In this article I’m going to show you the most common side effects of using minoxidil. And YES, there are some which will make you think twice about using it!
I’ve used minoxidil myself (before I knew better) and I’ve talked to literally hundreds of men and women who have as well. So I know the most common issues that come up again and again.
We get comments like this all the time:
(Scroll down to the bottom to read more user comments)
Secondly, I’m going to show you the alternative that I use everyday instead. It’s 100% natural, cheaper and has been proven more effective than minoxidil in scientific studies.
You mean there is a completely natural substance that is even more effective at hair regrowth than minoxidil – but without the nasty side-effects??
YES – That’s exactly what I mean.
It’s like minoxidil but without the side effects.
The drug companies DO NOT want you to know about this!
Thirdly, I’ll show you the simple device can potentially increase the effectiveness of minoxidil or alternatives by a large degree. So you can use less and reduce the side effects even more.
- Minoxidil In The Treatment Of Hair Loss
- How It Is Applied?
- How Much Is Taken?
- How Long Does It Take To Work?
- Consideration Before Using Minoxidil
- Reported Common Side Effects
- Rare Side Effects
- Update! Bags Under Eyes & Dark Circles
- Further Complications
- Are There Any Alternatives To Minoxidil?
- How To Make Topical Treatments More Effective
- Update! Have You Heard Of Oleuropein?
Minoxidil In The Treatment Of Hair Loss
Minoxodil is a vasodilator which has been shown to reduce and slow hair loss in those who suffer from alopecia.
It is speculated that the active form of the drug, minoxidil sulfate, triggers the dilation of capillaries in the scalp which supply hair follicles, thus improving their function and stimulating hair growth.
It is thought that hairs which are already in the telogen phase – the final stage of a hair’s development, are shed as a result of this, to be replaced by stronger and healthier hairs in the anagen, or growth, phase.
How It Is Applied?
Minoxidil is commonly used in both foam and topical solution forms in the treatment of hair loss. It is commercially marketed and sold as Rogaine. It is applied topically and massaged into the scalp as a liquid, foam or cream
The drug is left to be absorbed into the scalp, where it is converted into its active form and stimulates the widening of the capillaries supplying blood and nutrients to the hair follicles.
How Much Is Taken?
There is a 2% solution which was approved for women’s use in 1992. The manufacturer recommends that people use half a cap full, twice daily – in the morning and at night time.
How Long Does It Take To Work?
The manufacturer of Rogaine states that it may take up to four months to start seeing the effects of minoxidil topical solution and foam.
There is a body of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the topical solution leads to better results, as it is applied with more precision to the scalp, whereas the foam may be left on the stem of the hair if not properly massaged into the scalp.
In the case of people with advanced alopecia, there may be no positive effect at all.
If the scalp does not contain hair follicles, growth cannot be stimulated.
Consideration Before Using Minoxidil
Minoxidil (MXD) is popularly used in topical form to curb the progress of androgenic alopecia and may not be appropriate for the treatment of other forms of alopecia.
If you are not sure as to the cause of your hair loss, consult your physician before using minoxidil, especially if you have no family history of hair loss.
If you already know that you are allergic to any of the ingredients, it goes without saying that you should avoid using it.
If you are allergic to propylene glycol, you should avoid using the topical MXD solution as it is known to provoke dermatitis in some people. Minoxidil foam does not contain propylene glycol.
Pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised not to use minoxidil as the drug’s effects on the fetus are not yet known, and it may well turn out to be harmful to unborn babies.
Those who are already taking other forms of medication and people with cardiovascular problems, hypertension and hypotension are advised to consult their physician before using minoxidil.
As the drug is absorbed into the blood, it is possible that it could interact with other medicines, with unforeseen effects.
MXD is not approved for use by those under 18 years of age as its effects have not fully been studied yet. If the area of skin you want to treat is inflamed or irritated, you should avoid use.
Don’t apply it to facial or body parts other than the top of your head, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after each application.
Minoxidil foam may cause dizziness, especially when used with alcohol or certain other drugs. It is advisable to apply it the first times in a safe environment so as to be able to gauge your reaction to the drug.
Avoid driving and other hazardous tasks until you are sure it won’t make you dizzy.
The alcohol in most MXD products can also cause itching and irritation, which is why an alcohol-free version is recommended.
I did a review of the popular minoxidil brand Kirkland and how it compares to Rogaine here.
Reported Common Side Effects
Most common side effects of using minoxidil do not pose an immediate threat to your health, but if they become bothersome, you should cease using the drug until you have consulted your physician.
The most common symptom is itching of the skin and the appearance of a rash.
