Hair loss, medically known as alopecia, is a common condition that can affect people of all ages and genders. Alopecia appears as thinning hair, receding hairlines, or bald patches, and it can have a negative impact on self-esteem. Many factors can contribute to hair loss. They include genetics, hormonal changes, age, stress, underlying medical conditions, and certain medications. Male and female pattern hair loss, for instance, is primarily genetic and is the most common cause of hair loss. Regardless of the main cause, many people seek treatments to address their hair loss concerns.
One of the most well-known medicines for hair loss is minoxidil. Minoxidil is an FDA-approved medication available in various formulations, including topical solutions and foams, as well as oral medication, designed to stimulate hair growth. It works by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles and prolonging the growth phase of the hair cycle, which can lead to thicker and denser hair. While minoxidil cannot completely halt the progression of hair loss, it has shown efficacy in treating male and female pattern baldness.
History of minoxidil
Minoxidil has an interesting history to it. Before it was known to help with hair loss, it was originally developed to treat high blood blood pressure. Minoxidil was first manufactured in the late 1950s by scientists at the Upjohn Company, now known as Pfizer. Its original intention was far from hair restoration—it was developed as an oral medication to treat high blood pressure. Scientists realized that minoxidil can effectively lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more easily. However, during clinical trials, an unexpected side effect was discovered. Participants reported having experienced significant hair growth, especially in areas affected by male pattern baldness. This incidental discovery sparked interest in the compound’s potential for hair restoration. Minoxidil works by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles and prolonging the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle, in the process helping to regrow and thicken hair in affected areas.
In 1988, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved minoxidil as a topical treatment for male pattern baldness, making it the first FDA-approved medication for this purpose. It is now available over-the-counter in various formulations and strengths, under various brand names like Rogaine. It is now also available in oral formulations. Today, minoxidil is widely recognized as an effective treatment for both male and female pattern baldness, and it is often used in combination with other treatments, such as finasteride or lasers (FRAXEL is one of them), to enhance its overall effectiveness.
Potential side-effects of minoxidil
Minoxidil is generally considered safe. However, like any medication, side effects are possible. It’s key to understand that not everyone will experience these side effects, and some people may experience them to a lesser degree than others. Here are some potential side effects of minoxidil:
Irritation and Dryness: Skin irritation at the scalp is possible. This can manifest as redness, itching, burning, or dryness of the scalp. This irritation is usually mild and can be managed by reducing the frequency of application or using a lower-strength formulation. Not everyone will experience this and topical minoxidil is largely well tolerated by the majority.
Increased Hair Shedding: In the early stages of minoxidil use, some people may experience an initial increase in hair shedding. This is often temporary and is a sign that the medication is working to push out old hairs to make way for newones.
Unwanted Hair Growth: For oral minoxidil, it can sometimes lead to hair growth in areas where it was not intended. Patients may experience more growth on the facial hair or body hair. Topical minoxidil does not cause hair growth elsewhere unless it has inadvertently been spread to other areas like the forehead.
Systemic side effects: Dizziness, lightheadedness, bloatedness, chest pain or rapid heartbeat may happen to certain individuals who are more sensitive to oral minoxidil. Low dose oral minoxidil usually will not result in such effects.
Limitations of minoxidil
While minoxidil is a very useful medication to treat hair loss, it is certainly no miracle drug. It cannot halt the natural continual progress of androgenic hair loss. There are other medications that can further slow down the progress of hair loss. These include finasteride for males, as well as spironolactone for females. Minoxidil can be taken together with such medications. However, once again, while there can be improvement, they cannot stop the natural progression of hair loss. Also, if the hair is already gone to begin with, these medications can never regenerate the lost hair. What then can we do with areas that already have lost hair? Hair transplant is the treatment of choice.
What is hair transplant?
While there are numerous treatments and remedies available, one of the most advanced and effective solutions for hair restoration is known as Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplant. FUE hair transplant is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to transplant hair follicles from one area of the body, typically the back or sides of the scalp (the donor site), to another area with hair loss or thinning (the recipient site). Unlike traditional hair transplant methods that involve removing a strip of skin with hair follicles (Follicular Unit Transplantation or FUT), FUE involves individually extracting and transplanting individual hair follicles.
The first step in an FUE hair transplant involves the extraction of individual hair follicles from the donor site. This is achieved by utilizing a specialized micro-punch tool that creates tiny, circular incisions around each follicular unit. Once the incisions are made, each hair follicle is carefully removed from the scalp. These follicles are then collected and prepared for transplantation.The recipient site, where hair restoration is desired, is prepared by making tiny, custom-sized incisions. The extracted hair grafts are then strategically placed in these incisions to ensure a natural-looking hairline and optimal hair density. Close attention is paid to the angle, direction, and placement of each follicle to achieve a natural appearance. The whole procedure typically takes one full day or two full days, depending on the number of hair grafts needed. Patients typically notice gradual hair growth over several months, with full results becoming visible after a year.
Side effects include temporary swelling and redness in the donor and recipient areas, which will typically go away within a few days to a week. Some itchiness and on and off tingling sensation can be felt during the initial healing process. Folliculitis may also occur. Additionally, shock loss, a temporary shedding of hair, can occur within the first few weeks after the procedure but is usually followed by regrowth. Most patients find that the benefits of FUE hair transplant outweigh the temporary side effects, as it provides a long-lasting solution to hair loss and improved self-confidence.
FUE hair transplant is a cutting-edge solution for hair loss that offers natural-looking results. It is the only way to restore hair in areas where there are no more hair follicles. Minoxidil is still useful post hair transplant as it can still prolong the growth phase of existing hair that remains. FUE hair transplant and minoxidil can go hand in hand to combat concerns of hair loss.
Drop by The Clifford Clinic to understand more!