Minoxidil shampoo – does it work?
Minoxidil is a hair-loss treatment available in a variety of forms – from pills to serums, and foams to creams – both over the counter and on prescription. It has proven results in treating both male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness, and has been an effective go-to treatment for hair loss for nearly 40 years.
Recently, you may have seen minoxidil shampoos recommended for hair loss, and you might be wondering whether they are as effective as other forms of minoxidil for restoring hair growth. As with other treatments, it is worth doing your research before you decide which hair loss solution is best for you.
What is Minoxidil?
Minoxidil was initially developed in the 1950s as an ulcer medication, and was also used as a drug to treat hypertension in the 1970s.
However, it was discovered to be effective against hair loss by accident when patients noticed abnormal rates of hair growth when taking the drug. As a result, Minoxidil began to be used off-label by some physicians in the 1980s to treat male pattern baldness. It was subsequently marketed over the counter worldwide as a topical application, Rogaine, in 1988 (it is known as Regaine in the UK). Since then it has been made available in a variety of forms, including serums, foams, and more recently, shampoos.
Minoxidil is often used alongside finasteride (the generic name of the brand Propecia). Finasteride comes in tablet form, but should be taken with caution due to its side effects that can include decreased libido and sexual dysfunction.
How does Minoxidil work?
Both male and female pattern baldness occur when hair follicles shrink, resulting in hair growth that is weak and breakable. These follicles eventually stop producing hair altogether. When used topically on the scalp, minoxidil stimulates hair follicles to start growing again. Minoxidil is a vasodilator, meaning it opens blood vessels. In doing so, minoxidil brings improved blood flow to the follicles, resulting in thicker, healthier hair growth, rejuvenating follicles in the process.
What is Minoxidil Shampoo?
Minoxidil shampoos are a recent development, easier to use than the serums and foams, and safer than tablets. A shampoo can be used daily with no real disruption to your routine, and is safe for both men and women.
However, the majority of minoxidil shampoos only contain 1% minoxidil, meaning they’re weaker than the foams and serums. The American FDA doesn’t consider this concentration to be suitable for use treating male pattern baldness, and more studies need to be taken to determine their effectiveness.
Some minoxidil shampoos are available at a 2% concentration, but there are still concerns whether a shampoo stays on the scalp long enough to have an effect. Given the lack of research, it is best to use minoxidil in an alternative form for both male and female pattern baldness. It is also not recommended to add minoxidil to your usual shampoo.
What Are the Other Forms of Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is traditionally available in either a serum or a foam solution, which needs to be applied twice a day to the scalp. Its most common forms come in two concentrations – 2% and 5%, although some preparations are as high as 12%.
Men are able to use the higher concentrations, but it is recommended that women only use the 2% formulation. This is because the 5% solution can cause excessive hair growth on the face. Women are also more susceptible to other side effects from the higher concentration, including dizziness and allergic dermatitis.
It should be noted, however, that higher concentrations of minoxidil aren’t always the most effective. A study by the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found that the 5 percent minoxidil solution was more effective than the 10 percent version. They also saw an increase in hair shedding and scalp irritation in the higher concentration of minoxidil.
The drawbacks of the serums and foam solutions are that they need to be applied twice a day to the scalp, and left in to be absorbed. This can be time-consuming and is not always practical.
Minoxidil and Female Hair Loss
Minoxidil should be used with caution by women, as it can affect the hormone balance in the body. For female pattern baldness the recommended medical treatment includes spironolactone, which has weak anti-androgen action and is less disruptive to the system. If a woman is fertile, birth control needs to be used because of the potential feminization of a potential male foetus.
How Effective is Minoxidil Shampoo?
Studies looking at the effectiveness of minoxidil serums and foams show positive results after around 2-4 months, but there haven’t been enough studies on the effectiveness of minoxidil shampoos. Some recent research shows that minoxidil shampoo would need to be used for at least 3 months before any positive results could be measured.
It is too early to say whether the lower concentrations of minoxidil in the shampoos, as opposed to the serums or foams, are effective on their own. This is why it is recommended that the shampoos are used in conjunction with another approved hair loss treatment.
How does Minoxidil Work with PRP?
Minoxidil and PRP can be used in conjunction with each other. While PRP is highly effective on its own, its effects are increased by using a good minoxidil treatment concurrently. However, it is recommended not to use any minoxidil treatments for at least two days before a PRP treatment and at least 24 hours after a PRP treatment.
A minoxidil shampoo can be used daily once the PRP treatment has ended, although a topical application in serum or foam form is recommended.
Minoxidil when used twice daily in serum or foam form can produce positive results, especially when used in conjunction with an additional proven treatment, such as PRP. However, there is no conclusive evidence to show that minoxidil in shampoo form is strong enough to have any effect.