A woman applying a minoxidil alternative to her scalp and hair

Minoxidil Alternatives – 3 Natural Substitutes With Great Results!

Minoxidil is commonly used as an ingredient in hair loss treatment formulas. However, there are alternatives available which can provide with similar results.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to minoxidil, including how it works. Then, you’ll learn of common side effects and substitutes for this popular over-the-counter treatment.

In addition, I’ll share with you natural alternatives to minoxidil with promising results.

Minoxidil As a Treatment for Male Pattern Baldness

Minoxidil is the active ingredient in Rogaine, and it has been approved by the FDA for over twenty years as a hair loss treatment (even though there can be considerable side effects!)

To understand how it works, it’s first important to understand the causes of pattern baldness.

What Causes Thinning, Receding Hair?

There are various causes of hair fall, though the most popular one is Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), also known as Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB).

The main cause of AGA is believed to be a sensitivity to DHT, an androgen hormone found naturally within the body.

DHT is produced when testosterone (the sex hormone) and 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme) interact. This happens in the prostate, but also in places near the hair follicles.

How It Works

As a treatment for pattern baldness, minoxidil works by stimulating blood circulation to the scalp.

As mentioned, AGA is caused by a sensitivity to DHT. As DHT attaches to the hair follicle and remains, the follicle becomes irritated and inflamed. Over time, this leads to hair miniaturization.

As the follicle miniaturizes, the hair growth cycle shortens. This leads to shorter and shorter hairs being produced, eventually leading to no hair at all.

As the follicles become inflamed and irritated as a result of DHT sensitivity, the hair cycle shortens leading to baldness.

So, where does minoxidil come in?

As the process of miniaturization takes place, the link between the hair follicle and blood vessels becomes thinner. When this occurs, less nutrients and oxygen are delivered.

When minoxidil is used, blood circulation increases. This means more nutrients can be delivered, and the follicle can revive.

Minoxidil Side Effects and Considerations

While minoxidil has proven to be effective in the treatment for alopecia, it does have side effects associated with its use.

Common side effects include local irritation (itching, flaking, burning, rash),

In addition to side effects, there are a few things to consider before beginning treatment.

  1. Results only last as long as treatment continues.
  2. The treatment covers symptoms, but it doesn’t treat the root cause.

With these side effects and considerations in mind, it’s natural to want to reconsider your choice.

Are There Over-the-Counter Alternatives to Minoxidil?

As it currently stands, Rogaine (minoxidil) and Propecia (finasteride) are the only hair loss treatments approved by the FDA.

Unlike minoxidil, finasteride works by inhibiting 5AR. As a result, less DHT is produced. However, this course of treatment can have some life-altering side effects, such as loss of sexual function.

So, what happens if you don’t want to use Rogaine or Propecia?

Are There Natural Alternatives to Minoxidil?


If over-the-counter or prescription medications aren’t an option for you, or if you’ve tried both with poor results, you’ll be happy to know there are natural alternatives.

Many of these alternatives fall into one of two groups (or, sometimes both). Let’s take a look.

DHT Blockers

As sensitivity to DHT is believed to be a factor in AGA, it makes sense to use DHT blockers.

The problem with DHT blockers (and 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, like finasteride) is their risk of side effects.

While DHT plays a role in AGA, it’s not necessarily the “cause.” And in fact, DHT plays a much larger role in the human body than many hair loss “experts” would have you believe.

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen sex steroid and hormone. It contributes to the development of secondary male sexual characteristics, like descent of the testes, voice deepening, facial hair growth, etc. That’s not the only biological activities it’s involved in, though.

In the prostate and elsewhere in the body (including the hair follicle), DHT is believed to modulate the inflammatory responseThis is likely the reason that DHT levels are higher in men with pattern baldness.

All of that to say, while blocking (or minimizing) DHT has been shown to effectively treat hair loss, it can disrupt some key biological activities.

One way to minimize these effects is to use external DHT blockers as opposed to internal ones.

Finasteride, for example, is an internal drug. It’s taken orally, so it enters the bloodstream where it then travels to the organs and targets 5-alpha-reductase (and DHT) at the “source.” An external DHT blocker, however, would target DHT at the follicles only. This reduces its impact on systemic functions.

