Minoxidil for hair loss: does it really work?
Minoxidil can prevent hair loss and stimulate hair growth by increasing blood flow in scalp. It It is believed to have a therapeutic effect by activating weak hair follicles and extending the growth (Anagen) phase of the hair cycle. In fact, minoxidil is the first medication approved by FDA to prevent hair loss.
Minoxidil helps hair growth by turning the diameter and depth of the existing small follicles to normal, and providing hypertrophy more than stimulating new hair follicles. It’s actually a vasodilator medication, causing enlargement of veins and decreasing the blood pressure. Produced in the form of minoxidil tablets for hypertension treatment, minoxidil may cause however some side effects, like dizziness, drowsiness, tiredness or temporary swelling.
How does minoxidil work?
The medicine was released for first time in the 1970s, and then 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 in 1986 a topical solution (externally applied) consisting of 2% minoxidil 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 as a treatment against hair loss, consisting of 5% for men and 2% for women.
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, causing the effect of stimulating the metabolism and decreasing the blood pressure.
Similarly, there are some assumptions arguing that minoxidil opens potassium channels in hair follicles and provides hair growth. In addition, minoxidil is thought to play a role in the proliferation of hair cells, and in restriction of collagen synthesis and synthesis of prostaglandins, too.
Minoxidil results in preventing hair loss
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 therefore hair follicles get smaller.
Male-pattern hair loss is more common in men, but can be seen also in women; in fact, hair transplant for women is not something unusual. In tests made by using minoxidil for this type of hair loss, both women and men were observed to have growth in hair, an increase in the number of hairs, and more density. Since this situation occurs within 12-16 weeks from the date of first use of minoxidil, we can say that the effect of the medicine is very fast.
This rapid effect can be explained by the reverse of the growing process 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, and falling out of hair becomes slower. After a continuous use, people can see the effects in the hair firstly on the top of the head, and then in the front and sides.
The maximum effect while using minoxidil is seen between 6 months and 2 years; after this time, the effect slows down. However, as the related studies and tests have shown, minoxidil stops hair loss and is one promising tool to combat alopecia and baldness.