As mentioned earlier, this is also a common allergic reaction to propylene glycol – if you are using minoxidil topical solution and experience such side effects, you may find that they disappear if you switch to using minoxidil foam.
Here are some user comments about their personal experiences:
Rare Side Effects
Severe side effects from using minoxidil are very uncommon, but urgent medical attention must be sought if any of the following symptoms are experienced:
- Swelling of the hands or feet
- Unexplained weight gain
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe rashes, hives
- Swelling of the tongue or lips
Many of the side effects listed above can be caused by absorption of too much MXD into the bloodstream. If you resume use of the drug, ensure that you are administering the correct dosage and check this your physician.
Update! Bags Under Eyes & Dark Circles
We get a lot of emails and comments from minoxidil users here at the website and one thing that seems to keep coming up is that dark circles can be one of the biggest unexpected effects.
And it doesn’t just seem like this is related to lack of sleep. There seems to be a clear connection for some users that minoxidil has caused dark circles around their eyes which hasn’t quickly cleared up even after stopping use.
If this is something you’ve experienced then please write a comment in the box at the bottom of the article giving your experience. This would be greatly appreciated.
Minoxidil foam and topical solution should only be applied according to specified directions. It should be kept well out of the reach of children and away from pets.
If you get it in your eyes, nose or mouth, rinse it out immediately and thoroughly using cool water.
It should be stored in a securely and tightly closed container, away from direct sunlight or appliances which give off heat. It is ideally stored at room temperature (between 68 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, or 20 and 25 degrees Celcius).
If you or another person have ingested minoxidil, you must seek emergency medical attention.
Do not smoke when using MXD foam or directly after using it, as the foam is highly flammable and contact with hot smoke or a flame could result in serious injury.
Minoxidil In The Treatment Of Hypertension & Related Side Effects
Minoxidil’s role as a vasodilator is also what helps it play an effective part in the treatment of hypertension. It is usually taken in pill form along with a diuretic.
By triggering a widening of the blood vessels, it helps reduce the overall pressure of the blood being pumped around the body.
As the body starts to adjust to the lower body pressure, users may experience dizziness and drowsiness.
This is a normal and expected side effect of using minoxidil in the treatment of hypertension, but it should not happen when using the drug as a topical treatment for hair loss, in which case treatment must be stopped and urgent medical attention must be found.
Other adverse effects that have been noted as a result of using minoxidil as a treatment for hypertension are:
- Chest pain
- Changes in body hair
Perhaps the most common side effect is headaches. The headache is caused by vasodilation. Minoxidil is a vasodilator and if some is absorbed it will cause vasodilation and, thus, headaches. The mechanism of action is similar to nitrate drugs.
Perhaps more of interest to those using MXD as a topical treatment for hair loss, are the dermatological side effects sometimes associated with oral minoxidil.
Some of those treated noticed a change in the color of their body hair, along with longer and thicker hairs – a symptom of hypertrichosis.
The first areas to be affected are typically the temples and between the eyebrows, and may be noted between three and six weeks after commencement of treatment.
Cessation of treatment results in a lack of new growth, however, it can take up to six months of abstention from the drug to return the user’s appearance to normal.
A serious side effect of using oral minoxidil is increased salt and water retention. Up to 7% of those treated with the drug have been found to develop temporary edemas.
Likewise, in some cases, inflammation of the pericardium – the membrane surrounding the heart, has been noted, along with pericardial effusion – a serious condition.
It has also been noted that in 60% of those using the treatment, heart rhythm changes, although there is no outward presentation of this.
In addition to this, laboratory tests on blood, liver and kidneys may show changes in results, influenced by the use of minoxidil.
Likewise, such changes do not manifest themselves in any visible symptoms.
Are There Any Alternatives To Minoxidil?
Are there any alternatives to minoxidil that don’t have the horrible effects of using a chemical on your skin everyday?
Yes, there are.
They use natural ingredients to block DHT topically as well as promoting hair growth through increased circulation.
I recommend you read both of those articles, but I will summarise the alternative to minoxidil quickly here.
- Hyaluronic acid (6 parts)
- Saw palmetto (1 part)
- Apply polyphenol (1 part)
- Tea tree oil (1 part)
- Emu oil (2 parts)
- Pumpkin seed oil (1 part)
The ‘parts’ represent the ratio of ingredients, so how much you make is up to you. You can store the mixture in the fridge for a month or so.
Rub the mixture into your scalp (especially around the area of thinning or receding hair.) Let the mixture sit on the scalp for around 10 minutes before washing off thoroughly with mild warm water.
