for you and how using minoxidil may affect you.
- Usually effective on those experiencing male pattern balding
- Relatively low-cost treatment
- Available as an over-the-counter treatment in the United States
- Easy to use
- Negative side effects—possible skin irritation and unwanted hair growth (on places other than the head).
- Does not work for all types of hair loss
- Long-term use required to prevent hair loss return
Best Practices for Using Minoxidil
If you decide to use minoxidil, here are some tips to give yourself the best chance at hair growth:
- Don’t wash your hair within four hours of applying.
- Apply to the scalp, not your hair. You can use a comb to part the hair before applying.
- Use twice daily as recommended—using more frequently will not improve results.
- Do not use it when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Remember that patience is key. Don’t give up just because you don’t see results right away.
Common Minoxidil Questions
Here are answers to some of your most asked questions about minoxidil:
What Is The Best Time to Apply Minoxidil?
Since you need to apply minoxidil twice daily, the best times to apply are in the morning and at night a few hours before bed.
How Long Does Minoxidil Take to Work?
While results vary from person to person, minoxidil usually takes 8 to 16 weeks before showing results. However, this treatment may not work for everyone or for all types of balding.
Can Minoxidil Regrow Hair?
Not exactly. Minoxidil does not regrow hair, rather it stimulates the growth of new hair.
Can You Leave Minoxidil On Overnight?
Yes, you can. Leaving it on overnight will ensure proper absorption. However, for those with sensitive skin, this may cause irritation. Talk to your doctor if you feel that skin irritation may be a problem for you.
Do You Have to Wash Out Minoxidil?
No, you don’t. At least not immediately, as you should try to leave the product on your scalp for a minimum of four hours before washing. You should still wash your hair regularly though, to ensure a clean and healthy scalp.
Do I Have to Use Minoxidil Every Day?
Yes. For best results, you should use it twice daily. If you miss a day, you can just resume your twice-daily schedule the following day. However, missing too many days can impact the hair growth results you see.
Is Foam Minoxidil Better Than Liquid?
There is no difference in terms of medication. Some users prefer to use the liquid because they find it easier to apply to their bald spots. Others like the foam because it makes their hair less greasy. You can use either kind and expect the same results.
What Happens If You Stop Using Minoxidil?
If you stop using minoxidil your hair loss may return, but there should not be any dangerous side effects from stopping.
How Long Should Minoxidil Be Used?
Minoxidil should be used for at least 3 to 4 months to get results. However, you’ll need to continue to use it long-term or your hair loss may return.
What Is The Highest Strength of Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is generally sold in two different strengths: 2% or 5%, with 5% being the highest.
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