Minoxidil is one of the most effective hair loss treatments known to us today. Although it is a very well tolerated synthetic drug, certain side effects may occur and shouldn’t be a reason to panic. These usually go away with time, are different for everyone and are generally not considered to outweigh the benefits of the treatment.
The exact underlying reason for the effectiveness of Minoxidil is not yet known, but health professionals believe the drug improves hair follicle function by stimulating scalp circulation (Minoxidil was first used as a vasodilator in the treatment of hypertension). If more blood reaches hair follicles, proper nourishment is ensured and therefore hair starts regrowing.
Possible Side Effects of Minoxidil
It is advised that you see a doctor before using Minoxidil, especially if you suffer from any heart condition. Potential side effects include:
- Burning, stinging and redness, especially if you have a sensitive scalp, or underlying diseases of the scalp – e.g. eczema. Do not apply Minoxidil to other body parts.
- Unwanted facial/body hair that may result from hair growth stimulation, especially in women.
- Minoxidil-induced hair loss. Hair growth takes place in three phases: growth, rest and shedding (telogen). It is speculated that Minoxidil promotes the early shedding of hairs in the telogen phase.
- Headache, tiredness, light-headedness. The causes of these side effects are unknown.
- Weight changes (unexplained and rapid weight gain – more than 5 pounds), bloating, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting. The causes of these side effects are unknown.
- Swelling of the hands and feet – Minoxidil affects blood pressure and you are more likely to experience this if you are overweight or have bad peripheral circulation (i.e. it is more difficult for blood to reach your extremities).
Very rare side effects of Minoxidil
- Decreased visual acuity – unknown cause.
- Dizziness, due to the potential impact of Minoxidil on the cardiovascular system.
- Allergic reaction – rash, itching and swelling of the face, tongue or throat, due to pre-existing allergies to the compound.
- Difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat and chest pain – Minoxidil is a vasodilator, meaning it contains chemicals that relax your blood vessels. This could be dangerous if you suffer from any (undiagnosed) heart conditions. See a doctor right away if this occurs.
- Dandruff, flaking of the scalp and contact dermatitis if your scalp is sensitive and easily irritated by topical hair growth drugs (less than 1% of patients).
Do not exceed your recommended dose. Do not apply treatments more often than advised – it won’t boost hair growth, but may cause/worsen side effects. Side effects often disappear within the first 3-4 months of use. If no hair growth is noticed in 4 months, or if side effects don’t settle or are too uncomfortable, you should talk to your doctor about discontinuing the treatment.