A Simple, Natural Alternative To Minoxidil Without Side Effects
Here’s a recipe I use everyday to protect my hairline from receding.
It works more effectively than minoxidil, it’s also cheaper and doesn’t have the adverse effects of a chemical because you’ll only be using natural ingredients.
Firstly, take some magnesium oil. Magnesium oil helps reduce calcification in the scalp. With a 200ml bottle of magnesium oil add around 10ml of peppermint essential oil and 10ml of rosemary essential oil.
From the graph below it’s clear that peppermint oil (PEO) ranks above minoxidil (MXD) for hair regrowth effectiveness.
Even the title of the study from 2014 was “Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs” showing that the side effects associated with peppermint oil are non-existant compared to minoxidil.
Both of these essential oils have proven to be more effective than minoxidil by themselves. They’re also natural, and easy and cheap to find. When mixed with magnesium oil they become even more powerful.
Mix thoroughly and use the magnesium spray bottle to apply to the hairline each night before bed. In the morning wash out the mixture with cool water.
How To Make Topical Treatments More Effective
There is a simple, yet incredibly effective way to make minoxidil, or even better, the natural alternatives I’ve suggested. This can allow you to use less of the liquid, which can help to decrease any adverse effects.
This method is to use a dermaroller, in a process called microneedling.
There are convincing studies that how microneedling helps to drastically increase the effectiveness of minoxidil.
Here are the results from a study conducted in 2013:
As you can see from the graph above, the mean hair count after 12 weeks for the dermaroller + minoxidil group was 317 vs. 218. That’s a 45% increase in effectiveness.
Here’s a further breakdown of the results:
As you can see from patients 1 and 2 below from the microneedling group, the results were impressive:
My point here is that if you’re worried about the adverse effects that are associated with minoxidil, firstly, why not try a homemade mixture that’s more effective and 100% natural?
Secondly, why not increase your results, so you can use less liquid by using a dermaroller, thereby decreasing associated adverse effects?
Update! Have You Heard Of Oleuropein?
Oleuropein is a compound derived from the leaves of the olive tree and it’s also found in argan oil.
There was a really interesting study done in 2015 on the topical application of Oleuropein for hair growth and how it compared to minoxidil, and I think you’ll find the results quite interesting.
Although the study was carried out on mice, and only lasted 28 days the results are very encouraging.
Oleuropein beat minoxidil in every criteria that the researchers used to assess how well topical solutions regrew hair, there were:
- Hair follicle length
- Hair follicle diameter
- Number of hair follicles
- Skin thickness (important for blood flow to hair follicle)
- Dermal papilla cell proliferation
As you can see from the diagram below, after 28 days OP (Oleuropein) had regrown the hair more than MXD (minoxidil) and much more than the control.
The number of hair follicles, and the hair follicle diameter was also significantly better with OP than with MXD as you can see from the graph below:
The thickness of the skin can be used as an indicator for how well the hair will grow. With thicker dermal layer suggesting higher blood flow and nutriment going to the hair.
Again, we can see from the graphs from the 2015 study that OP clearly outperforms the control and the minoxidil topical solutions.
Finally, we can see the OP stimulates the growth of the number of viable dermal papilla cells (the cells responsible for growing the hair follicles.)
With all this evidence for the nasty side-effects of using minoxidil, and the evidence of the efficacy of natural alternatives, by now you should be asking yourself, why even use minoxidil at all?
Dermal papilla cells are basically like the starting points for new hair follicles. So they can be used as a strong indicator of overall hair health.
Let me ask you…
Personally when it comes to dealing with the very high possibility of nasty side-effects associated with minoxidil (like having big dark circles under my eyes and potential eye-sight problems) or using a natural ingredients like peppermint or Oleuropein, my choice is easy to make.
It is important to consult with a physician before taking minoxidil due to the various complications and nasty unintended effects that it can present.
Each individual may react differently to the drug, according to their personal circumstances and state of health.
It is impossible to know the short and long-term effects of using minoxidil in conjunction with other medications, although your health care professional will be able to tell you if you should avoid use.
Be that as it may, in the cases where side effects are reported as a result of minoxidil, most are not severe, and subside with cessation of usage.
By far the most likely side effect is irritation of the skin, which may not be caused by the active ingredient itself. In such cases, treatment may be continued by using minoxidil without propylene glycol.
Before using minoxidil, it is essential to understand the cause of hair loss.
Minoxidil has been shown to be effective in certain people who suffer from particular conditions such as androgenic alopecia, but is not an effective treatment for other types of hair loss, which may have other causes such as stress or fungal infection – for which there is often already a different, effective treatment.
*This article was reviewed by Dr. Debra Rose Wilson