Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Minoxidil is one of the most popular hair loss treatments available, and it didn’t get that way by accident. Being FDA approved is a process that requires extensive research and testing that consistently shows a drug to be effective, and minoxidil did just that in 1988.
But that’s where the problems begin. Having been approved in 1988, the studies that were done during that time are now quite outdated. But, per FDA regulations, until minoxidil is re-filed for FDA approval, the companies that manufacture it have to base their instructions, packaging, and recommendations around those studies that are more than 30 years old.
This is problematic because there is a lot of new information that has surfaced in the last 30 years, specifically ways to use it that can potentially make it more effective. Unfortunately, none of these can be included in the packaging or instructions of minoxidil products which is why I am writing this article. I am going to share 3 simple tips/tricks that you can easily implement into your minoxidil routine that could significantly boost your results, all of which have scientific evidence backing them. I have used these tips and tricks to help overcome my own hair loss.
First, let’s take a quick look at how minoxidil works.
Minoxidil and blood flow
Minoxidil is a vasodilator. In simple terms, it widens the blood vessels which allows more blood flow. This is important because blood carries vital oxygen and nutrients that your hair uses to grow. When hair is deprived of blood, it may not undergo a healthy growth cycle which can lead to thinner, shorter hair, and is why studies have shown a link between low blood flow and pattern hair loss.
By increasing blood flow minoxidil ensures that hair follicles complete a healthy growth cycle and can help revitalize dying hairs. (You can read a more in depth article here)
Now that you understand how minoxidil works, let’s dive into some simple ways that you can increase its effectiveness.
How to increase minoxidil’s effectiveness
It is the general consensus throughout the scientific community that minoxidil works for between 50-60% of men with varying levels of regrowth. But, if everyone who used minoxidil were aware of these simple tips and tricks, that number would likely be higher.
Tip one: microneedle
Microneedling is a technique where a derma roller containing tiny (micro) needles penetrates the dermis layer of the skin. The dermis is where the hair follicles are located, and by penetrating it, microneedling provides a direct pathway for minoxidil to quickly and easily reach the hair follicles, therefore more effectively providing blood flow to those areas.
This is not just hypothetical. Since minoxidil normally soaks through the scalp into the dermis (which takes much longer), studies (1,2) have shown that the addition of microneedling can vastly improve its effectiveness. One study in particular showed that when minoxidil was used alone vs. with microneedling, the mean change in hair count was over 4 times higher in the microneedling group!
Not only does the scientific data support it, but there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence online supporting microneedling, including myself. I believe that I really started to see a change in my hair loss when I started microneedling, and that it made a significant contribution to my success in overcoming hair loss.
Tip two: use minoxidil on the crown AND temples
Like we talked about earlier, since minoxidil was FDA approved in 1988, those are the studies that determine what can and cannot be included on the label. Those studies were conducted only on the crown of the participants, meaning that manufacturers cannot legally say that minoxidil works on the temples, but there is evidence that suggests it does.
There is currently only one scientific study that has been done testing minoxidil’s effectiveness on the temples, which showed that it does in fact work. But again, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence (including myself) online of people saying that minoxidil helped them regrow their hairline.
This is because the hair follicles in the front of your head aren’t significantly different than those on the crown, meaning that increased blood flow will benefit both areas similarly.
Even though there is a high chance that minoxidil will benefit your temples just as much as your crown, take it with a grain of salt. It is best to view it as a potential rather than a guaranteed given the lack of scientific evidence. Nonetheless it is worth a try, but always remember that is could take up to 6 months to see results.
Tip three: use foam vs. liquid depending on your situation
As you may or may not know minoxidil comes two forms: liquid and foam, both of which have their perks and work better for different people.
The liquid form has been shown to potentially be slightly more effective because it uses propylene glycol, which has been shown to enhance absorption.
In terms of who should use it? Liquid minoxidil may be more convenient for people with longer hair. This is because the foam has been known to coat the longer hair and sometimes not reach the scalp like it is supposed to. It also may be the better option for people who’s hair loss has progressed to a point where they can no longer style their hair given that it may be more effective.
There are also drawbacks to using the liquid. First, and most commonly complained about, is the fact that it can cause hair to look and feel greasy. This may lead to hair appearing thinner (which nobody wants). People have also mentioned that it can cause irritation and inflammation from the propylene glycol.
Taking these side effects into consideration, I generally recommend people use foam minoxidil instead.
Foam minoxidil was developed without propylene glycol in order to reduce irritation, but it ended up being the much more popular option for a couple of reasons.
For one, it does not leave your hair feeling greasy, in fact it does the latter. When the foam dries, it can act as a replacement for hair gel allowing you to style it. This is why it is best to use the foam if you have enough hair to style (i.e. medium length). It is also more convenient given that it dries quicker. This is very important because it means that it is easier to fit into your daily routine which encourages consistent use (very important!).
There are no significant drawbacks to using minoxidil foam.
Whether you use liquid or foam minoxidil really boils down to preference. The important thing is that you find a way that works for you so that you can use it consistently.
Minoxidil is an effective hair loss treatment that has helped many people recover from hair loss, but it could use a little updating.
Having been FDA approved in 1988, there is a lot of new information that has come to light in the last 32 years that suggests there are more effective ways of using it.
By using the tips and tricks that I provided, you could potentially help increase your chances of having success with minoxidil.