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Does Minoxidil regrow hair and stop hair loss?

Minoxidil is the first medication approved by FDA to prevent hair loss. Minoxidil has the feature of preventing hair loss and stimulating hair growth by increasing blood flow in scalp. It is believed to have therapeutic effect by activating weak hair follicles and extending the growth (Anagen) phase of hair cycle.

Minoxidil shows effect in turning the diameter and depth of existing small follicles to normal and providing hypertrophy more than stimulating new hair follicles.

Minoxidil is actually a vasodilator medication (causing enlargement of veins) decreasing the blood pressure. The main object for production of this medicine is hypertension treatment and it was produced in the form of tablet.

After a while the medicine was released in 1970s, an interesting side effect was discovered. People who use minoxidil have been observed to have hiring, darkening of existing hair and hair growth. Realizing this side effect, American Upjohn company started to produce topical (externally applied) solution consisting of 2% minoxidil in 1986 under the brand name of Rogaine/Regain, and presented it to the world as a miraculous medicine. Then, the medicine was started to be produced in a way to consist 5% for men and 2% for women in the treatment of hair loss.

Studies conducted in animals have shown that minoxidil shortens telogen phase of hair and cause early anagen phase. The medicine is believed to have the same effect on people, too. In addition, it is known that minoxidil can relieve the vascular muscles by opening muscle membranes with the effect of sulphate metabolism and decrease the blood pressure. Similarly, there are some assumptions arguing that minoxidil opens potassium channels in hair follicles and provides hair to grow. In addition, minoxidil is thought to play a role in proliferation of hair cells, restriction of collagen synthesis and synthesis of prostaglandins.

Minoxidil studies have focused on androgenetic alopecia (male-pattern hair loss), the most common type of hair loss among all. In male-pattern hair loss, the period between anagen and telogen phases of hair becomes shorter and hair follicles gets smaller. Male-pattern hair loss is more common in men but can be seen in women also. In tests made by using minoxidil for this type of hair loss, both women and men were observed to have growth in hair, increase in the number of hair and more density.

Since this situation occurs within 12-16 weeks from the date of first use of minoxidil, the effect of the medicine can be said to be very fast. This rapid effect can be explained by reverse movements of the shortened hair follicles. Moreover, since the existing hair gets out from telogen phase and enters in anagen phase again, hair becomes stronger and thicker.

The maximum effect for use of minoxidil is seen between 6 months and 2 years. After this time, the effect slows down. Falling out of hair becomes slower and people can see the effect in the hair loss problem firstly on top of head and then front and sides after continuous use.