While I recommend a different method (which I’ll get into in more depth later), this can be a great way to get started on your hair growth journey.

Do keep in mind that the external DHT blockers below are not approved by the FDA. In many cases, they may not have even been tested on humans but only mice or extracted dermal papilla cells.

So, what are some natural DHT blockers for you to consider?

For example, pumpkin seed oil has been shown over the course of 24 weeks to increase hair count and hair thickness:

Diagram of hair count, and hair thickness after 24 weeks using pumpkin seed oil compared to a placebo
Source.

In another study, reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) was the most effective mushroom species at inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that triggers the production of DHT.

But what about over-the-counter options?

There are topical finasteride formulations that have been developed. This includes a gel formulation and a cream or lotion.

The gel formulation, when used as a maintenance dosage after treatment with minoxidil and/or finasteride, was shown to maintain the hair growth in the majority of individuals.

As you can see, there is still much research to be done on both oral and topical DHT blockers and their overall effects on long-term hair regrowth and maintenance. This is why I recommend a more established method for treating hair loss, and that’s with circulation boosters.

Scalp Tension Reducers

I mentioned above that DHT plays a role in hair loss, but it’s not the cause. Instead, it seems to be that scalp tension is the underlying cause of male pattern baldness in the majority of hair loss sufferers.

Scalp tension is a somewhat ambiguous term, but all it refers to is the chronic tension which is found in the top-most layer of the scalp known as the galea. The galea is a fibrous tissue connected to the muscles on the perimeter of the scalp (frontal, occipital, temporal, and external auricular).

Contractions from these muscles can trigger an inflammatory response in androgen-sensitive regions of the scalp. And can you guess where these regions are? That’s right – in the same areas where male-pattern baldness tends to progress.

As scalp tension increases, so too does inflammation at the hair follicles. This can progress to hair follicle miniaturization, which ultimately means stunted hair growth and the development of pattern balding.

The solution seems simple, then. To stop the progression of pattern balding and to potentially even reverse it, the tension must be reduced.

Here’s how.

Scalp Massage

What does tension really mean when referring to the muscles and their surrounding tissues? Your muscles contract and release on a regular basis. This helps you to perform basic functions and movements. But tension occurs when the muscles remain in a semi-contracted state for an extended period of time.

This is where scalp massage comes in.

Scalp massage is a gentle manipulation of the muscles and tissues (like the galea) with your hands or a specialized massaging tool. The massages will, over time, release the contractions and bring your muscles back to their natural resting state.

In terms of pattern baldness triggered by scalp tension, massage can reduce the inflammatory response and reverse miniaturization of the hair follicles.

There are many scalp massage techniques you can use to your benefit. To view in-depth tutorials on the different techniques I recommend, go here.

Scalp Exercises

If you want to work more muscles for the potential of improved benefits, you can also incorporate scalp exercises into your daily routine.

Scalp exercises are, essentially, an extension of scalp massages. You’ll still manipulate the scalp, but you’ll do so in a less direct way than with scalp massages.

A popular scalp exercise, and one which highlights the indirect nature of the action, is the eyebrow exercise.

  1. Begin with your eyebrows in a neutral (relaxed) position. Slowly lift your eyebrows up towards your hairline. For best results, hold this position for 10 seconds and then release. You’ll then return your eyebrows to the neutral position. Repeat this exercise five to 10 times.
  2. Next you’ll furrow your eyebrows. Slowly furrow your eyebrows as deeply as possible, and hold for 10 seconds. Return to neutral position, and then repeat five to 10 times.
  3. Finally you’ll lift your eyebrows towards your hairline, hold for five seconds, and then immediately move to the furrowed eyebrows position. You’ll hold this position for five seconds, and then return your eyebrows to rest. Repeat this five to 10 times.

Just like with scalp massages, there are plenty of different techniques to try.

Circulation Boosters

If you want to replicate the way in which minoxidil works, then circulation boosters are the way to go. But first, let’s discuss why circulation boosters may be a more viable option for hair loss.

I mentioned above that scalp tension is the true culprit of pattern baldness. What does this have to do with circulation?

As the scalp tension becomes chronic, the scalp and hair follicles will experience an inflammatory response. Anti-inflammatories, like DHT, will flood to the area.

