Minoxidil slows or stops hair loss and promotes hair regrowth. It is available over-the-counter for the treatment of androgenic alopecia. Minoxidil must be used indefinitely for continued support of existing hair follicles and the maintenance of any experienced hair regrowth. It is marketed under many trade names, including Avacor Physician's Formulation, Togain, Loniten (oral), Mintop, Amexidil, Rogaine, etc.
Earlier minoxidil was used to treat high blood pressure but interestingly hair growth was the side effect. Minoxidil may cause increased growth or darkening of fine body hairs, or in some cases, significant hair growth. When the medication is discontinued, the hair loss will return to normal rate within 30 to 60 days. The mechanism by which minoxidil promotes hair growth is not fully understood.
Minoxidil is less effective when there is a large area of hair loss. In addition, its effectiveness has largely been demonstrated in younger men who have experienced hair loss for less than 5 years. Minoxidil use is indicated for central hair loss only. Hypothetically, by widening blood vessels and opening potassium channels, it allows more oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the follicle. This may cause follicles in the telogen phase to shed, which are then replaced by thicker hairs in a new anagen phase.Treatments usually include a 5% concentration solution that is designed for men, whereas the 2% concentration solutions are designed for women.
Side effects of minoxidil are burning or irritation of the eye, itching, chest tightness, redness or irritation at the treated area, as well as unwanted hair growth elsewhere on the body. Users should stop treatment and seek medical attention right away if they experience any of the above side effects.
Manufacturers note that minoxidil-induced hair loss is a common side effect and describe the process as "shedding". Although this phenomenon demonstrates that minoxidil is indeed affecting hair follicles, manufacturers offer no guarantee that the new hair loss will be replaced with hair growth. The speculated reason for this shedding is the encouragement of hairs already in the telogen phase to shed early.
Minoxidil needs to be applied once or the recommended twice daily, and may be used indefinitely for continued support of existing hair follicles and the maintenance of any experienced hair regrowth. To achieve maximum effect, the solution should be in contact with the scalp for at least 4 hours before allowing hair to get wet.
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