Minoxidil. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you probably know more about it than you think. Minoxidil is one of only two FDA-approved products to treat hair loss and help with hair regrowth.

Now that we have the introductions out of the way, let’s get to know minoxidil a bit better:

What is minoxidil? What is Rogaine®? Are they one and the same?

Minoxidil is an over-the-counter, topical medication that is used to treat hereditary hair loss (a.k.a. male pattern baldness). It’s probably best known by its trade name, Rogaine.

This can get confusing, so we’ll break it down: minoxidil = generic name; Rogaine = brand name.

Still confused? Know how Tylenol is a brand of acetaminophen, or Kleenex is a brand of tissue? Same deal with Rogaine and minoxidil.

What does minoxidil [generic Rogaine®] do?

Minoxidil can both slow hair loss and promote hair growth in men who are experiencing hair loss. Applied twice daily to the scalp, this topical drug typically starts to work its magic after three months of regular, habitual use.

How does minoxidil work?

Male pattern baldness occurs when hair follicles shrink over time, growing increasingly thinner strands of hair until, eventually, they do not grow any new hair at all. That’s where minoxidil comes in.

Minoxidil is a vasodilator, a drug that dilates blood vessels and allows blood to flow more easily through them (in fact, it’s sometimes used to high blood pressure). It doesn’t technically stop hair loss, but it does promote hair growth.

It’s believed that if you apply minoxidil to your scalp, it enables your blood vessels to carry more oxygen and nutrients to your hair follicles, stimulating hair growth.

Here’s how: Hair falls out in the telogen phase, which is the final stage of a hair’s life cycle. Minoxidil causes this hair to shed, and replaces it with healthy hair in the anagen phase, which is a hair’s period of active growth. Because of this, it’ s very common for minoxidil to (temporarily) cause rapid hair loss. If this happens, don’t panic. After the resting hairs have been shed, they are generally replaced by a markedly thicker hair—typically after about a month.

Pro tip: Minoxidil only works with consistent use; to maintain your newly luscious head of hair, you must continue to apply minoxidil twice daily.

How do I apply it?

We thought you might ask that. And it’s why we created this video: How to use your minoxidil. When you’re not applying it, you can store it at room temperature.

Does minoxidil work?

Yes! If you consistently apply minoxidil to your scalp twice a day, you will be rewarded with a fuller head of hair. Men who use minoxidil usually see up to 20% hair regrowth.

Who should use minoxidil?

If you’re experiencing male pattern baldness, minoxidil is a solution to consider. If you’re not sure if you are, check out this list of hair loss signs. It’s most effective for hair regrowth along the crown of your head.

Who should not use minoxidil?

Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use minoxidil.

What are the side effects of minoxidil?

Although minoxidil is generally safe, like all medicines, it is associated with rare but serious side effects. Contact your doctor or a health care professional immediately if you experience any of the following:

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

The following side effects usually do not require medical attention (although you can report them to your doctor or health care professional if they are persistent):

  • Headache
  • Redness, irritation and itching at the site of application
  • Unusual hair growth, on the face, arm, and back

More concerned about stopping further hair loss across the entirety of your head or addressing a receding hairline? You may want to look into oral finasteride [generic Propecia®] instead of or in addition to using minoxidil as a hair loss treatment. You can learn more about minoxidil and finasteride here.

P.S. Now that you know all about minoxidil, are you wondering how to actually say it? We’ve got you covered: mi • NOX • i • dill

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.

Image credit: Will Taylor