As we know, however, this isn’t very helpful for those who are prone to DHT sensitivity. As a result, the hair follicles will miniaturize and this will stunt hair growth until the follicle eventually dies.

It’s not as simple as the follicle dying from inflammation, though. The true cause of follicle death is the lack of blood flow, oxygen, and nutrient delivery that occurs during the miniaturization process.

Without proper blood flow, there cannot be adequate delivery of oxygen and nutrients. This weakens the hair follicle.

While circulation boosters won’t solve the underlying cause of pattern baldness, they can help your follicles to survive in spite of it.

Circulation boosters are things which increase blood flow to the area. They can be medications (like minoxidil), oils and herbs, or even manual stimulation of the scalp.

Herbs and Oils

peppermint leaves and oil on a table
Peppermint oil is one of the most effective circulation boosters.

There are a few oils and herbs that can improve blood circulation. For example:

Note: If using essential oils to stimulate blood circulation, you must be sure to dilute them appropriately. Undiluted essential oils can damage the skin.

However, I recommend that you also practice manual stimulation of the scalp for added benefits.

There are two main routes you can take when it comes to stimulation of the scalp. First, scalp massage.

Scalp Massage

Scalp massage involves gentle stimulation of the scalp, either with your fingertips or a head messaging device. As you gently work the scalp, blood flow increases.

This leads to improved circulation overall and can stimulate new hair growth when practiced continually over a period of time.

Microneedling

A more intensive (and effective) route is microneedling.

As a practice commonly used to reduce scarring, microneedling involves the use of tiny needles. These needles are gently rolled over the scalp, and small puncture wounds are made.

A man with a large bald spot receiving microneedling
While microneedling is typically done to reduce scarring caused by acne, it can also be used on the scalp to stimulate hair growth.

(Learn how you can practice microneedling at home with the use of a dermaroller.)

As the wounds heal, a three-step process occurs:

  1. Inflammation
  2. Proliferation
  3. Maturation (Remodeling)

As the remodeling takes place, healthy hair follicles are able to form. This can stimulate the growth of healthy hair.

Conclusion

While minoxidil is popular in the hair loss community, not everyone wants to use minoxidil as part of their hair growth regimen. That’s where natural alternatives come in.

Not only can the results of many natural methods be more effective than minoxidil, but they can also come with less side effects.

*This article was reviewed by Dr. Debra Rose Wilson.

19 thoughts on “Minoxidil Alternatives – 3 Natural Substitutes With Great Results!”

  1. Hi Will,
    I am 44 years old, female, and suffering from hair loss for approx. 8 years, which has been increasing over the last months. Meanwhile I have lost about 2/3 of my hair, which scares me a great deal.
    I am wondering now, does it make sense to COMBINE a strictly alkaline diet with Minoxidil (Regaine)? I switched to alkaline diet 2 weeks ago, and it works well for me, so far without an effect on my hair of course, but I guess this will take some time. But since I am panicking about my bad hairloss, I would like to get first “quick” results with Minoxidil (just started a few days ago). What I hope is that at a later point in time, I could break off Minoxidil therapy and my hair would be strong enough with just continuing my alkaline diet, and maybe your natural Minoxidil alternatives… What do you think?
    Thanks for your advice –
    Best regards,
    Ida

    Reply
    • Hi Ida, I can’t recommend minoxidil to you, but if you try it and it helps then that is good. I know it can take a seemingly long time to see results from diet changes – stick with it. Could it be a deficiency that is causing your shedding? Do you have a good variety of natural foods in your diet? Things like oysters, liver, nuts, seeds, berries…

      Reply
  2. Hi i am 34 have been using minox with dht blocker for about 10 months slight improvement but am thinking of trying natural remedies as it’s long term side effect and cost ?

    Reply
  3. I’ve been doing a lot of research as far as Minox. and on one site it states that there would be an initial shed and sometimes this would be 30 or more percent of the hair, and this would happen every six to eight months. Would the natural treatments also cause this? This site also says minox. would put all the hairs in the same phase, causing a massive shed so a lot would shed at once. Is this true? My son seems to be losing a lot of hair at 21. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Ann,

      The shed that occurs with minoxidil can also occur with natural treatments.

