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Minoxidil (2% or 5% solution) is a spray or lotion that you put directly on your scalp twice a day. It is available without a prescription.
It is unclear how minoxidil affects hair growth. Minoxidil appears to increase hair follicles and also thickens the shafts of existing hair so that it grows in thicker.
Minoxidil has been approved for both men and women.
Minoxidil was originally used to treat high blood pressure. It is now also used to treat inherited hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), the most common cause of hair loss. And it is used to treat other causes of hair loss too.
Minoxidil slows hair loss and grows new hair. In men, the 5% solution appears to be more effective than the 2% solution, but it costs more and may have more side effects.
Some people who take minoxidil only grow hair that is thin and wispy or similar to peach fuzz.
Minoxidil seems to work best on people younger than 30 years of age who have been losing hair for fewer than 5 years.1
The most common side effects include skin irritation, dandruff, and an itchy scalp. In women, minoxidil may promote facial hair growth, especially on the forehead and cheeks.
If you have heart problems, ask your doctor about using this medicine.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Minoxidil must be used daily. If you stop using minoxidil, any regrown hair will gradually be lost, and within 6 to 12 months the scalp will most likely appear the same as before treatment.
Women may have more hair growth if they take minoxidil with estrogen (such as hormone replacement or birth control pills).
Last Revised: April 6, 2012
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.