BEFORE WE BEGIN...
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WHAT IS MINOXIDIL?
Minoxidil is a licensed medicine used in the treatment of high blood pressure and also commonly used for the treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia in both men and women. It was actually during trials for Minoxidil as a treatment for high blood pressure back in the late 1960s where researchers first noticed that the drug was also showing signs of being able to cause hair growth, the Pharmaceutical Journal notes.
This was first launched as Regaine Topical Solution 2% in the UK in 1988, although it was available only on private prescription according to the Pharmaceutical Journal. Initially the focus was on male baldness, however, in 1990 the drug's licence was extended to women with hair loss and Minoxidil was then released as the first FDA-approved medication to treat hair loss.
Minoxidil is considered one of the two most effective medicines for the treatment of hair loss, in part due to a 48 week study conducted on ‘Regaine for Men Extra Strength Scalp Solution 5% w/v Cutaneous Solution’ concluded 60% of men on the trial using Minoxidil experienced more hair coverage. The brand ‘Regaine’ also ran a similar 48 week study on their 2% version for women and the results showed that Minoxidil was shown to “stabilise” hair loss in 88% of participants who used this daily for the duration of the trial (study available at www.medicines.org.uk).
Nowadays, Minoxidil-based products are typically available as a liquid or foam to the scalp and although Minoxidil can be used by both men and women, there are different products specifically designed for each.
WHAT VERSIONS ARE AVAILABLE?
As you may have noticed, the strength of Minoxidil was lower for women than for men in the trials, and this translates into the products that are available for both too.
2% vs. 5% MINOXIDIL
So, what’s the difference between the 2% and the 5% forms? Well, with both forms the application is the same, as you would expect so the main difference comes down to the efficacy.
One such study in 2002 by Dr Olsen and published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded that, after 48 weeks of therapy, the participants who were provided the 5% topical Minoxidil showed significantly superior results than those provided the 2% topical Minoxidil. This 5% group saw 45% more regrowth at week 48, along with an earlier response time to the treatment.
The 2% variant is typically marketed for women, with the higher concentration usually reserved for men. Although 5% versions are available, you should discuss the benefits for using both concentrations with your GP or healthcare professional prior to starting any treatment.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MINOXIDIL FOAM AND LIQUID?
Firstly, the results seen when using the liquid or foam variants of Minoxidil are almost identical according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, so which one you use may come down to other factors rather than efficacy such as ease of use.
The liquid version of Minoxidil is the original form using a dropper to apply the solution, which contains among other ingredients, propylene glycol, directly to the scalp. The reason we have mentioned this specific ingredient is that a study by Dr Friedman back in 2002, linked the scalp irritation most participants experienced in their study to a hypersensitivity to the ingredient.
The newer foam version of Minoxidil is propylene glycol-free and a study by Dr Olsen in 2007, supported by Regaine maker Pfizer Inc, stated that their consumer studies indicated that the foam version rated significantly higher on a number of aesthetic attributes, including “ease of application, lack of dripping, quick absorption and drying, and ability to fit easily into a daily routine.”
However, while the foam version may provide a greater coverage, as Minoxidil is designed to be applied to your scalp and it’s still possible to be allergic to some of the other ingredients found in the foam, there are many people who prefer the more accurate application that a dropper provides.
Both versions have their benefits and drawbacks, so a lot of this will come down to personal preference.
HOW DOES MINOXIDIL WORK?
Minoxidil belongs to a classification of drugs known as vasodilators, which are medicines that make your blood vessels get wider (www.webmd.com) but it is not actually known exactly how Minoxidil causes hair growth
It is believed that Minoxidil works by increasing the blood flow and nutrient supply to the hair follicles, in turn stimulating and prolonging hair growth. This, according to the website for the brand Regaine, can help promote hair regrowth in 4 ways by;
- Reversing the miniaturization of follicles (stops them getting smaller)
- Increases the blood flow around the follicle
- Stimulates follicle movement.
