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Hair growth strategies: How long does minoxidil take to work?

Here’s how you can set your expectations for results when using this hair loss medication.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Apr 16, 2024 • 11 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
Man Applying Hair Ointment
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Apr 16, 2024 • 11 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

Understanding hair loss
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Summary

  • Minoxidil was initially developed for hypertension but was also found to promote hair regrowth. It is now widely used to treat androgenetic alopecia in both men and women.

  • The effectiveness of minoxidil varies, with initial results typically visible around 8 weeks and more significant changes around 4 months, influenced by individual factors and consistent application.

  • Minoxidil works by extending the growth phase of hair, leading to increased hair length and thickness over time.

  • While generally safe, minoxidil can have side effects like scalp irritation or unwanted hair growth in areas other than the scalp, especially in its oral form.

  • Hair loss is a multifaceted issue, influenced by genetics, nutrition, stress, and health conditions, requiring a personalized approach to treatment.

If you’re on a mission to regrow your hair, sooner or later you’re bound to run into one of the most highly recommended treatment options for hair loss: minoxidil. With so much hype around this medication, it’s natural to wonder what it is, and how long it takes to work.

We’re here to guide you through the hair regrowth journey with minoxidil, giving you a clear picture of what to expect and when. We’ll help you understand the science behind it and practical tips for maximizing results to set you on the path to healthier, happier hair!

Understanding hair loss

As scary as hair loss can feel, it’s a common issue and can stem from various reasons.

First, there’s genetics. If you’ve heard of androgenetic alopecia, you might know it affects a large chunk of the population—about 80% of men and 50% of women.¹ It’s a game of genes and age.

But don’t just blame your family tree yet! Your diet plays a major role in hair health.² Hair follicles are pretty needy—they crave a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Too little or too much of certain nutrients, especially vitamin A, can tip the scales toward hair loss.³

Stress is also a big player when it comes to hair loss.⁴ Ever heard of telogen effluvium? It’s a fancy term for hair loss triggered by big life changes or illnesses. And, if your immune system is in overdrive, conditions like alopecia areata arise, causing your hair to fall out.⁵ Even some medications can have hair loss as a side effect, though usually, this stops once you discontinue the drug.⁶

Hair loss can hit your self-esteem hard.⁷ But here’s the silver lining: Treatments are available. With the right approach, you can address the root cause (pun intended!) and get healthier hair.

One of the best treatments currently available is minoxidil.

What is minoxidil?

Minoxidil has quite an interesting story. Back in the 1970s, it started its journey as an oral medication to treat severe hypertension.⁸ But people taking it started noticing something unexpected—their hair was growing back!⁹

This accidental discovery was a game-changer. Researchers thought, ‘Why not use this for hair loss?’ And that’s exactly what they did. They developed a topical form of minoxidil, specially designed to treat androgenetic alopecia, or what’s commonly known as pattern hair loss.¹⁰ This condition affects both men and women, and minoxidil has become a go-to solution for many looking to reclaim their hair.¹¹

How does minoxidil regrow hair?

Minoxidil’s journey to your hair follicles is fascinating. The solution itself is a mix of water, ethanol, and something called propylene glycol (PG).¹² PG’s job is to help minoxidil dissolve better and reach your hair follicles more efficiently. PG can irritate some people’s scalps, so there’s also a PG-free minoxidil foam. It’s user-friendly, dries quickly, and is less likely to spread to areas where you don’t want extra hair growth.¹³

When you apply minoxidil topically, about 1.4% of it gets absorbed through a normal scalp.¹⁴ But the absorption rate can change based on how concentrated the minoxidil is, how often you use it, and the condition of your scalp’s surface. Don’t worry, though—less than 99% of what you apply actually gets into your system, and your kidneys usually flush most of it out within 4 days.¹⁵

Minoxidil is used mainly for treating pattern hair loss in both men and women.

