The beginning of any hair loss treatment regimen can feel like your moment. After seeing your hair do nothing but fall out, you’re finally taking matters into your hands and putting an end to it. Many guys turn to minoxidil, a topical solution that’s proven to stop hair loss and even regrow hair for some men.

The problem with minoxidil? It’s not an instant cure for male pattern baldness. Most men don’t start seeing results for the first 4-6 months of treatment. In fact, some guys even see their hair fall out in even larger quantities in the first few months of their treatment. This increased hair loss is referred to as minoxidil shedding, and it’s an infamous term among men starting minoxidil.

The good news? This is expected. It’s a significant indicator that you’re on your way to growing new and healthier hair. At first glance, this might not make a lot of sense. So we talked to one of our Keeps advisors to understand how this all works.

What causes minoxidil shedding?

The short answer is that when you use minoxidil, the treatment accelerates the process in which your thinning hair falls out. Why? So it can make way for your new, healthier hair. All that increased hair loss is just your “bad” hair making way for your “good” hair.

Want a more in-depth answer? The four stages of hair growth is a good place to start.

What are the four stages of growing new hair?

To better understand why your hair is falling out when you start your minoxidil regimen, it’s important to explore the four stages of hair growth. And to unpack this, we should start from the end of the process.

Your hair falls out in the fourth stage, the exogen phase. This is the final stage of the hair growth process where new hair begins to grow and pushes dying hair follicles upward. Crazy, right?

OK, but what happens before that happens? As mentioned, there are four stages of hair growth:

  • Anagen Phase: The growth phase is when your hair just constantly grows. This usually lasts anywhere from two to six years.
  • Catagen Phase: This is a transitional phase when your hair receives a signal to stop growing and begins to separate itself from the blood supply. As strange as this sounds, what’s even stranger is that this phase can take up to a few weeks.
  • Telogen Phase: At this point, your dying hair is waiting for new hair to give it the push it needs to fall out of your head. This can take up to three months.
  • Exogen Phase: The exogen stage is when your old hair falls out and new hair grows in. And unfortunately, minoxidil speeds up this phase when you begin to use it.

Now, let’s rewind to what we discussed earlier. Minoxidil accelerates the later stages of hair growth so that your hair can re-enter the anagen phase faster. So the downside of minoxidil is that, yes, you’re going to lose some hair for a while. On the flip side, this is an expected part of the process. So as annoying as this probably sounds, it’s worth the patience required to hang tight and let the treatment do the work.

How long does this minoxidil shedding last?

Everything we’ve discussed so far probably has you wondering if minoxidil is worth the trouble. The good news is that minoxidil shedding does end for most men. It typically only occurs at the beginning of your treatment. To be more specific, research shows that it generally starts two to eight weeks after beginning the treatment.

After that, the shedding should subside. Continue to apply minoxidil as directed (twice a day) and remain patient. Most men start to see results in 4-6 months, with some men needing up to a year to see the real impact of the treatment.

Are there any other minoxidil side effects to know about?

Like all medicines, minoxidil is generally safe to use. However, it has been known to cause rare but serious side effects. If you experience any of the following symptoms after using minoxidil, contact your doctor or primary health care provider immediately:

  • Chest pain or palpitations
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Skin rash, blisters, or itching
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swelling of the hands or feet

Additionally, some men experience redness and irritation where they apply the treatment. This is often due to a reaction to propylene glycol, an active ingredient in the solution. But it’s sometimes also due to the solution’s strength (5% versus 2%). If you’re experiencing this side effect from propylene glycol, doctors recommend switching to minoxidil foam, which does not contain that ingredient and is just as effective.

It doesn’t seem fair to lose more hair when you’re beginning a regimen to stop hair loss. You’ve made an investment in your time, money, and patience—and the last thing you probably want is to see more strands than usual on the bathroom floor. But as we’ve discussed, this is a very natural and expected part of the process. And while your short-term gains might be underwhelming, your persistence can pay off in the long run.

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash