Minoxidil an Overview
Minoxidil is predominantly used as a topical solution (medical applied to the skin) which works to restore hair growth by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles. It is most effective in men who have recently started to lose their hair. Despite its widespread recommendation by hair transplant clinics, it is considered the least effective for men who have been bald for a long time. Minoxidil is easily available over-the-counter. However, pharmacists ask for a prescription from patients who require it in a stronger concentration.
Minoxidil has been used for decades and is generally considered safe and well-tolerated. But its efficacy is variable. In a nutshell, topical minoxidil helps stimulate hair growth or slow balding when applied to the scalp once or twice a day. These scalp treatments usually contain 2 to 5% minoxidil as the active ingredient. However, there are some ‘extra strength versions’ that use a 5% or more concentration of the drug and are considered to be more effective than the original formula (which uses a 2% concentration)
Despite the commercial success of the drug, Minoxidil has many shortcomings. The following are the top limitations:
- 1. Inconsistent Performance: Minoxidil works very well only for some people. It is considered the most effective for people under 40 years of age with recent hair loss problems.
- 2. Constant use: Its consistent use is essential. Patients who stop using it are likely to experience hair loss again.
- 3. Side Effects: Minoxidil may cause scalp irritation, dryness, and flakiness as side effects. In rare cases, it may also cause chest pain, fainting, or an irregular heartbeat.
- 4. Delayed Results: It may take several months of Minoxidil use before any improvements in hair loss are seen.
- 5. Health Discretion Required: It is unsuitable for patients with a history of high blood pressure and hypertension.
Topical Vs. Oral Minoxidil
Both forms of minoxidil work by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles, which in turn promotes the growth of new hair. However, there are some key differences between the two forms of minoxidil that are worth noting. Topical minoxidil is considered to be the most effective form. It is also considered the safest form of minoxidil, as it is less likely to cause side effects.
Oral minoxidil, on the other hand, is taken in pill form. It is generally used to treat high blood pressure, but it has also been effective in promoting hair growth. Oral minoxidil is considered a more powerful form that is also riskier for use than its counterpart. It can cause serious side effects such as low blood pressure, heart palpitations, and headaches.
One of the main differences between topical and oral minoxidil is how they are absorbed into the body. Topical minoxidil is absorbed directly into the scalp, where it can affect the hair follicles. On the other hand, oral minoxidil is absorbed into the bloodstream, which can have a more widespread effect on the body.
Another important difference between topical and oral minoxidil is the way in which they are used. Topical minoxidil is typically used twice a day, while it is usually taken once a day orally.
Should You Take it?
The choice between oral and topical minoxidil depends primarily on the severity of your hair loss and whether you are a good candidate for the drug. Oral minoxidil, while generally more effective than topical minoxidil, can take longer to show results. It also has a stronger side effects profile. But one significant advantage of oral minoxidil over its topical counterpart is its customizability. It is easier to take smaller doses that are less likely to cause side effects than larger doses of topical minoxidil.
Also, because the drug is ingested and not applied to the scalp, it is more likely to remain in the bloodstream for longer. This makes oral minoxidil more effective in treating hair loss.
However, many physicians will reserve oral minoxidil for patients experiencing a more severe form of hair loss. This is because oral minoxidil can have serious side effects in some patients, including liver damage, a hormone imbalance, and increased potassium levels in the blood. These side effects are more common in patients taking large doses of the drug and who have liver or kidney problems.
Overall, the choice between topical and oral minoxidil will depend on the severity of your hair loss and the potential risks and benefits of each medication. A healthcare professional is the best resource who can help you determine the best course of treatment for your specific needs.
To schedule your hair transplant consult with Drs. Lieberman & Parikh, please call our office at (650) 327-3232 or drop us a note here.