Topical Minoxidil is FDA-approved for treating genetic-related hair loss in men and women (androgenetic alopecia). That said, lab and clinical research has shown that it can also be helpful in other types of hair loss, such as alopecia areata, traction alopecia, chemotherapy-induced hair loss, and as a supplemental treatment post hair transplant.
What is Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is a vasodilator that is an over-the-counter topical medication available in liquid or foam form. When applied to the affected areas of the scalp, it widens the blood vessels to encourage blood flow to the hair follicles. The increased blood flow delivers more essential nutrients and oxygen to the area, promoting hair growth.
What is androgenetic alopecia?
Androgenetic alopecia is a common form of hair loss that affects both men and women. It is caused by a combination of genetic sensitivity to the androgen DHT and the effects of male sex hormones called androgens. It is characterized by progressive loss of terminal hair of the scalp in a specific pattern, often resulting in partial or complete baldness. It is estimated to affect 50 million men and 30 million women in the United States, and the risk increases with age. Androgenetic alopecia presents in different ways for men (male pattern) and for women (female pattern). In men, hair loss forms the shape of an "M," beginning at the temples to the crown, and can eventually lead to total baldness. In women, the hair tends to thin evenly throughout the entire head and rarely leads to total baldness. Source.
Minoxidil for androgenetic alopecia
Clinical studies have found that minoxidil 2% and 5% can be used to treat men and women with androgenetic alopecia. It works best in the early stages when hair loss is first detected. There are 3 phases of hair growth: anagen (growth), catagen (transitional), and telogen (resting). Minoxidil increases hair growth by dilating the blood vessels in the scalp, which improves the supply of oxygen and micronutrients to the hair follicles. It is also believed to help shorten the hair's telogen (resting) phase and lengthen the anagen (growing) phase. Source
What is alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is a kind of sudden hair loss on the head or body that most commonly affects children and adolescents. This autoimmune hair loss appears in circular patches and often resolves independently after 10 - 12 months. While there is no formal FDA-cleared treatment for alopecia areata, there is evidence that in some people, the use of topical steroids, topical solution of Minoxidil, plant-based scalp serums, and hair supplements can help restart hair regrowth faster.
If you have noticed round bald areas on your scalp, we recommend consulting with your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, you can take a short quiz to get started right here and get a kit with products that can help support your new hair regrowth.
What is traction alopecia?
Traction alopecia is hair loss induced by repetitive pulling on the hair, typically due to tight hairstyles such as ponytails, cornrows, or hair extensions. To prevent permanent hair loss, these hairstyles need to be avoided, and topical treatment can be used to speed up regrowth.
Minoxidil for traction alopecia
Studies have shown that topical Minoxidil can reverse hair loss in the early stages of traction alopecia. Steroid creams or injections are often used in conjunction to reduce the associated swelling and irritation of the scalp. In severe traction alopecia, the hair follicles may be too damaged for Minoxidil to have any effect, and other treatments, such as hair transplants, may be considered.
What is a hair transplant?
A hair transplant is a surgical procedure in which hair and skin from thicker areas of the scalp are relocated to balding areas of the scalp.
Minoxidil for post-hair transplant
Minoxidil can accelerate hair growth pre and post-hair transplant to treat androgenetic alopecia. Many transplant surgeons prescribe topical Minoxidil several weeks before surgery to minimize hair loss and increase hair density and weight, making transplantation easier. Minoxidil can also prevent hair shedding that traditionally occurs 1 - 2 weeks post-op and can decrease the time for hair regrowth from the typical 6 - 8 months to only 1 - 2 months.
What is chemotherapy-induced hair loss?
Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses potent drugs to aggressively attack fast-growing cells in the body, such as cancer cells, to hinder their progress. These drugs can simultaneously attack other cells in the body during treatment, including those present in hair follicles. This can lead to hair loss, which usually presents around 2 - 4 weeks after starting treatment and continues until around a few weeks after.
Minoxidil for chemotherapy-induced hair loss
While Minoxidil isn't likely to prevent chemotherapy-induced alopecia, it can possibly decrease the duration. A study using topical Minoxidil 2% found that initial hair loss was delayed by up to 10 days, and hair regrowth time was reduced by up to 40 days.
Can Minoxidil Cause Hair Shedding?
