Updated: Jul 9
Minoxidil can be a great treatment option for someone who is experiencing hair loss. It is FDA approved, meaning it has been shown in multiple studies to be effective against hair loss.
Along with finasteride, minoxidil is one of the most widely used hair loss treatments. It works to increase circulation to the scalp and improve hair growth. Being a treatment that effectively regrows hair, it can sound very exciting for someone that is looking for a solution to their hair loss, sometimes too exciting in fact.
Oftentimes, since minoxidil is available as an over-the-counter drug, people will buy it without fully understanding the side effects. But, just like with any drug, you should do your research and understand not only the risks, but also how it works before taking it. (If you do not yet fully understand minoxidil, I recommend you read this article that details exactly how it interacts with your body as well as the most effective way to use it)
This article will cover all of the known potential side effects of using minoxidil. After you are fully aware of the risks, I will then provide several tips/tricks that you can use to not only help avoid these side effects, but potentially boost the effectiveness of minoxidil as well.
The side effects of minoxidil
Since minoxidil is one of the most widely used hair loss treatments, doctors and scientists alike are well aware of the side effect profile.
The three side effects that most commonly occur are minor scalp irritation (i.e. burning, stinging, or redness) changes in hair color/texture, and scalp dryness/itch (which may lead to dandruff and other problems), all of which will occur at the application site. These occur because minoxidil formulations often contain alcohol and propylene glycol, two ingredients that have both been known to irritate the scalp.
Before we discuss the more serious side effects, it is important to note that people also commonly report increased hair loss when starting minoxidil. This is called the “shedding phase” and although it is technically a side effect, it is actually an indication that the treatment is working. Learn more here.
Although they are very rare, minoxidil can cause more serious side effects such as:
-severe scalp irritation
-swelling of the hands and/or feet
-unusual weight gain
Talk to your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects after using minoxidil. The best way to avoid serious side effects is to be conservative with your minoxidil use. Only a small amount is needed for it to be effective and excessive use can cause it to be absorbed into your bloodstream, which is more likely to cause side effects.
In conclusion, minoxidil is a very safe treatment to use, as long as you don’t overdo it.
My top tips to avoid minoxidil side effects
Though they are not usually serious, the more common side effects of minoxidil such as dry scalp, itchiness, and irritation can be quite annoying. Luckily there are a few different ways to combat them.
Firstly, you can use essential oils. This is the method that I personally have found to be most effective. Although there are many different essential oils that can potentially benefit your scalp, I recommend using a mixture of rosemary and jojoba oils. Not only does this mixture work similarly to minoxidil (and may even be more effective, more on rosemary here) by boosting circulation, but it also helps moisturize the hair and scalp.
How to use essential oils:
-mix rosemary (or an oil of your choice) with the carrier oil (1 drop of rosemary per 5/ml of jojoba oil)
-apply mixture right after shower (once hair is dry) approximately 30 minutes before minoxidil application
-this should help stop skin irritation and scalp dryness from minoxidil
Secondly, you can use a hair loss friendly shampoo. Shampoos such as Lipogaine (my personal favorite) contain ingredients that not only benefit hair loss directly, but also help moisturize your scalp without the use of harsh chemicals. Always shower before you apply minoxidil to ensure that your scalp is clean and that minoxidil will have at least 4 hours before you wash your hair again (it is advised to let minoxidil dry for 4 hours to get the full effect).
Finally, like I stated earlier, the best way to avoid side effects is to use the correct amount of minoxidil. If you use the foam (which I prefer because it is easier to manage), use about a quarter sized amount for the temples and the crown respectively. This will ensure that you are not using too much. Make sure after you apply it that you massage the minoxidil evenly into the problematic areas.
Minoxidil is a low-risk, high-reward hair loss treatment that has been proven time and time again to be effective. Although just like with any drug, there is a risk of experiencing side effects, which is why you should always talk to your doctor before starting treatments and if you experience any severe side effects. Bearing that in mind, minoxidil can be a great addition to your hair loss treatment just like it has been for millions of people worldwide.
You can use the tips and tricks that I provided to try to mitigate some of the side effects and even potentially yield better results from minoxidil.