Use the preparation twice a day.
Make sure your skin and scalp are dry before you apply the preparation.Wash your hands well after applying minoxidil.
About minoxidil scalp preparations for men
|Used for||Male pattern hair loss|
|Also called||Regaine® for Men Extra Strength|
|Available as||5% scalp solution, and 5% scalp foam|
Male pattern baldness is the common type of hair loss that develops in many men at some stage. The condition is sometimes called androgenetic alopecia. It is caused by a combination of hereditary (genetic) and hormonal factors.
Hair is made in hair follicles. A hair normally grows from each hair follicle for about three years. It is then shed and a new hair grows from the follicle. As balding develops, affected hair follicles gradually become smaller than normal. Each new hair that grows is thinner and shed more quickly than before. This eventually leads to a much smaller hair follicle and a thin hair that does not grow out to the skin surface.
For some men, this normal ageing process can be distressing, particularly if it is excessive or occurs early in life. Treatment with a minoxidil preparation rubbed into the scalp may help prevent further hair loss in some men. It is not clear how it works and benefit from the treatment is only maintained for as long as the preparation is used.
There are two minoxidil preparations available which are suitable for men to use - a scalp solution and a scalp foam. The scalp solution is suitable for men aged 18-65 years, whereas the foam is suitable for men 18-49 years old. Minoxidil preparations are not available on the NHS, but you can buy them, without a prescription, in pharmacies and other retail outlets.
There are minoxidil scalp preparations available which are only suitable for women to use. There is a separate medicine leaflet called Minoxidil scalp preparations for women which gives more information about these.
Before using minoxidil scalp preparations
To make sure that this is the right treatment for you, before you start using minoxidil on your scalp, it is important that you speak with a doctor or pharmacist:
- If you are not sure what is causing your loss of hair.
- If the skin on your scalp is sore, or if you have a skin condition which affects your scalp.
- If you have a heart condition, blood vessel disease, or high blood pressure.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a skin preparation, or to any other medicine.
- If you are using other skin preparations or taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
How to use minoxidil scalp preparations
- Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from the pack. It will give you more information about minoxidil, and will also provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from using it
- Make sure your hair and scalp are dry before you apply minoxidil. It is recommended that you leave about an hour between washing your hair and applying the preparation.
- If you are using minoxidil solution, there will be a spray pump applicator and an extended spray-tip applicator inside the pack. The spray-pump applicator is suitable for applying the solution to large areas, whereas the additional extended spray-tip is needed for applying the solution to small areas. Six sprays of the pump release a 1 ml dose. After each spray, gently rub in the solution by massaging your scalp with your fingers. Apply 1 ml (six pumps of spray) twice a day, preferably morning and evening. Remember to wash your hands after using the solution so it doesn't get on to other areas of your skin, or on to other people.
- If you are using minoxidil foam, apply 1 g of foam (half a capful) to the affected area of your scalp twice a day, preferably in the morning and evening. To do this, turn the can upside down and direct the nozzle in to your hand. Press the nozzle until you have the equivalent of half a capful of foam in your hand. Use your fingertips to gently massage the foam into the bald area of your scalp. Remember to wash your hands after using the foam so it doesn't get on to other areas of your skin, or on to other people.
- If you forget to use your minoxidil preparation at the usual time, do not worry, just apply it as normal when it is next due. Only use the correct amount - do not double up to make up for missing an application.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Do not use minoxidil on any areas of your scalp which are inflamed or sore. This is because it could be absorbed into your body and cause unwanted effects such as feeling faint, chest pain, or a rapid heartbeat. Also, do not use the preparation on any other areas of your body.
- Your hair growth should start to improve within 2-3 months, although it can take up to a year for you to notice the full benefit. The new hair may be fine and downy to begin with, but this should improve.
- You will need to continue treatment to maintain the re-growth of your hair. When you stop using the preparation, the hair that has re-grown is likely to disappear over 3-4 months.
- Regaine® preparations contain an alcohol which may be irritating to sensitive areas of skin. Be careful not to get any of the preparation into your eyes or mouth, or on to any broken areas of skin or cuts. If this does happen, wash the area well with water.
- Do not apply any plasters or bandages over any area which has been treated with minoxidil.
- Keep the preparation away from any flames or sparks - it is flammable.
- Minoxidil is not effective for everyone. If you feel there is no improvement after 12 months of using the solution, you should stop using it. If you are using minoxidil foam, you should stop using it after 16 weeks if there is no improvement.
Can minoxidil scalp preparations cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with minoxidil scalp preparations. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Side-effects from minoxidil scalp foam/solution||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller|
|Skin irritation or itching, dry skin, redness, allergic-type reactions||If this continues, stop using minoxidil|
|Loss of hair after 2-6 weeks of treatment||You may notice an increased loss of hair initially, but this should only last for about two weeks. If it continues after this time, stop using minoxidil|
|Feeling faint or dizzy||If this continues, stop using minoxidil|
|Chest pains, rapid heartbeat||Stop using minoxidil|
|Increased weight, fluid retention||If troublesome, speak with a doctor|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to minoxidil, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
How to store minoxidil scalp preparations
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
This preparation is for use on the skin only. If someone swallows some of it, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, Regaine® for Men Extra Strength; McNeil Products Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated October 2015.
- Manufacturer's PIL, Regaine® for Men Extra Strength Scalp Foam 5% w/w Cutaneous Foam; McNeil Products Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated April 2015.
- British National Formulary; 70th Edition (Sep 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Adrian Bonsall