Most people don't know that minoxidil for hair loss was actually discovered by complete accident! Initially used as an oral treatment for hypertension, minoxidil's main side effect was reversing male pattern baldness and regrowing hair that was missing. After this was discovered in the 1980's, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation explored this opportunity and in 1988 under the brand names Rogaine (in the USA) and Regaine (internationally) became the first officially registered and proven hair growth agent on the market. Since then the patent on minoxidil has expired and many generic versions have been brought on to the market.
Although minoxidil for hair loss has been around for many years, the way in which minoxidil actually regrows hair is not fully understood. There are several theories surrounding minoxidil, the most popular one being that it acts as a vasodilator, meaning that it dilates blood vessels on the scalp. This in turn increases the blood supply to the hair follicles which can enhance the supply of nutrients to the scalp, later regrowing hair. Research does show that minoxidil has been found to affect the cellular activity of hair follicles resulting in hair growth.
How Does Minoxidil Work
A lot of research has been conducted in recent years to try and understand the effect that minoxidil has on hair growth. However the effects are still not completely understood. Initially it was believed that minoxidil improved the blood circulation to the scalp, but this conclusion now seems outdated. The most recent theory about minoxidil links it to the group of medicines known as potassium channel openers which it is believed to stimulate hair growth. Minoxidil itself has absolutely no effect on the hormone balance, unlike finasteride, dutasteride and saw palmetto. Because it is not a hormonal yet has a general stimulating effect on hair growth, minoxidil can be used for many forms of hair loss... not only androgenetic alopecia.
Expected Results With Minoxidil
Minoxidil does have a positive effect in 60 to 80% of its users - stabilisation of hair, but the result is only 'cosmetically satisfactory' for about 30% of people that use it. Both men and women experiencing hair loss for a long time can benefit from using minoxidil, however new hair growth on bald spots is a rare occurrence because when a hair follicle dies there is nothing that can be done. Minoxidil works best for people who have noticed recent hair loss. It should also be noted that minoxidil works well on the crown area, however not so much on a receding hairline.
Although minoxidil stimulates hair growth, it actually does nothing to change the underlying reason and cause of the hair loss in the first place. Minoxidil has no effect on stopping DHT from attacking the hair follicle, so eventually the use of minoxidil alone will not be enough for most people to permanently prevent future hair loss. With that being said, it is also unfortunate that hair recovered by using minoxidil will remain 'minoxidil dependent', meaning that minoxidil needs to be continuously used in order to maintain any results, and with cessation of using the product hair loss will increase at a rapid rate.
Side Effects of Minoxidil
Minoxidil products can be regarded as safe, however the side effects that are occasionally reported are: dry skin, fluid retention, dizziness and headaches. Additionally, a slight increase in body and facial hair can occur due to small amounts of minoxidil entering the bloodstream through the skin. Doctors and medical professionals suggest that minoxidil can be dangerous for people with cardiovascular disease.