Minoxidil is commonly used as an ingredient in hair loss treatment formulas. However, there are alternatives available (including natural substitutes) with similar (and sometimes even better) 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 three natural alternatives to minoxidil with powerful 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.
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.
- Results only last as long as treatment continues.
- 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 over-the-counter hair loss treatments approved by the FDA.
So, what happens if you don’t want to use Rogaine or Propecia?
Are There Natural Alternatives to Minoxidil?
If over-the-counter 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.
As sensitivity to DHT is the main culprit in AGA, it makes sense to use DHT blockers.
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.
So, what are some natural DHT blockers you can use?
While this list is far from extensive, it does contain the more powerful DHT blockers (as proven by science).
For example, pumpkin seed oil improves both hair count and hair thickness. This was shown as a result of a 24-week study:
In another study, reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) was proven to the most effective mushroom species at inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that triggers the production of DHT:
With the addition of these natural DHT blockers to your hair care routine, you can get a great start on stopping hair thinning and boosting growth.
If you want to replicate the way in which minoxidil works, then circulation boosters are the way to go.
There are a few oils and herbs that can improve blood circulation. For example:
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.
This 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.
Second, 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.
As the wounds heal, a three-step process occurs:
- Maturation (Remodeling)
As the remodeling takes place, healthy hair follicles are able to form. This can stimulate the growth of healthy hair, and the process also makes it possible for more natural oils (such as the ones mentioned above) to absorb.
Diet Alkalisation: The Ultimate Minoxidil Substitute
I mentioned that, while DHT blockers can give you a solid start, they won’t solve the underlying issue. So first, what is the underlying cause of thinning hair?
In my years of research, I believe one of the main contributors of genetic alopecia to be poor diet. As a result of a high-fat and acidic diet, the body reacts with inflammation.
This further perpetuates the hair miniaturization cycle, and it makes it impossible for your hair to actually regrow.
What’s the answer?
If acidity is causing the majority of these issues, then alkalisation can put a stop to them. Let me explain.
The foods we eat tend to fall on either side of the pH scale: acidic, or alkaline.
If you eat too many foods with high acidity (sugary grains, unhealthy fats, carbonated drinks, and red meats), then your blood stream’s net pH will be acidic.
However, if you eat foods that are more alkaline, your blood stream’s pH will be alkaline.
But what does this have to do with your hair?
We know that DHT triggers hair loss in individuals with MPB, and we also know that DHT is produced when testosterone and 5AR interact.
Further, this enzyme is known to function particularly well in acidic environments. Do you see where I’m going with this?
In order to reduce the functioning of 5AR (which in turn reduces the amount of DHT produced), then the net pH of your body must be alkaline.
How can this be done?
Fortunately, the process is quite simple.
While it’s best to jump straight to cutting out acidic foods and transition to alkaline-only foods, that can be difficult. That’s why I recommend you start with a morning vegetable juice or smoothie.
Eventually, you can branch out and add more alkaline foods to your daily diet.
While minoxidil is popular in the hair loss community, not everyone wants to use minoxidil as part of their hair growth regimen. In fact, I recommend against its use entirely.
Instead, I believe natural is the way to go.
Not only can the results of many natural ingredients be more effective than minoxidil, but they also come with less side effects.