- Extends the growth phase of the hair cycle (the Anagen phase)
With Androgenetic Alopecia, the hair follicles shrink and become dormant over time, reducing the active growth phase of the hair follicles which can lead to weak, wispy hair. It is claimed that Minoxidil can stop this hair follicle shrinkage and reverse its effects by helping extend the active growth phase, keeping your hair growing for a longer period of time.
Theoretically, this should then lead to added thickness and volume, occurring from having more active hair follicles on this growth phase.
As mentioned above, Minoxidil products are available without a prescription and you can buy these over the counter in a liquid or foam form containing either a 5 % or 2% concentration. Minoxidil is not available on the NHS.
It is also worth noting that, for hair to grow, it requires the right conditions. One of these conditions is adequate blood flow to the scalp region.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WORK?
As we discussed in the Hair Loss Treatment Guide, there is a wide range of sources providing information as to how long you should expect to wait to see results, with this varying from 8 weeks - 6 months+. However, referencing the time frame stated by Regaine, they claim that ‘clinically visible hair regrowth’ may be seen as early as 8 weeks but as results vary they state that this may take up to 16 weeks.
As we discuss in our article Understanding Hair Loss, your hair follicles are all at different stages of the hair cycle so it is not surprising that the effects of Minoxidil are not seen at the same time for everyone, which is something that the subscription website - Forhims - claim that ‘most studies’ indicate the results from Minoxidil typically start to show after six months’.
Whichever report you choose to believe, the most important thing to take is that this needs time to synchronise with your hair cycle so you will need to be patient.
ANY POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS?
While Minoxidil is considered safe, as with any medication there are potential side effects for some users.
Firstly, although this may not necessarily be considered a side effect, many Minoxidil users experience an increase in their hair loss initially as the drug starts to synchronise with their hair cycle. Due to the way in which Minoxidil is believed to work by inducing an early anagen phase, this means that more hair follicles are likely to go through the telogen phase quicker and fall out so they enter the growth phase again (ref:NCBI).
During this period of shedding, and over the coming months while you await the effects of Minoxidil, Nanogen Hair Fibres provide the perfect cosmetic solution to instantly create density and boost the appearance of a thicker, fuller hair.
The NCBI also list the following as possible adverse effects being reported by users;
- Skin irritation: Erythema, discomfort and a burning sensation
- Scaly changes of the scalp: Irritation or exacerbation of seborrheic dermatitis
- Isolated pruritus
- Allergic contact dermatitis: Erythema, eczematous skin reaction, and pruritus. Minoxidil and propylene glycol are the two major allergens in allergic contact dermatitis. Patch testing may help reveal the causative agent. In the case of allergic contact dermatitis to propylene glycol, Minoxidil foam (lacks propylene glycol) is an option.
- Localized or generalized hypertrichosis: This effect can occur with both oral and topical Minoxidil. However, it is more commonly seen with the oral form, and with 5% versus 2% Minoxidil. Research suggests that hypertrichosis is related to Minoxidil's prolongation of the anagen phase.
Occasionally users have experienced changes in their hair color and texture but, as cited by WebMD, you should contact your doctor right away if you experience any serious side effects after using Minoxidil, including:
- Sudden weight gain
- Breathing difficulties
- Swelling of the face, stomach, hands or ankles
- Dizziness or fainting
- Chest pains
- Rapid heartbeat
HOW CAN NANOGEN FIBRES HELP?
Nanogen Hair Fibres can really help alongside treatments such as Minoxidil. Our natural fibres are the ideal product to help cover the thinning area as the Minoxidil synchronises with your hair cycle and over the following months while it hopefully begins to take effect.
As we mentioned earlier, it is important to be patient as you may not see any visible results as quickly as you initially hoped, it is also equally as important to understand that Minoxidil is a daily use, long-term solution, and results require a commitment to continuous use. Once you start using treatments such as Minoxidil, you will need to continue using it for as long as you want to fight your hair loss.
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While our aim is to provide you with uptodate and relevant information, drugs affect each person differently. As such we can not guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects and this information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss treatment options and possible side effects with a healthcare professional who knows your specific medical history.