Minoxidil: Treatment for Alopecia and Hair Loss

December 7, 2019
Minoxidil, like all drugs, can trigger a series of adverse reactions. Among the most frequently reported side effects are those that involve the skin. Read on to learn more about it!
Minoxidil is a drug that helps stimulate hair growth and prevent hair loss.
Initially, minoxidil was a drug administered orally for the treatment of hypertension due to its vasodilation effect. However, some of the patients treated with this drug suffered from the appearance of unwanted hair. Due to this, the formula was enriched to create a water-alcohol solution for topical application in cases of alopecia. It was later approved and proved to be one of the most effective drugs for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia or pattern hair loss.

More about Minoxidil

A man with bald spots.
Both men and women can take this drug to treat alopecia and hair loss. As a general guideline, it’s generally recommended at 5% for males and 3 or 4% for women to prevent the appearance of facial hair. However, it’s also possible to use a 2% concentration. In this case, you need to apply it twice a day. The recommended dose is 2 ml per day or about 10 to 12 sprays.
In addition to the different concentrations we mentioned, you can also find minoxidil on the market in different forms and under several trade names. The most commonly used pharmaceutical form is lotion. Also, a new presentation is becoming increasingly famous: minoxidil foam.

Why does alopecia occur?

Alopecia is the loss of capillary density. It’s a common medical problem. Statistics indicate that it affects more than 50% of men and 30% of women throughout their lives.
This is a condition that can greatly affect the quality of life of the patients who suffer from it. For this reason, it isn’t a purely aesthetic issue. The patient needs to receive adequate medical information to prevent associated psychological disorders, particularly those that have to do with self-esteem.
Today, more than 100 kinds of alopecia are known. The most common is, as we mentioned above, androgenic alopecia. This type is caused by hormonal changes. However, in addition to hormonal changes, other causes may also influence alopecia:
  • Diet
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Anemia or iron deficiency
  • Immunological diseases
  • Thyroid alterations
  • Some medications
Since many things can cause alopecia, it’s important to make a good medical diagnosis. This way, the doctor can indicate the most appropriate treatment for each case.

Symptoms of alopecia

A man with hair loss.
The most characteristic symptom of alopecia is the loss of capillary density (hair loss). Sometimes, a person may perceive that they’re losing more hair. However, this symptom doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re suffering from this disease.
The loss of capillary density usually manifests with a receding hairline and bald patches in men and thinning hair in women. Also, some types of alopecia may manifest with itching and even scalp pain.

How to prevent alopecia

Healthy lifestyle habits such as not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding excessive sun exposure may favor proper hair health and produce an improvement in hair cosmetics.
However, there’s still no effective medical treatment to prevent alopecia. Therefore, the most useful measure to improve the prognosis is a proper diagnosis and early treatment, such as minoxidil, once alopecia manifests.

Adverse effects of Minoxidil

A woman with hair loss.

Minoxidil, like all drugs, can trigger a series of adverse reactions. Among the most frequently reported side effects are those that involve the skin. Some of them are:
  • Itching
  • Dermatitis
  • Dryness
  • Skin irritation
  • Eczema
  • Hypertrichosis
Typically, these adverse reactions to minoxidil are mild to moderate and go away once the patient discontinues treatment. These side effects may depend on the dose of the drug and the form of administration.
However, we should mention that the incidence of adverse events and statistical data were calculated from the data of 1932 patients treated with minoxidil 50 mg/ml, as well as the data obtained after marketing.

Conclusion

Minoxidil is a useful drug for the treatment of alopecia. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions and follow their instructions carefully.
  • Wagner, L., & Kenreigh, C. (2011). Minoxidil. In xPharm: The Comprehensive Pharmacology Reference. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-008055232-3.62191-9
  • Messenger, A. G., & Rundegren, J. (2004). Minoxidil: Mechanisms of action on hair growth. British Journal of Dermatology. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2004.05785.x
  • Kelly, Y., Blanco, A., & Tosti, A. (2016). Androgenetic Alopecia: An Update of Treatment Options. Drugs. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40265-016-0629-5