Topical minoxidil is FDA-approved for the treatment of 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. Androgenetic alopecia presents in different ways for men (male pattern) and for women (female pattern). In men, the 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.
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 shortening the telogen (resting) phase of the hair and lengthening the anagen (growing) phase.
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 on its own 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 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 the use of 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 be used to 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 hair weight, making transplantation easier. Minoxidil can also prevent the 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. In a study using topical minoxidil 2%, it was found that initial hair loss was delayed by up to 10 days, and hair regrowth time was decreased by up to 40 days.