Updated: Mar 31, 2021
It is not without reason that minoxidil was FDA approved to help treat hair loss. It is very difficult to obtain FDA approval, meaning that minoxidil was consistently shown to be very effective in clinical trials.
But there is a downside to minoxidil that many people may or may not be aware of. It is that you have to use minoxidil continuously, sound obvious, right? Well, if you stop using minoxidil there is a good chance that you could lose all of the hair that you regrew while you were on it. But why does this happen? Can you miss a day and still be fine? What if you use other treatments?
These are all questions that we will be addressing in this article. We are going to take a closer look at everything that happens when you stop using minoxidil to give you a better idea of what you can expect if, for whatever reason, you no longer decide to use it.
But first, a quick glance into how minoxidil works.
How minoxidil works
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you check out this article (here) that I wrote on minoxidil. It goes into extensive detail about everything you should know about this powerful hair loss treatment.
Simply put, minoxidil is a vasodilator. This means that it works to widen the blood vessels and therefore increases blood flow. When it is applied topically, the volume of blood reaching the scalp is increased and more vital oxygen and nutrients are delivered that the hair then uses to grow.
Although scientists are still unsure of the exact mechanism-of-action behind minoxidil, they know that increased blood flow helps shift your hair follicles from the telogen (resting) phase of the hair cycle to the anagen (growth) phase. There is also evidence suggesting that minoxidil helps lengthen the anagen phase, which results in thicker/longer hair growth.
In summary, by increasing blood flow, minoxidil helps hair that is in the resting phase transition into the growth phase and hence regrows hair. There are other treatments that do this as well (such as laser helmets like this one) that can be used in conjunction with minoxidil to potentially increase effectiveness.
Now, what happens when you stop using minoxidil?
Here’s what happens when you stop using minoxidil
The short and simple answer is that your hair loss will likely continue like it was before you started minoxidil. But let’s expand upon that a little bit because most people do not know why this happens or what you can do to prevent it.
Like stated above, minoxidil increases blood flow which ultimately helps regrow hair. Essentially, by using minoxidil to regrow your hair, you have created minoxidil-dependent hairs. These are hairs that, although healthy, are dependent on the increased blood volume that minoxidil supplies them.
If you quit using minoxidil, the blood flow to these hairs will decrease and will likely cause two things to happen: one, the anagen phase will begin to shorten again, and two, the hair will begin shifting back from the anagen phase to the telogen phase. This is just a fancy way to say that hair loss will resume to how it was pre-minoxidil.
But I believe that you can reduce the amount of hair loss associated with quitting minoxidil in a couple of ways.
The first is by stimulating blood flow in other ways, and there are several different approaches you can take (I would recommend using at least 2-3). You can take natural supplements like ginkgo biloba, or even better our formula Follicle Foundation, that have been scientifically proven to increase blood flow throughout the body. And you can also use techniques such as scalp massages or the inversion method, which are also quite effective at increasing blood flow.
The main thing is that if you end up stopping minoxidil, you need to find other ways to stimulate blood flow if you want to have a chance at maintaining your regrowth.
The other distressing mistake that many people make is having minoxidil be the only hair loss treatment that they use. Although minoxidil is effective at regrowing hair, it does not address the root underlying cause of hair loss: DHT. I expand upon this more here.
If you are using minoxidil without blocking DHT you are already at a significant disadvantage. If you don’t address DHT there is pretty much a 100% chance that your hair loss will get worse, regardless of minoxidil use or not. There are treatments like finasteride that can help with DHT.
If you quit minoxidil, but are using a DHT blocking treatment, you will most likely not experience as much hair loss as someone who is not blocking DHT.
How long does this process take?
Fortunately, if you miss a day of minoxidil you will be fine. Even if you miss a couple of days here and there you should be alright. It is when stoppage is prolonged when you start to run into problems, and this is because of the nature of the hair cycle.
For most people, minoxidil will take at least three months, and possibly more, to start seeing results. This is because it takes approximately that long for hair to shift from the telogen to the anagen phase long enough to see visible results. Same goes for the opposite when you stop minoxidil use.
As the hair shifts back into the telogen phase from the anagen, you will start to see your hair loss worsen. This process will also take a long time, possibly between 6-9 months in fact, and only after that will you visibly see hair falling out again.
Even though you may not see hair loss visibly worsen after up to 6 months, it is still best to practice applying minoxidil as recommended: usually twice a day, to give yourself the best chance of success in overcoming hair loss.
When you stop using minoxidil your hair loss will likely resume to where it was before you started treatment. This is because the hair that you have regrow is dependent on increased blood flow, although visible hair loss may not start until the 6-9-month mark.
Of course, the best thing to do is to continue using minoxidil, but sometimes you can’t. If that is the case, there are a couple of things that you can do to try and minimize the resumption of hair loss. Ideally, you would use a treatment that blocks DHT while also implementing techniques that increase blood flow, but use at least one or the other.
If you don’t take action after quitting minoxidil, you can kiss your hair goodbye.