What is minoxidil?
An existing drug, which only needs to be used in a different way and is also very cheap, easily sounds too good to be true. The New York Times came out with the news and this was soon taken up by other websites. The promise of a miracle cure for baldness quickly turned some heads. But what is it about?
People who have been struggling with hair loss for a long time are familiar with the drug minoxidil. It is the oldest and best-known hair loss remedy. Also known as the working ingredient of Rogaine and Regaine, produced by big pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. Minoxidil is used in a topical lotion applied to the scalp. It dilates blood vessels allowing hair follicles to grow more easily.
Old wine in new bottles?
What is important to point out is that minoxidil was initially in development as a blood pressure-lowering pill called Loniten. It was then discovered that a side effect of this drug was increased hair growth. The researchers saw its potential and developed the hair growth stimulant minoxidil from it. The reason minoxidil was made into a topical lotion instead of a pill was the blood pressure-lowering effect of the drug in pill form. If minoxidil is applied only to the scalp, it has no effect on the rest of the body. And since you have to keep using minoxidil to maintain the effect, choosing a lotion was the better option because it thus does not affect blood pressure or can have other internal side effects.
Now US dermatologists indicate in The New York Times article that they prescribe minoxidil pills to patients struggling with hair loss. That these dermatologists are so positive about minoxidil pills is due to the discovery that minoxidil in low doses also has a positive effect on hair growth. However, these dermatologists do indicate that more research is needed. In addition, they already admit in The New York Times article that they prescribe minoxidil pills to their patients while it is not approved as a hair loss drug in this form. This can have unwanted side effects. Such as hair growth in places other than the head. In addition, it has an effect on blood pressure. This in turn can be offset with other pills such as spironolactone. The fact that minoxidil is administered in a low dose does mean that the chances of these side effects are relatively low.
Not all good news, then. There was a good reason that minoxidil was developed as a topical lotion. It reduces unwanted side effects in the body. Besides, its side effects are limited to the scalp. The discovery that minoxidil in pill form in low doses has a positive effect is the main claim made by US dermatologists. So there is potential here, but the dermatologists themselves already admit that the long-term effects of the pills need to be studied better. On top of that, minoxidil tablets are not freely available in the Netherlands. However, you can find remedies containing minoxidil such as Lonnuts. This contains minoxidil, but this drug was developed against conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and is not approved as a hair growth stimulant. It is also available only on prescription from pharmacies.
So the magic word seems to be; research. More research is needed to test the dermatologists' claims. In the meantime, topical lotions to treat hair loss with scientific backing are easily found. There has already been a lot of research done on treatments that work better than minoxidil and have fewer side effects like Neofollics lotion and Spectral DNC-N. So for now, that is what we would advise.