In this article, we’ll be familiarising ourselves with minoxidil, alternatives to minoxidil, quickly touching upon what it is and how it works, and then focusing on the best ways in which the same results can be achieved more safely.
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What is Minoxidil?
Minoxidil is a medication that can be used for two seemingly unrelated conditions: high blood pressure and pattern hair loss (the most common hair loss condition).
Scientists found out the positive effects it has on hair as a side effect of their clinical trials using Minoxidil to treat high pressure. Minoxidil is the non-branded name of the otherwise more well-known product called Rogaine.
If you’ve researched how to alleviate hair loss at all, you’ve most probably come across Minoxidil before (you might also know it by its brand name, Rogaine).
While the product came out back in 1987, it only became widely popularised in 2007, when it switched from a liquid formulation to a much easier to apply foam.
That’s when Rogaine put the money into its marketing to become what it is today: one of the most widely used treatments for balding and thinning hair. It’s affordable, it’s relatively quick, and it works.
Fast forward to years later, and many people still resort to Minoxidil/Rogaine as a tried-and-tested way of rapidly restoring their hair and mature hairlines.
Minoxidil is one of those highly effective products that you can get over the counter with little fuss and not too much money. Its marketing and word of mouth seem to have convinced everybody of its effectiveness – but is Minoxidil really safe to use?
How does Minoxidil work?
The reason why Minoxidil helps with both high blood pressure and hair loss is that it’s a vasodilator, meaning that it widens the blood vessels. By doing so, it brings more blood and nutrients to the hair follicles, strengthens hair, and aids growth.
It needs to be applied twice a day and usually takes between 2 and 4 months for the average person to start seeing results from using this medicine. Its relatively inexpensive price (approx. €40 per month) combined with the fact that people can get it without a prescription have all contributed to its widespread use.
However, it’s important to note that hair growth only lasts for as long as people continue taking it. No matter how long it’s been used, as soon as one discontinues its use, its benefits go away.
What are the side effects of using Minoxidil?
Generally, Minoxidil doesn’t have any serious, long-lasting side effects if it’s taken in the proper dosage. However, issues do appear when people use too much and the excess Minoxidil gets absorbed into the body.
If Minoxidil is taken in the proper way, a common side effect is for people to see a change in the color or texture of their hair, and in more rare cases people may experience itching or skin rashes. In very rare cases, people may experience acne, burning scalp sensation, increased hair loss, reddening, and swelling of the face.
In the case of overdosage, Minoxidil can be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause quite severe issues such as severe scalp irritation, hair growth in unwanted areas (such as on the face), chest pain, fast heartbeat, rapid weight gain, swelling of extremities, a fainting feeling, confusion, headaches, dizziness, flushing.
What are the best (and safest) alternatives to minoxidil?
As you can see, the list of side effects is quite extensive and quite worrying to anyone considering taking Minoxidil to help their hair grow.
Here is our list of the best alternatives to Minoxidil for safe hair growth.
In the past years, Biotin has risen to the top of the most well-known ingredients to support hair growth. Also known as Vitamin B7, or Vitamin H, Biotin’s main function is helping your body convert food into energy. Alongside this primary role, it also helps the health of your hair, skin, and nails.
A biotin deficiency is very rare (only comes as a result of very poor diets, certain medications, or even biotinidase deficiency amongst others), and most people can get the appropriate levels they need by eating foods high in it such as egg yolks, legumes, nuts and seeds, liver, amongst others.
It’s not been proven that taking biotin supplements does anything to improve hair growth for people not struggling with a deficiency.
However, biotin can have a very positive effect when applied directly to the scalp. It can be easily and successfully absorbed through the skin and rehydrate it as well as unclog its pores.
Another hugely popular medication is actually often used to boost hair growth. While it’s by no means an easy course of treatment, as it needs to be taken in pill form once a day and discontinuing its use will equate to all the progress being lost, a lot of people struggling with hair loss are opting for it.
Finasteride can only be prescribed by a doctor and takes anywhere from six months to a year to show its full results. The before and after of Finasteride is what persuades so many people to opt for this option: in only a few months, and with minimal effort, men and women alike see steady and robust hair growth.
Like any medication, Finasteride can have less desirable side effects – but many people take it without having any major issues long term.
They are formulated to stop the process of testosterone converting into DHT, which in turn helps alleviate hair loss.
In a recent study, caffeine has been proven to help block the effects of DHT on hair – which is why you’ll find it as a prime ingredient in many hair growth products. Try introducing caffeine in your hair care routine.
Increase blood flow to your scalp
A lot of the time, we think that in order to achieve great hair we need to use various medicines, chemical substances, and complex procedures.
But the truth is that, once we understand the mechanics of hair growth, it becomes clear that what we need to do in order to help our hair grow healthy is to support the natural processes of the body.
One of the essential ways in which the body supports healthy hair growth is by supplying hair follicles with the nutrients and oxygen it needs through vascularisation.
Every single one of your hair follicles is supplied with everything it needs to grow by a small vessel – and a lot of the time, this system just needs a little boost in order to get there.
To increase blood flow to your scalp, try the inversion method. This is a recently popularised, supercharged way of massaging your scalp for hair growth.
To follow the method, you need to bend so that your hair is lower down than your heart and massage your scalp gently yet firmly for 10-15 minutes.
By doing so, you are helping blood reach your scalp (which gravity makes rather difficult), and supplying your hair follicles with that much-needed nutrition and oxygen.
For best results, do this with a bit of oil (argan oil will do wonders), and try to follow this method 3-4 times a week. If you’re not keen on bending for so long or it makes you dizzy, a simple massage will also work.
Adjust your diet
Your hair is made from dead skin cells surrounded by a tough protein called keratin. In order to support your hair in its growth phase (also called the anagen phase), it’s important to provide it with as many of the building blocks that it needs as possible.
We’ve already mentioned Biotin as one of the best vitamins that support hair growth, but of course, there are many others. The industry is filled with all sorts of supplements for the health of hair, skin, and nails – ranging from collagen to all-round multivitamin pills.
But within all of the buzz and pseudoscience masked by good marketing, it can be very difficult to know which ingredients actually work and which are a waste of time and money.
Our general rule of thumb is that no matter how good supplements are, it’s more effective to look at improving your overall lifestyle.
Making sure that you have a balanced diet and an active lifestyle comes along with side perks that may help your hair without even realizing it.
Working out more will increase blood flow to the scalp, eating better foods will provide your hair with better nutrients, sleeping better and stressing less will undoubtedly improve your oxygen levels and also improve the condition of your hair.
Before considering supplements, consider improving your diet and overall lifestyle. It’s more sustainable, more natural, and – dare we say – more effective in the long run.
Growing healthy hair is as complex as our bodies are. It depends on many elements concurring and working together to achieve what we perceive as a healthy, full head of hair.
It’s up to every person to find the solution that works best for them, and before you begin using ingredients such as Minoxidil that might affect your overall health, it’s important to be aware of all of the side effects and consider if it’s worth taking the risk.
Considering the abundance of options at hand to the modern person looking to improve the condition of their hair and alleviate hair loss, there is no reason any more to introduce into your routine a product that may be harmful to you.
We recommend more natural ingredients and a holistic approach to your health which will undoubtedly show effects on the condition of your hair.