It’s important to know that minoxidil doesn’t work the same for everyone. Factors like other medications you might be taking, even something as common as aspirin, can influence its effectiveness.¹⁶ It’s a reminder that the world of hair regrowth is as unique as you are, so always consult with a medical provider before starting any new treatments!

When will I see results after using minoxidil?

So, you’ve started using minoxidil and are eager to see results. When can you expect your hair to start looking fuller?

Typically, you’ll start noticing the first signs of improvement around 8 weeks after you begin using topical minoxidil.¹⁷ It’s a slow-motion transformation—subtle at first, but gradually more noticeable. The peak of minoxidil’s magic usually happens around the 4-month mark. That’s when you’ll likely see the maximum effects.¹⁸

But how does minoxidil pull this off? It stimulates blood flow to hair follicles and extends the growth phase of hair—ultimately boosting hair growth.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with minoxidil is a bit unique. Your body’s response to the treatment might differ from someone else’s. So, while one person might see changes quickly, another might need more patience. It’s all about giving your hair the time it needs to respond to this new treatment!

Other hair loss treatments

Looking for alternatives to minoxidil for hair loss? There’s a whole world of options out there, and each has its unique pros and cons.

Let’s explore what might work for you.

  • Topical finasteride: Topical finasteride is a promising option for treating hair loss in men with androgenetic alopecia.¹⁹

  • Spironolactone: This treatment in oral form is intended more for women because of its effect on testosterone levels.²⁰ It’s an oral antiandrogen that blocks hormones contributing to hair loss. There’s also a topical version that’s considered safer and found to be effective for both men and women.²¹

  • Hair transplant: Thinking about something more long-term? A hair transplant could be a great choice, especially if you have enough healthy hair for donation and implantation.²² With modern techniques, the results can be both effective and cosmetically pleasing.

  • Red light or laser therapy: This is an option available over-the-counter that uses specific light wavelengths to tackle hair loss. It’s non-invasive and pretty easy to use.²³

  • Herbal extracts: Nature’s way of helping out. Ingredients like saw palmetto extract have been suggested in dealing with hair loss.²⁴ That said, we have insufficient evidence to recommend oral saw palmetto supplementation for hair loss at this time.

  • Growth factor treatments: These are more advanced options, like platelet-rich plasma and adipose-derived stem cells. They’re used as adjunctive treatments and can vary in effectiveness and cost.²⁵

Remember, what works for one person might not work for another. It’s crucial to have a chat with a healthcare professional to figure out the best plan for you. They can help tailor a treatment that fits your specific needs and situation. So, don’t hesitate to reach out for that personalized touch!

Enjoy personalized hair care at Curology

Minoxidil stands out as a reliable option for those seeking to combat hair loss, especially in cases of pattern hair loss. It’s a testament to the wonders of modern dermatology, offering hope and results to many. Remember, consistent application and patience are key to achieving the best results with minoxidil!

At Curology, we recognize the effectiveness of minoxidil in addressing hair loss. Our Hair Formulaᴿˣ offers a multi-action treatment for hair loss, combining clinically proven ingredients, such as prescription-strength minoxidil. Our dermatologist-designed formula aims to stimulate your hair growth, help prevent further hair loss, and promote thicker, fuller hair.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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The best part? It’s personalized for your individual needs!

Learn more and start your journey with Curology’s Hair Formulaᴿˣ today!*

FAQs

How do you know if minoxidil is working?

When beginning to use minoxidil, you might notice more hair shedding than usual. This is a known temporary side effect and can be normal! Minoxidil is speeding up your hair cycle, moving hairs from resting to growing, causing older hairs to fall out to make room for new ones.²⁶

After about 8 weeks of consistent use, you should start seeing small, soft hairs sprouting in the treated areas.²⁷ Fast forward to around 4 months, and you’ll likely see even more significant changes, like longer and thicker hair. This happens because minoxidil extends the hair’s growth phase.²⁸

Over time, with continued use, this new hair should blend seamlessly with your existing hair in both texture and thickness.²⁹ Remember, though, that results can vary from person to person. Speaking with a healthcare professional is always a good idea if you’re ever in doubt about your progress.

