Hair loss can be scary, but it's not always a cause for concern. Though many people have hair loss due to a vitamin deficiency or other medical condition, hair loss can also be a side effect of certain medications.
Among these medications is Minoxidil (brand name Regaine), which is an FDA-approved treatment for baldness that was previously used to treat high blood pressure and other conditions.
Men who are over the age of 40 typically begin shedding hair. This is a natural, normal part of life for men with that gene, but it isn't always favorable. Hair loss is due to a decrease in the number of hair follicles, and when this occurs, it's common for thinning hair to become noticeable. However, Minoxidil can also cause shedding - but only in certain cases, and it typically doesn't last for very long.
Hair Loss and Minoxidil
Minoxidil, also known as Rogaine, is a medication used to treat baldness. It works by reducing the amount of hair loss caused by DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a hormone that contributes to baldness. Minoxidil can cause thinning hair, but it's a temporary side effect for most men.
Hair follicles are a type of cell in the hair shaft. When they shrink, it's common for thinning hair to become visible. Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss, and it's caused by a decrease in the number of hair follicles on the top (front) of your head. This can lead to balding patches, or even total baldness.
Male pattern baldness is caused by a combination of genes and hormones. Male pattern hair loss usually starts around the age of 40, but it can also occur at any age. The main hormone that contributes to male pattern baldness is DHT (dihydrotestosterone). Minoxidil works by reducing the amount of DHT in the hair follicle. This means that it can help prevent male pattern baldness in men affected by it.
Why Is Shedding A Side Effect of Minoxidil?
Hair goes through different growth cycles. These cycles are:
- Anagen - The growth phase, when the hair follicle is actively growing.
- Catagen - The transitional phase, when the hair follicle shrinks and detaches from the dermal papilla.
- Telogen - The resting phase, when the hair shaft rests before it falls out and a new anagen cycle begins.
- Exogen - Shedding and new hair growth
This shedding process is normal and is due to the hair follicle cycling through these different phases. Minoxidil can help to prolong the anagen phase and reduce hair loss.
Hair shedding is a common side effect of minoxidil because it speeds up the resting phase of the hair follicle. This can cause some hairs to fall out sooner than they normally would. However, hair growth will continue as long as treatment is continued.
The temporary hair shedding is often a sign that the medication is working. If hair shedding becomes excessive, discontinue use and speak to your doctor.
The Four Stages of Growing New Hair
The hair cycle, as listed above, is one of the factors which determines hair growth. Another is how long each stage in the cycle lasts. The anagen phase, for example, can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years. This is why some people's hair never seems to stop growing.
Stage 1: The Anagen Phase
This is the growth phase of the hair cycle, and it lasts for 3-5 years on average. The majority of your hair are in this stage at any given time. This is when the hair grows and gets thicker.
Stage 2: The Catagen Phase
This is the transitional phase of the hair cycle. It lasts for about 2-3 weeks on average, and during this time, the hair stops growing and separates from its blood supply.
Stage 3: The Telogen Phase
The telogen phase is when the hair falls out and new hair begins to grow in its place. This phase lasts for about 3 months on average, and it's during this time that you'll lose the most hair.
Stage 4: The Exogen Phase
This is the final stage of the hair cycle, and it happens when new hair replaces old hair. It lasts for about 4-6 months on average, and it's during this time that you'll see the most regrowth.
Minoxidil may improve blood supply to the hair follicles and inhibit hair loss. Telogen effluvium may improve with nutritional counseling and hair care practices including gentle shampooing, avoiding vigorous rubbing of the scalp, and using a conditioner after every shampoo.
How Long Minoxidil Shedding Lasts
There is no definitive answer to this question as everyone's hair shedding pattern will be different. In general, however, it is typical for hair shedding caused by minoxidil use to last for two to four weeks, sometimes longer depending on the current stage your hair is in within the hair growth cycle.
Minoxidil's temporary shedding effect is due to the medication's ability to stimulate hair growth. In the early stages of treatment, minoxidil may cause a small amount of shedding as old hairs are pushed out by new hairs growing in their place. This is a normal and expected side effect of using minoxidil and does not indicate that the medication is not working.
If you are experiencing excessive hair shedding after starting minoxidil treatment, speak with your doctor or dermatologist to rule out other causes such as scalp infection.
Other Minoxidil Side Effects
In addition to hair shedding, other potential side effects of minoxidil include scalp itching, redness or irritation on the skin where it is applied, and headaches. If you experience any of these adverse effects while taking minoxidil, speak with your doctor or dermatologist for advice on how to reduce or stop them.
While hair shedding is a common side effect of minoxidil use, it is usually temporary and resolves within two to four weeks. If you are experiencing excessive hair shedding after starting treatment, speak with your doctor or dermatologist for advice on how to reduce or stop it.
This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.