Gone are the days when you have to wear a wig just to cover up a missing patch of hair on your head. And don’t even think of doing a comb over! Initially used as an oral anti-hypertensive, minoxidil has been discovered to be more effective as a hair grower and its topical form, seen as 2% to 5% formulations, have become more popular due to the fewer side effects.
How does it work? Minoxidil is a nitric oxide agonist; it promotes nitric oxide effects such as vasodilation.With vasodilation, more blood flows to your scalp and nutrients are better circulated. In a study using 16 human volunteers, 5% minoxidil stimulated blood flow in the scalp as measured by Doppler velocimetry. No systemic side effects were observed because topical application limited the spread to other areas. Similarly, another study was able to demonstrate the involvement of minoxidil in dermal papilla vascularization via stimulation of VEGF expression. Dermal papilla is the one responsible for hair growth and it sits at the bottom of a hair follicle. VEGF is short for vascular endothelial growth factor, VEGF mRNA is highly expressed when the hair is in the active growth phase (anagen).
Minoxidil is available without prescription in the following brands: Rogaine, Apo-Gain, Gen-Minoxidil, Hairgro and others. You may buy it as a shampoo, salve, ointment, solution or foam. If you can, choose the products with thicker consistency like the salve or foam (brand: Bianca Rosa, Folligain) to avoid spilling or splashing. One good product from Perfect Image Solutions (Minoxidil 5% for Men enhanced with 5% Azelaic Acid) combines minoxidil with azelaic acid, an inhibitor of 5-alpha reductase which is one of the major causes implicated in hair loss.
Minoxidil may be used in both men and women. To use, follow the steps:
- Make sure your scalp is clean. I’m sure you’ve heard of dexpanthenol which dissolves sebum on your pores. This can help clear the area so minoxidil can enter faster; consequently, when absorption is faster, there are less chances that you’ll experience irritation since minoxidil doesn’t remain in contact with your scalp that long. If you don’t have dexpanthenol, just wash your hair with a cleansing shampoo to get rid of excess sebum/oil.
- Apply 1 ml of the solution or a capful of the foam onto your affected scalp twice a day: once in the morning and once in evening. Use an applicator as much as possible. If you don’t have it, you can just use gloves to massage minoxidil evenly.
- Leave it on for at least 4 hours before washing.
Side effects/Warning: excessive hair growth and changes in hair texture may occur. Wash areas that have been in contact with minoxidil such as your hands or forehead. If not, they too will grow hair! Do not use for pregnant or lactating mothers. Expect the following side-effects after using minoxidil since it has alcohol: rash, irritation and redness. These are actually considered mild side-effects; stop using it at once if you experience severe reactions such as swelling, palpitations, chest pain, dizziness and fainting. These severe side effects, however, occur more with the oral rather than topical form.
If you choose to use minoxidil, all you have to do is be mindful of minor skin reactions. Sit back, relax and wait for at least 1 month for a visibly thicker and fuller set of hair!