Hair shedding when starting Minoxidil, often termed "minoxidil shedding," can be worrying for those seeking hair growth. However, it's typically a temporary and anticipated aspect of the treatment process. This shedding occurs for several reasons:
1. Telogen to Anagen Transition: Minoxidil extends hair follicles' anagen (growth) phase and thickens existing hairs. Initially, many follicles are in the resting telogen phase. Minoxidil prompts these follicles to shift from telogen to anagen, causing existing telogen hairs to be replaced by new anagen ones.
2. Cycling of Hair Growth: Hair follicles naturally undergo growth cycles, shedding old hair to make way for new ones. Minoxidil can synchronize these cycles, leading to the simultaneous shedding of old hairs, creating the appearance of increased shedding.
3. Increased Blood Flow: Minoxidil enhances scalp blood flow, further stimulating hair follicles to enter the anagen phase potentially causing telogen hair shedding.
4. Rejuvenation Process: Some researchers suggest that Minoxidil may remove older, weaker hairs, allowing stronger, thicker ones to grow, explaining initial shedding.
Remember, minoxidil shedding usually indicates treatment effectiveness, with new, robust hairs replacing shed ones. This phase varies in duration (from weeks to months) among individuals. Consult a healthcare professional or dermatologist, like yourself, if you experience excessive or prolonged shedding or have concerns about minoxidil use for personalized guidance and monitoring.
FAQs on Minoxidil:
Q1. What is Minoxidil?
A1. Minoxidil is a vasodilator in over-the-counter topical forms, such as liquid or foam. When applied to the affected scalp areas, it widens blood vessels, promoting blood flow to hair follicles. This increased blood flow delivers essential nutrients and oxygen, supporting hair growth.
Q2. What is androgenetic alopecia?
A2. Androgenetic alopecia is a common form of hair loss affecting both men and women. It results from genetic sensitivity to the androgen DHT and male sex hormones. In men, it often starts as an "M"-"-shaped hair loss pattern from the temples to the crown. In women, it leads to overall hair thinning but rarely total baldness. It's estimated to affect millions in the United States, with risk increasing with age.
Q3. How does Minoxidil help with androgenetic alopecia?
A3. Clinical studies have shown that Minoxidil (2% and 5%) effectively treats androgenetic alopecia, particularly in its early stages. Minoxidil dilates scalp blood vessels, improving oxygen and nutrient supply to hair follicles. It's believed to shorten the resting phase (telogen) and lengthen hair's growing phase (anagen), promoting growth.
Q4. What is alopecia areata?
A4. Alopecia areata is sudden hair loss that typically affects children and adolescents, appearing as circular patches. While not FDA-cleared treatments, topical steroids, minoxidil solutions, plant-based scalp serums, and hair supplements may help some individuals restart hair growth faster. Consulting a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis is essential.
Q5. What is traction alopecia?
A5. Traction alopecia results from repeated hair pulling, often due to tight hairstyles like ponytails or cornrows. To prevent permanent hair loss, avoid these hairstyles and consider topical treatments to speed up regrowth.
Q6. Can Minoxidil help with traction alopecia?
A6. Studies suggest that topical Minoxidil can reverse hair loss in the early stages of traction alopecia. Steroid creams or injections may be used alongside to reduce scalp swelling and irritation. In severe cases, when follicles are damaged, other options like hair transplants may be considered.
Q7. What is a hair transplant?
A7. A hair transplant is a surgical procedure that relocates hair and skin from thicker scalp areas to balding ones, restoring hair growth.
Q8. How can Minoxidil be used in post-hair transplant care?
A8. Minoxidil can be used both before and after a hair transplant to treat androgenetic alopecia. It's often prescribed several weeks before surgery to minimize hair loss and increase hair density, making transplantation easier. Post-transplant, it can prevent hair shedding, reducing regrowth time from months to just a few weeks.
Q9. What is chemotherapy-induced hair loss?
A9. Chemotherapy, a cancer treatment, can lead to hair loss by targeting fast-growing cells, including those in hair follicles. While Minoxidil may not prevent this type of hair loss, it could potentially shorten its duration. In a study using topical Minoxidil 2%, initial hair loss was delayed by up to 10 days, with regrowth time shortened by up to 40 days.
Q10. Can Minoxidil Cause Hair Shedding?
A10. Hair shedding when starting Minoxidil, often called "minoxidil shedding," is typically a temporary and expected part of treatment. It occurs due to several factors, including the transition of hair from the resting phase (telogen) to the growth phase (anagen) and the synchronization of hair growth cycles. This shedding usually indicates treatment effectiveness, with new, stronger hairs replacing the shed ones. If you have concerns about minoxidil use, consult a healthcare professional or dermatologist for personalized guidance and monitoring.
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