What Exactly Is Minoxidil?

A quick Google search will tell you that minoxidil is also an oral medication for blood pressure—which is actually how it was first discovered to help with hair growth. Minoxidil was originally developed in the early 1960s as an oral treatment for high blood pressure, a condition for which it is still, albeit rarely, used. In one of the early trials for treatment of blood pressure, the curious side effect of hair growth was noted. After a few decades of research, the FDA approved topical minoxidil in the late ‘80’s to treat male hair loss, and in the ‘90s, for female hair loss.

Today, you can find it on shelves in both 2% and 5% formulations, in both liquid (scalp drops) and foam formula. Minoxidil is a topical medication that is applied to the scalp to stimulate new hair growth in men and women experiencing hair loss. 

How Does Minoxidil Work to Re-Grow Hair?

Minoxidil, applied topically, is widely used for the treatment of hair loss. It is effective in helping promote hair growth in people with androgenic alopecia regardless of sex. Minoxidil must be used indefinitely for continued support of existing hair follicles and the maintenance of any experienced hair regrowth.

Its effect in people with alopecia areata is unclear.

Possibly, this hair growth occurs because minoxidil causes increased blood flow to the hair by dilating the blood vessels in the scalp. Another hypothesis, which is supported by recent data, suggests that minoxidil increases a certain enzyme (called ATP) in the hair follicle, which extends its growth phase (scientifically called the anagen phase). 

It is also thought to enlarge hair follicles that have shrunken due to hormonal changes.

However it works, it clearly does work—and there’s plenty of time-tested data to back up its hair growing powers. Everyone is different, of course, so results vary, but generally speaking in approximately 60-70% of patients, hair density will generally begin to stabilize 2-3 months into treatment, with fewer and fewer hairs being lost each day.