Androgenetic alopecia, also known as female or male pattern baldness, is a common form of hair loss. Thinning hair is a natural part of life, but there are real hair loss treatments that can not only help prevent hair loss, but help hair regrowth. One of these treatments is Minoxidil, a topical solution that is used to help promote hair growth and treat balding on the scalp. While Minoxidil is available over-the-counter in Australia, it’s still a pharmaceutical medication and so it’s important to understand how it works, its benefits and its side effects in order to use it safely to treat hair loss.
Minoxidil is the generic version of popular hair loss treatments like Rogaine in the US and Regaine in Australia. They belong to a class of drugs called vasodilators, medications that widen blood vessels and increase blood flow to certain areas of the body. When used to treat hair loss and help regrow hair, Minoxidil is a topical product that is available over-the-counter in Australia as a topical solution or foam.
Regaine is a brand name medication that is used to promote hair growth and help treat hair loss in both men and women. Regaine for men contains Minoxidil 5% as either a foam or topical solution, while Regaine for women comes in both Minoxidil 5% as a foam and Minoxidil 2% as a topical solution.
Minoxidil is a vasodilator, a type of drug that widens blood vessels and increases blood flow. It was originally introduced as an oral medication for severe hypertension and high blood pressure, but physicians observed hair regrowth in balding patients, leading to the creation of the topical Minoxidil treatment for hair loss.
When applied topically to your scalp, Minoxidil relaxes the blood vessels and makes it easier for blood, nutrients and oxygen to flow to your scalp and hair follicles, thus potentially leading to hair growth. It first causes hairs that are in a resting state called the telogen phase to shed, then replaces them with new hairs in the growing, or anagen, phase. When you first start using Minoxidil for treating hair loss, you might notice rapid hair loss, but this is a temporary effect at the beginning of treatment.
Minoxidil doesn’t stop hair loss, but rather promotes hair growth. That’s why it is often prescribed alongside Finasteride, a prescription medication that helps stop hair loss and balding in men, for maximum results.
Everybody is different, and how long it takes for Minoxidil to show results depends on your particular level of baldness. For most people, Minoxidil will start working as soon as you start using it, but may take three to six months to see noticeable improvement in hair growth, thickness and strength. When it works, hair regrowth starts as soft, downy hair but then increases in thickness and strength over time.
Minoxidil will stop working when you stop using it, so it’s important to keep using it as prescribed for as long as you want to stop hair loss. Any hair regrowth obtained with Minoxidil will begin to thin within 4 months of stopping treatment, which is why Minoxidil is usually considered as a long term therapy for hair loss.
Like any medication, there are some side effects to be aware of when using topical Minoxidil for hair loss. If you experience any side effects, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor.
Side effects of Minoxidil are rare, but can include:
Serious side effects are not common, but can occur. Call 000 if you feel severe side effects that include:
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Unexplained arm and shoulder pain
- Severe indigestion
- Swelling in hands or feet
Topical Minoxidil is available over-the-counter in Australia as a way to regrow hair and help combat hair loss. It is often prescribed alongside Finasteride, an oral tablet that is available by prescription only that helps stop the hair loss process. When used as prescribed, Minoxidil is a very effective hair loss treatment.
Yes, Minoxidil is safe to use to treat hair loss for both men and women. It is important to disclose as much accurate medical information as possible to your doctor to assist them in providing the most appropriate treatment option for you.
Depending on your medical history, symptoms and needs, your doctor will prescribe an appropriate hair loss treatment plan. Like all medications, there are potential side effects to be aware of. Always use your prescription medication exactly as prescribed and contact your doctor if you’re experiencing any issues.
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∙ Australian Family Physician (April 2016) - Male baldness
∙ American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (1995) - Prevalence of male pattern hair loss in 18-49 year old men
∙ Drug Design, Development and Therapy (2019) - Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review
∙ Skin Therapy Letter (November 2014) - 5% Minoxidil: treatment for female pattern hair loss
Product MINOXIDIL EXTRA STRENGTH GENERIC HEALTH 5% w/v topical application bottle is registered in the ARTG, AUST R