Minoxidil is regarded as one of the most effective hair loss treatments that we currently have available without a prescription. But, clinical trials have shown that it is only effective in between 60-70% of people who use it (1). This means that there is a significant number of people who may not get the response they wanted from minoxidil.
There are also several side effects that can occur when using minoxidil including itching, inflammation, irritation, worsening of hair loss and other more serious side effects, most of which are due to some of the ingredients contained in minoxidil. It contains propylene glycol as it is a vehicle for solving minoxidil, in other words in helps minoxidil penetrate the skin. But, propylene glycol has been shown to dehydrate the hair and skin and is what typically causes issues to arise when people use minoxidil.
Whether it be due to ineffectiveness or unwanted side effects, there is a good percentage of hair loss sufferers that are unfortunately unable to derive the benefits from minoxidil. But that doesn’t mean that those people have to be left out, there are natural alternatives to minoxidil that may be equally, if not potentially more beneficial to aiding in hair regrowth.
Throughout this article we will discuss several natural alternatives to minoxidil that could bring you all of the benefits, but first we need to understand how minoxidil works because the natural alternatives all work in a similar manner.
How minoxidil works
Minoxidil, as well as many of its alternatives that we will be talking about, is classified as a vasodilator.
A vasodilator is a medication that helps dilate (open) blood vessels. So, when minoxidil is applied topically, essentially what is happening is that once it is absorbed into the scalp it begins to open up blood vessels and improve blood flow. The encouragement of blood flow is minoxidil’s primary benefit, and is vastly important for promoting hair regrowth, here’s why…
Blood carries vital oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, and when these compounds reach the hair follicles they are used for growth by them. But, in people with androgenic alopecia (AGA; pattern hair loss) the hair is undergoing a process called miniaturization, which is where the hair follicles slowly get shorter and shorter (learn about miniaturization in depth here).
As the hair follicle gets shortened, it requires less blood flow to support it, but with less blood flow comes less of the vital compounds that the hair uses to grow. This is why hair loss and low blood flow have been shown to be correlated (2).
By improving blood flow to those otherwise deprive hair follicles, minoxidil helps promote growth, and, based on current evidence, improving blood flow is the most effective, and quite possibly only, way to regrow hair. This is why people who cannot use minoxidil for whatever reason are going to want to look to alternatives so that they can get the same benefits. So let’s talk about some natural treatments that you can use to get the blood flow promoting benefits without having to use minoxidil.
Number one: peppermint oil
One of the active ingredients in peppermint oil is menthol, which is what may allow it to promote regrowth.
In 2014, a group of Korean researchers tested peppermint oil against minoxidil and two other substances (jojoba oil and saline) for their hair growth potential in mice (3). Interestingly, the researchers found that out of the four substances tested, peppermint oil proved to be the most effective at hair regrowth helping increase hair length, thickness, and depth (in the scalp). Though this is the only study of its kind, there was another study confirming that menthol helps widen blood vessels (4).
Overall, showing superiority to minoxidil, even if only in mice, is a great indication for peppermint oils hair growth benefits. Here is an in-depth article talking about peppermint oil and all of its potential benefits for hair loss (there are several).
Number two: rosemary oil
Rosemary oil is more commonly directly compared to minoxidil as it works very similarly. In fact, one study (5) compared rosemary to minoxidil directly in humans.
Researchers in the study administered either rosemary oil or minoxidil for a period of 6 months. After the time had elapsed, they found that both treatments were equally as effective in terms of overall hair count increase, although rosemary oil was found to have a lower instance of scalp itchiness/irritation.
This is the only study of its kind, but it may make for a stronger case than peppermint oil because it was tested on humans over an extended period of time, making rosemary oil another viable option for a natural minoxidil replacement.
Learn more about rosemary oil for hair loss here.
Number three: scalp massage
As far as natural topical replacements for minoxidil go, peppermint oil and rosemary oil are the most viable options with data backing them. For the sake of this list I am sticking solely to topical treatments as opposed to oral treatments (as there are several that can improve blood flow), and scalp massages are very effective at improving blood flow.
There are several other ways that scalp massages can impact hair loss, all of which you can learn about here.
Don’t give up if minoxidil doesn’t work for you. This is actually a very good lesson for hair loss in general, always try to find an alternative.
Rosemary oil, peppermint oil, and scalp massages are all viable alternatives that essentially provide the same benefit that minoxidil does: improved blood flow. If you are serious about overcoming hair loss you need to find a treatment that will get blood flow back to the hair follicles that need it most.