Worried about that bald patch getting bigger? Do people think you’re older than you really are? Losing your hair in your twenties and thirties is more common than you’d think.
How does minoxidil work?
Androgenetic alopecia, generally referred to as male pattern hair loss, tends to run in families. This is because it’s caused by genes that regulate some of the hormones involved in hair growth.
Minoxidil is one of the best treatments for this form of genetic hair loss. First approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1987, minoxidil has helped thousands of men and women to regain lost hair and maintain healthy growth.
It’s also one of the most cost-effective and convenient ways to treat hair loss. You’ll commonly find minoxidil in liquid or foam form, but it’s also available in a spray. You simply apply it to the area of hair loss on your scalp.
Exactly how does minoxidil work? Medically speaking, it’s known as a vasodilator, which means that it works by increasing the size of your blood vessels. This means that it improves blood flow in the area it’s been applied to.
A study in the Drugs Journal says that it isn’t completely known how minoxidil is able to stimulate hair growth. However, it might work by increasing blood flow to the scalp. Additionally, it’s possible that it promotes the release of hair-related growth factors, regulates hormones, and reduces swelling. These benefits may allow more nutrients and oxygen to reach your scalp, thereby stimulating hair growth.
The increased blood flow:
- Increases the diameter of hair shafts
- Stimulates hair follicles in the growth stage known as the anagen phase
- Increases the time in which hairs remain in the anagen phase
Minoxidil foam is a commonly used hair loss treatment product
How fast does minoxidil work?
Although it depends on your family history and whether you’ve tried using other treatments before, minoxidil generally takes a few months to yield any noticeable results. Some people see effects in just weeks, while others will only start to see thick, healthy hair growth much later on.
Is the wait worth it? Research seems to think so. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 84 percent of men with male pattern baldness had improved hair growth after using minoxidil for a year.
Over the course of this study, researchers found that:
- Patches of hair loss on the scalps of 62 percent of participants decreased.
- Minoxidil was very effective in 15.9 percent of those studied, effective for 47.8 percent, and moderately effective for 20.6 percent of the participants who used it. Taken as a total, 84 percent of men in the study found the treatment significantly prevented hair loss and promoted hair growth.
- Side effects, which were not deemed severe, were noted by only 3.9 percent of participants.
Another study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology followed a group of men over five years. They were given treatments containing 2 and 3 percent minoxidil.
Results showed that in the first year, regrowth of previously lost hair was significant. Beyond this point, however, the rate slowed and plateaued. Regardless, continuing treatments helped most of the men to maintain hair growth over the five years.
So, how long does it take for minoxidil to work? Well, on average, some positive changes can be seen within a few months. You should expect to see more improvement as your first year of treatment progresses.
Minoxidil may work better for certain men
- Have hair loss on the crown of their heads (the vertex)
- Have been bald for less than five years
- Have a bald patch smaller than 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter
- Have been identified as being between stages II-IV on the Norwood-Hamilton Scale
If that’s you, minoxidil is more likely to work. However, there are things you can do to make sure you get the best results.
You need to use minoxidil consistently to maximize its effectiveness. The Mayo Clinic says that it should be applied twice daily (for example, every morning and night). Usually, you just need to rub it into your scalp. It’s as easy as that.
If you stick to doing it the same time each day, such as after showering in the morning and before brushing your teeth at night, it’ll quickly become a healthy habit. And with just these few actions, you’ll be rewarded with strong, healthy hair growth.
There are other things you can do to speed up the positive effects of minoxidil. Consuming a healthy diet, getting a good night’s sleep, and combining it with other treatments like microneedling may be able to help, too.