Hair loss can be an upsetting experience for many people, leading to a loss of self-esteem and confidence. Fortunately, there are various treatments available to help alleviate this condition. One treatment that is making a big comeback is oral minoxidil, a medication that has been around for several decades. But what is oral minoxidil? How does it work? And what are the latest research findings on its effectiveness for hair loss? This article aims to answer these questions and more.
What is Oral Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is a medication that was initially developed as a treatment for high blood pressure. However, researchers found that it also had the unexpected side effect of promoting hair growth. Minoxidil was then reformulated into a topical solution and approved by the FDA for hair loss treatment in the 1980s. Remember Rogaine?
Oral minoxidil is a pill form of the drug that is taken by mouth. It is generally prescribed for severe or refractory cases of hair loss, such as those resulting from alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes patchy hair loss.
How Does Oral Minoxidil Work?
The exact mechanism by which oral minoxidil promotes hair growth is not entirely understood. However, it is believed to widen blood vessels and increase blood flow to hair follicles, which can stimulate hair growth. Additionally, minoxidil may have a direct effect on hair follicles, promoting cell proliferation and survival.
History of Oral Minoxidil Use for Hair Loss
Oral minoxidil has been used as a treatment for hair loss since the 1980s, although it is not as widely prescribed as its topical counterpart. In the early years, it was primarily used for severe or refractory cases of hair loss, such as those resulting from alopecia areata or scarring alopecia.
Research on Oral Minoxidil Effectiveness for Hair Loss
Studies on Androgenetic Alopecia
Androgenetic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness, is the most common form of hair loss. Several studies have investigated the effectiveness of oral minoxidil for treating androgenetic alopecia.
One study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2014 found that oral minoxidil was effective for treating androgenetic alopecia in women. The study involved 47 women with mild to moderate hair loss who took oral minoxidil for 12 months. The researchers found that oral minoxidil significantly improved hair density and thickness in the treated areas.
A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings found that oral minoxidil was effective for treating severe AGA in men, with a 90% response rate after 12 months of treatment. The study also found that oral minoxidil was well-tolerated, with few side effects.
Another study published in the International Journal of Trichology in 2020 investigated the effectiveness of oral minoxidil for treating androgenetic alopecia in men. The study involved 26 men with moderate to severe hair loss who took oral minoxidil for 6 months. The researchers found that oral minoxidil significantly improved hair growth and density in the treated areas.
Studies on Other Forms of Hair Loss
Oral minoxidil has also been studied for its effectiveness in treating other forms of hair loss, such as alopecia areata and scarring alopecia.
A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2006 investigated the use of oral minoxidil for treating alopecia areata, a condition that causes patchy hair loss. The study involved 15 patients who took oral minoxidil for 6 months. The researchers found that oral minoxidil significantly improved hair regrowth in the treated areas.
Another study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology in 2018 investigated the use of oral minoxidil for treating scarring alopecia, a type of hair loss that results from inflammation and damage to hair follicles. The study involved 15 patients who took oral minoxidil for 6 months. The researchers found that oral minoxidil significantly improved hair growth and density in the treated areas.
Oral Minoxidil vs Topical Minoxidil
Topical minoxidil is the most widely used form of minoxidil for hair loss treatment. It is available over-the-counter and in prescription-strength formulations. While both oral and topical minoxidil have been shown to be effective for treating hair loss, there are some differences between the two.
One major difference is the route of administration. Topical minoxidil is applied directly to the scalp, while oral minoxidil is taken by mouth. This can affect how quickly the medication takes effect and the side effects that may occur.
Another difference is the dosage. Oral minoxidil is typically prescribed at higher doses than topical minoxidil. This can increase the risk of side effects, such as low blood pressure and fluid retention.
Side Effects of Oral Minoxidil
Like all medications, oral minoxidil can cause side effects. The most common side effects include low blood pressure, fluid retention, and hair growth in unwanted areas (such as the face). Other side effects may include dizziness, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Because of the risk of side effects, oral minoxidil should only be taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
Dosage and Administration of Oral Minoxidil
The dosage of oral minoxidil depends on the individual patient and their specific condition. It is typically prescribed at higher doses than topical minoxidil, and is usually taken once or twice daily.
Oral minoxidil should be taken with food to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal side effects. Patients should also be monitored for changes in blood pressure and fluid retention.
Oral Minoxidil and Other Hair Loss Treatments
Oral minoxidil is often used in combination with other hair loss treatments, such as finasteride (a medication that blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that can contribute to hair loss) and hair transplant surgery.
Combining different hair loss treatments can help to achieve better results than using one treatment alone.
Future Directions for Oral Minoxidil Research
While oral minoxidil has been shown to be effective for treating hair loss, there is still much to learn about how it works and how it can be optimized for different types of hair loss.
Future research may focus on identifying biomarkers or genetic factors that can help predict which patients will respond best to oral minoxidil. There may also be new formulations or combinations of medications that can enhance the effectiveness of oral minoxidil.