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Do minoxidil-based solutions like Rogaine or ApoGain actually work to reverse hair loss?
Distraught over hair loss? Minoxidil-based solutions may help reverse pattern baldness
Images of thick, shining locks crowning the heads of celebrities and flowing across the pages of magazines can leave those with thinning hair feeling a lot of anxiety. As the fallen strands gather in the bathtub, many men – and women with alopecia – are left to hope for a magic cure that will reverse those receding hairlines.
Minoxidil, sold as topical solutions like Rogaine or ApoGain, is marketed as a chance to restore some of that hair, or at least slow down the thinning process. However, the drug isn’t effective for everyone, and others may have to balance the rewards with the effort.
Originally created as a blood-pressure medication, minoxidil was found to grow hair as a side effect in some users. The drug is thought to extend anagen (the hair-production stage) and to increase the size of underdeveloped hair follicles.
Studies show that minoxidil can produce significant results in 30% to 40% of users, and it showed improvements over placebos for women with hereditary hair loss. Some users, however, find that the new growth is limited to hair that is thin and wispy.
Minoxidil works best on people who have been experiencing pattern baldness for less than five years. It must be applied twice daily to a dry scalp, and the user should avoid showers, heavy perspiration and contact with bedding for four hours after each application.
It can take at least three months and up to a year of regular use to see any effects, and the new hair grown will generally fall out again within a few weeks after the user ceases consistent application. It can cost from $28 to about $60 per month, depending on the brand and concentration.
Minoxidil-based brands are available without a prescription in 2% topical solutions in Canada. Solutions of 5% (which have been found to be more effective) can be prepared by a pharmacist by prescription.
It should be noted that minoxidil can produce side effects, including topical itching, irritation or swelling as well as weight gain, headaches, rapid heart rate, angina and lightheadedness.
It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Anyone taking prescription medications (particularly drugs for heart disease) should consult a doctor before using products containing minoxidil.
Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.