How long does minoxidil take to show results?

Typically, it takes about 8 weeks to start seeing some early signs of hair regrowth.³⁰ However, the most noticeable and significant changes often appear around the 4-month mark. It’s important to keep using it consistently during this time to see the best results.³¹

Are there any adverse effects of minoxidil?

If you’re considering minoxidil for hair growth, it’s generally safe but has some possible side effects. Side effects you may experience when using topical minoxidil include:³²

  • Skin irritation

  • Itchiness

  • Scalp changes

  • Unwanted hair growth in other areas

Oral minoxidil is more potent and carries risks like:³³

  • Heart issues

  • Weight gain

  • Breast tenderness

It’s not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, those under 18, or for certain hair loss types.³⁴ Watch out for interactions with medications like aspirin.³⁵ It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting to ensure it’s the right fit for you.

Does minoxidil really regrow hair?

Minoxidil can regrow hair, especially for those dealing with pattern hair loss.³⁶ Minoxidil has been a game-changer for many, stimulating hair follicles to promote new growth. Remember, though, that it works best when started early in the hair thinning process and results can vary based on individual factors like genetics and the specific cause of hair loss.³⁷

What causes hair loss?

Hair loss can be due to several reasons. Genetics plays a significant role, especially in androgenetic alopecia, affecting many men and women.³⁸ But it's not just about genes. Your diet, stress levels, certain medications, and even some health conditions can lead to hair loss. Each cause needs a different approach, so understanding the root of your hair loss is key to finding the right treatment.³⁹

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Gokce, N., et al. An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition. J Prev Med Hyg. (2022, October 17).

  2. Gokce, N., et al. An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition. J Prev Med Hyg. Ibid.

  3. Gokce, N., et al. An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition. J Prev Med Hyg. Ibid.

  4. Gokce, N., et al. An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition. J Prev Med Hyg. Ibid.

  5. Gokce, N., et al. An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition. J Prev Med Hyg. Ibid.

  6. Gokce, N., et al. An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition. J Prev Med Hyg. Ibid.

  7. Lohia, K., et al. Hair Loss Severity and its Impact on Quality of Life in Patients Suffering from Androgenic Alopecia: A One-Year Cross-Sectional Study. Clinical Dermatology Review. (January–June 2021).

  8. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. (2019, August 9).

  9. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  10. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  11. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  12. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  13. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  14. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  15. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  16. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  17. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. (2024, February 4).

  18. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  19. Piraccini, B.M., et al. Efficacy and safety of topical finasteride spray solution for male androgenetic alopecia: a phase III, randomized, controlled clinical trial. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. (February 2022).

  20. Wang, C., et al. The Efficacy and Safety of Oral and Topical Spironolactone in Androgenetic Alopecia Treatment: A Systematic Review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2023, March 9).

  21. Wang, C., et al. The Efficacy and Safety of Oral and Topical Spironolactone in Androgenetic Alopecia Treatment: A Systematic Review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. Ibid.

  22. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. (2024, January 7).

  23. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  24. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  25. Ho, C.H., et al. Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Ibid.

  26. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  27. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  28. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  29. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  30. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  31. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  32. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  33. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  34. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  35. Patel, P., et al. Minoxidil. StatPearls. Ibid.

  36. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  37. Suchonwanit, P., et al. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Des Devel Ther. Ibid.

  38. Gokce, N., et al An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition. J Prev Med Hyg. Ibid.

  39. Gokce, N., et al. An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition. J Prev Med Hyg. Ibid.

Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

*Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

Active ingredients have been studied separately; minoxidil has been shown to improve hair growth within three to twelve months of use. Results may vary.

Minoxidil Disclaimer: Ingredients subject to medical consultation. Do not use if pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
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Curology Team

Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

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