Now, that we have finished blaming our genes for our pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia, lets talk about Minoxidil usage, which is the only FDA approved medication for this genetic variety of hair loss. The most common brand known worldwide for minoxidil is Rogaine, but there are many many brands available throughout which are all equally good and effective.
Who should / Can use minoxidil
Minoxidil should always be used under the guidance of a doctor or a licensed pharmacist. It does not work on all the kinds of hair loss problems. It is usually prescribed for male and female pattern hair loss. Minoxidil works best for those under 40 years of age and those who have a very recent onset of thinning of hair.
Also those suffering from chemotherapy induced alopecia (hair fall which happens after cancer treatment) are largely benefited with minoxidil usage.
How does minoxidil work?
In the earlier days, minoxidil was only prescribed as tablet forms to treat high blood pressure. Amazingly, it was found that Minoxidil was causing an increase in the number of hair as its side effect. This side effect was later used for our benefit and a lotion form was invented to help those suffering from hair loss.
The exact mechanism of how minoxidil works to control hair fall is not yet known. It causes increase in the blood flow to the area due to its property of dilating (expanding) the blood vessels. It decreases the duration of ageing/falling phase of hair(telogen) and increases the duration of growth phase (anagen). It also strengthens the hair follicles and increases the size of the hair roots. It is postulated that Minoxidil has some role in decreasing the activity of AR gene which causes pattern baldness. The exact mechanism might not be known to us, but one thing is proven for sure…it does prevent hair fall
How to use Minoxidil for maximum gain
Minoxidil comes as 2%, 5%, 10% and very new 12% formulations. Usually treatment is started with 2% in females and 5% in males. The strength and concentration is slowly increased by the dermatologist depending on the results after usage. Females are seldom prescribed more than 5% but males can use up to 12% also.
There are few thumb rules for using minoxidil:
- It should be used twice daily for maximum results
- Use the recommended amount only. Usually 1 ml is what is recommended for everyone. Its not that using extra medication will give you extra hair or faster hair. If applied in a high quantity it can cause some side effects. So stick to max of 1 ml unless advised otherwise.
- It should be applied on dry hair. If the hair is very wet and minoxidil is applied, the drug can trickle down with water and cause unwanted hair growth on the trickled area.
- Wash your hands after using minoxidil to avoid accidental transfer of medication on other body parts.
- It should ideally be left on the scalp for 3-4 hours for good absorption. So avoid washing hair for 3-4 hours after applying minoxidil.
- Use it for at least 3-4 months continuously to see an obvious improvement. Labeling minoxidil as “not working” before 3 months of compliant usage is not correct as the effect is only seen slowly.
What to expect when using Minoxidil:
- You might feel slight itchy or tingly when minoxidil is applied, but this should go away within minutes.
- There might be slight increase in the hair fall during initial 4-6 weeks. This happens because minoxidil sheds out the old ageing hair from the follicle to make space for new hair.
- The results would be visible only after 3-4 months of continuous twice daily use.
- The effect of minoxidil stays for as long as you are using it. Once you stop its usage, the hair fall will start again. So for pattern hair loss, you need to continue using minoxidil till you have the patience and the will to use it. No harmful side effect has been reported by its continuous use, if not more than 1 ml is used twice daily.
Does Minoxidil have any side effect?
- It might cause redness and itching on the scalp in a few.
- If used in huge quantity it might very very rarely cause swelling of hands or feet, or a feeling of giddiness or heaviness. Its all due to its blood pressure lowering effect. Best idea is to use only in recommended dosages and to refer to a doc as soon as you experience any of the above mentioned issues.
When would Minoxidil not work?
- When the nature of hair loss is not known. It does not work on all types of hair fall, so consult a doc before you start using minoxidil.
- It does not work on already bald patches.
- It does not work for sudden onset hair fall.
- It does not work on patchy hair fall (when u see small circular bald patches scattered on scalp)
- It would not work individually if the reason for hair fall is anemia or thyroid hormonal imbalance.
- It does not work for hair fall occurring due to weakening of hair after chemical/physical damage to hair. (like re-bonding, permanent coloring etc)
- Hair fall after child birth….its temporary and reversible
For all those who are suffering from pattern hair loss, minoxidil has been proved to be a blessing in disguise. It can keep a check on the progression of baldness and prevent the thinning of hair. Use it for as many years as you have the willingness to…..it will be your best friend against hair fall.
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