Minoxidil, more commonly known as Rogaine, is a popular treatment for hair loss. Millions of people over the years have turned to this easy-to-use treatment option, and about half have seen results.
This article will discuss minoxidil and its use for treating frontal baldness. This will include an explanation of how minoxidil works, and a deeper look at some of the research studies performed over the past few decades.
Watch the video below if you prefer that to reading about it:
What Causes Frontal Baldness?
According to the prevailing theory, DHT is the main cause of frontal baldness.
DHT is an androgen hormone produced when the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase comes into contact with testosterone, the male sex hormone (1). This newly-converted hormone then spreads throughout the body, connecting with androgen receptors.
When this occurs in the scalp, it can lead to hair thinning and loss through a process known as hair miniaturization (2). This is what leads to male-pattern baldness, scientifically referred to as Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA).
How Minoxidil Works
There are drugs on the market – specifically, finasteride and dutasteride – which inhibit 5AR and therefore reduce levels of DHT (4, 5). While this seems like the logical approach to treating pattern hair loss, it does have some downsides.
DHT is a natural androgen within the body. Reducing its levels can adversely affect your sex life and perhaps even your health (6).
There is an alternative.
Minoxidil is a vasodilator that was originally developed to treat hypertension (7). The notable side effect of hair growth made it a popular off-market treatment for pattern baldness. As such, it was soon developed into its own formula – known as Rogaine – and FDA approved as a topical treatment for men (and later women) with AGA (8).
As a vasodilator, the drug is believed to increase blood flow to the scalp (9). This ensures the delivery of oxygen and nutrients even when miniaturization is present.
There are other theorized mechanisms, too. Perhaps the most convincing is minoxidil’s ability to upregulate Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), which supports dermal papilla vasculature (10).
Minoxidil – An Effective Treatment for Genetic Baldness?
While research has shown not everyone will benefit from minoxidil, the low cost and minor risk of side effects make minoxidil a treatment that may be worth a try.
In slightly less than 50 percent of individuals with AGA, minoxidil is an effective treatment. One study has found, though, that hair growth results seem to peak at the 1-year mark, and hair regrowth levels slowly decline afterward (11).
By the 5-year treatment mark, an improvement of baseline hair regrowth levels are still present, but hair growth had slowed significantly.
Another study, in 2016, performed over the course of 104 weeks, found similar results, with hair growth peaking between week 52 and week 76 (12). While the rate of hair growth returned to baseline levels by week 104, there were no major side effects associated with this long-term use.
As mentioned above, the root cause of MPB is DHT and scalp tension. That is, as long as DHT is present in the hair follicles, follicle miniaturization will most likely continue.
Minoxidil does not work to stop the production of DHT. Instead, this treatment method works to stimulate hair growth by dilating the blood vessels (13).
This leads to increased oxygen and nutrient delivery to the hair follicles, both of which are necessary for stimulating the growth of strong, healthy hair. In a way, minoxidil works despite the presence of DHT. However, as stated, the DHT is still there within the hair follicles.
The evidence would suggest that since frontal baldness is the early stage of male pattern baldness, minoxidil would work most effectively on the frontal area.
Frontal baldness is recession along the forehead and temples where the hairline is receding – this is also called a maturing hairline – and this is one of the areas that minoxidil is most effective.
A cream version of minoxidil could be particularly effective for the front hairline since it can be easily and carefully applied exactly where you need it. The advantage is that it stays on the scalp longer and is, therefore, more effective.
How to Use Minoxidil for Hair Growth
One of the great appeals of minoxidil is its ease of use.
This topical solution is applied to the scalp twice daily. There are two different solutions of minoxidil – foam and liquid – so consumers can choose the application method that works best for them.
Brands, Availability, and Cost
While there are a variety of store brands available over the counter, the most common brand name associated with minoxidil is Rogaine. This can be purchased from a variety of retailers, both in-store and online. Due to this, prices will vary based upon location, solution type (foam version, spray, or liquid dropper), and where you purchase.
Of course, you can always choose a store brand option (like Kirkland) to save on costs, but be sure to double-check the active ingredients and that they match the Rogaine solution.
Are There Side Effects?
As with any treatment, there is always a risk of adverse effects.
The most common side effects of minoxidil use are mild dermatological issues, including itching, flaking, and redness (15). This is very likely linked to the inactive ingredient, propylene glycol, which is found in most liquid formulations of the drug. There is a foam alternative available for those who are sensitive to propylene glycol.
There are those side effects that have more to do with the drug’s mechanisms and less to do with an inactive ingredient. For example, some individuals may experience adverse effects related to the hypertensive nature of the treatment. These include flushing of the face and neck, headaches, light-headedness, dizziness, palpitations, and chest pain (16).
If you are pregnant or nursing, it is important to speak with your physician before you begin (or continue) treatment. The same can be said for anyone with underlying health conditions.
With two-thirds of the male population affected by hair loss and balding, a large number of pharmaceutical treatments have been created over the years. Above, we’ve examined one such treatment option – minoxidil – and its efficacy.
About half of those who use minoxidil will see results, though these results only last for as long as treatment continues. Of course, the cost isn’t so prohibitive that you can’t give it a try for yourself.
You may find that the effects are worth the hassle of use (though, it is pretty easy to apply), or you may decide that minoxidil treatment is not for you.
Since frontal baldness is typically early-stage hair loss, and minoxidil works more effectively to re-grow recently lost hair, there is a good chance it will work effectively for you.
Whatever you decide, keep in mind that the cause of AGA is sensitivity to DHT, and only treating the root issue will permanently stop further thinning and promote hair growth.