You may know that minoxidil has been used to treat both male and female hair loss for several decades, but how does it work?
Minoxidil is considered a “vasodilator”, which means it dilates blood vessels, preventing tightening and narrowing of the muscular walls of arteries and veins. In fact, this drug’s original purpose was to treat high blood pressure, until people started to notice the positive effects on their hair!
The medication both enhances hair growth as well as reduces hair loss as a result of its effect on follicular cells - minoxidil has been shown to both shorten the telogen phase as well as promote a shift to the anagen phase. The telogen phase describes the part of the hair cycle when the resting hair stays in the follicle until the growth of a new (anagen) hair pushes it out. You can think of the telogen phase as the “resting” phase of your hair cycle. The anagen phase can be thought of as the “growth” phase - this is where the hair shaft is generated and extending - this phase can last as long as six years before entering back into the rest phase.
In a normal, healthy hair cycle, the vast majority of our follicles are in the anagen growth phase, while about 9% are in the telogen phase. Having an imbalanced hair cycle, however, can result in pattern hair loss, with a shortening in the length of the growth phase. This is why it can be so effective to target increasing the anagen phase back up to a healthy level in those dealing with hair loss.
This is where minoxidil comes in.
Topical minoxidil works for both men and women. When using minoxidil, it can be expected that hair shedding may initially increase early on, but fear not! This is simply a byproduct of follicles shifting into that anagen growth phase, so be sure to have a little patience and keep up compliance. Studies have proven minoxidil use results in increasing AT (anagen:telogen) ratios, reduced hair fall, improved hair density and improved hair appearance in both men and women. Pretty good stuff.