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How Does Rogaine/Minoxidil Work For Hair Loss?

Middle-aged man concerned with hair lossMen and women alike can suffer from the distressing effects of hair loss, from thinning of the hair to pattern baldness. “Several causes for hair loss exist,” says Dr. Miriam Hanson, board certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas. This includes androgenetic alopecia, a heritable form of thinning that often affects people around age 40, and alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that can cause bald patches. “Fortunately, both conditions have been shown to respond to treatment with Rogaine, a drug originally created to reduce high blood pressure.

Minoxidil’s Pharmacology

Minoxidil has been shown to make the suboptimal and shrunken follicles common in hair loss larger and more robust. It has been approved in doses of 2% since 1988, and in 1997 a 5% solution became available as well. “The 5% dose is considered superior,” says Dr. Hanson. “Men who applied the 5% extra strength dose experienced 45% more regrowth of their hair than those who used the 2% topical solution – and the results became apparent sooner.”

Dosage and Side Effects

It is advised that at least 1 milliliter of solution be applied to the scalp twice daily by spreading it onto the affected areas manually. Less than 10% of patients report scalp irritations, such as flaking or redness, and due to the surge of hair growth that Minoxidil activates there is sometimes an increase in shedding a few months after starting treatment. Women – about 3-5% — are slightly more likely to experience the side effect of hypertrichosis than men, but it usually lessens after a year of treatment.

Duration and Response

“Patience is key with hair loss treatments,” explains Emily Johnston, certified physician assistant at Sanova Dermatology. “Hair grows slowly, typically cycling over a 3 month period. I always caution patients that they need to stay on treatment for a some time before results can be seen.”

If a 5% Minoxidil solution is applied twice daily, visible hair growth usually occurs by 12 weeks of use. By one year of treatment, the full effects will be achieved. Although the application must be continued to maintain results, about 40% of alopecia areata patients saw sufficient regrowth of hair to conceal thinning or balding areas of their scalps, and people with thinning or balding hair experienced up to 42.5% increased hair weight after treatment.

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Minoxidil is a frequently effective and fast-acting treatment that can be used by men, women or children. While some may consider the twice-a-day regimen trying to maintain, successful use generally produces minimal side effects. The medication can aid those suffering from either androgenetic alopecia or alopecia areata, leading to visible improvement in hair growth. For more information on how Minoxidil works for hair loss, or to determine if the treatment is appropriate for you, please contact us.