      The reason for this, as you’ve stated, is that these treatments will push the hair into anagen phase. To get there, the telogen hairs must shed from the scalp so as to make room for the anagen hairs.

      I’ve never heard of this happening every six to eight months because, once you’re past the initial shed, your hairs should be synced properly. You’ll still see a regular shed of 50 to 150 h airs per day, but this is natural.

      Regards,

      Steph

      Reply
  4. Hello I started using minoxidil 5%+MPG 0.0125 when I was 64 following the menopause, as my hair was thinning and breaking.. It worked well until last year when after over 4 years of use I became allergic to it. I stopped using it last August. Now 7 months later my hair has started breaking easily looking much thinner.
    I’m still taking the vitamin tablets prescribed with my treatment. Can you help please!
    Thank you Gilly

    Reply
  5. Hi everyone. Now these ingredients are the number one hair regrowth treatment for women and men. Castor oil, rosemary oil, coconut oil (pure) and extra virgin olive oil! Works faster than Rogaine. Welcome your thicker, stronger and healthier hair back with these oils! Tootaloo!

    Reply
  6. Hello everyone,
    I’ve also became allergic to minoxidil, but how do I use the above mentioned oils as an alternative? Do I have to massage them into my scalp?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • I am a 64 year old woman and am in shock over my once thick ,wavy hair becoming a thing of the past !
      My head is exploding with an overload of information regarding standard and alternative anti- hair thinning products and treatments for women .
      I’ve tried Pur D’Ora and other drugstore brand hair loss products with limited success or with only minimal results over a 3-4 month period.
      I have a heart condition, so Minoxidil is ‘Out’, by dint of it’s known side-effects (!)
      It is clear that proper nutrition, stress management, and a targeted treatment plan are the key components of combating hair loss.
      What most of us ‘Boomer Chicks’ are looking for is a ‘silver-bullet’ in the guise of a serum or a ‘one-a-day’ supplement vs an expensive, 3-4- step product line which requires a 1-year ‘subscription ‘.
      Short of buying a wig, is there anything you would recommend for my thinning hair ?

      Reply
  7. I am 48 yrs old an Indian entrepreneur. I have had very healthy hair all my life, but after moving to south India I started having lot of hair fall. I had just taken PRP and I am thinking of using minoxidil.
    In two years I lost 50 percent hair and this bothers me a lot.
    After reading your very good article. I may switch to natural methods.
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Interesting. I think it makes more sense to research the causes of your hair loss. Why did it begin after moving to south India?
      What changes did you make to yourself? Or what is different there compared to your former location?

      Reply
  8. I have been applying peppermint oil and taking flaxseed oil for the past 1 yr and the hairs at the temples still shed so I am going to try minoxidil but scared of all the side effects. I wanted to know if I apply it only along the temples the side effects are less rather than applying whole region of scalp

    Reply
  9. I am a male & had fungal infection in my scalp since when I was 12 & I didn’t bother going to dermatologist till I was 15. By 15 I had also started baldening – have a family history, but I am too young for that.
    Dermatologist gave me Ketoconazole shampoo, Morr F (Minoxidil+ Finasteride). After 1 month of taking, I had tremendous improvements, but my father stopped me from getting another pack.
    Clearly now I see why (sexual problems).
    I am 18 now, and am balder now ever. I am also a bit overweight.
    I was thinking of getting my life back on track.

    Any ideas for dandruff + androgenic alopecia? I am from India, any local herb u recommend?

    Reply
  10. So I am using a 1mm I got from this website. Just started using Nizoral again as I was using it for my flaky scalp but decided to switch to head and shoulders. But after reading that Nizoral could help with hair loss started using it again.

    I’ve heard people have had great results with Minoxidil (Regaine UK) but I’m a bit worried about side effects so was thinking of using peppermint oil!

    I still have quite a bit of hair but I’ve noticed some receding from the front and when I’m in a bright room where there is a lot of light, say a changing room I can see its effects, eg. more scalp visible which I don’t like it!

    So was wondering if using natural oils would be just as effective along with 1 -2 times of Derma rolling? And how long would it be before I saw results? I’m 42 so its not immediately noticeable as I can still cover where it shows by combing a little! But I want to do something about it before it is too late!

    Reply

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