Oral Minoxidil – Important Information About its Use

Minoxidil has been used for many years to treat the loss of hair on the scalp. The use of minoxidil for hair growth was actually the result of the use of minoxidil for another health condition. Not long after minoxidil was approved in the 1970s as a hypertension treatment, there started to be some reports of patients who began seeing excess hair growth while taking the medication. This side effect was examined, and it led to the development of topical minoxidil and its approval for use by the FDA in 1988. In recent years, the use of minoxidil in a pill format has become much more common and let’s take a look at why oral minoxidil has become so popular.

Oral Minoxidil – Growth in Popularity

Oral Minoxidil PopularThere is starting to be a growing amount of literature and results that supports the use of low dose oral minoxidil for the treatment of hair loss. As recently as 2020, one study reported that thirty men experiencing androgenic alopecia took oral minoxidil. All of the men in the study group enjoyed an improvement in their hair regrowth and 43% of the participants rated their improvements as “excellent.” (It should be noted that this study did not have a control group.)

There is also some evidence that oral minoxidil can treat more than patten baldness on the scalp of a patient. For example, there is another study that indicates the medication can help in reducing the amount of hair loss that can be the result of telogen effluvium.

Besides the improvements that can be seen on the scalp of a patient, there are also improvements that can be seen in the budget of a patient. There are reports that the generic form of minoxidil can sometimes cost around $3 for thirty pills.

Oral Minoxidil vs. Topical Minoxidil – Is There a Winner?

Many patients who have used topical minoxidil for years are often curious why there is so much talk about the use of oral minoxidil. Besides the growing research showing that oral minoxidil has a similar amount of effectiveness as the topical version, there are other factors at work related to its increase in popularity.

For example, there are some people who simply find it easier to remember to take oral minoxidil once per day as opposed to having to remember to apply minoxidil on the scalp twice per day.

It is also considered to be less messy to use oral minoxidil as the pill version of the medication does not involve greasy hair that comes from placing the medication on the scalp. Applying minoxidil on the scalp can also cause a person to want to wash their existing hair more due to the greasy hair that can sometimes result from the use of the topical version of the medication.

No matter which version of the medication is used by a patient, minoxidil encourages the growth of hair by relaxing blood vessels in the body so the blood is able to flow at an easier rate. In turn, the blood flow contains nutrients which work to stimulate the growth of hair.

Oral Minoxidil – Is it Safe to Use?

One of the main differences that patients should know between topical minoxidil and oral minoxidil is that the topical form has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of hair loss. However, the oral/tablet form has not secured its final approval yet from the FDA.

In other words, minoxidil in the pill form is currently prescribed to patients as an “off label” medication for hair loss. Having said that, this does not mean that the use of oral minoxidil is not safe for patients. It simply means the oral form of the medication has not been specifically studied by researchers in clinical trials regarding the treatment of androgenetic alopecia.

Patients interested in oral minoxidil should know about some of the possible side effects of its use. A few of the possible side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Fast/Racing heartbeat
  • Light amount of hair shedding (when the patient starts taking it)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Excess growth of body hair

In addition, oral minoxidil comes with a black box warning from the FDA. This warning is included to highlight the potential impact the medication can have on the health of the heart.

Due to the black box warning and the common side effects listed above, it is important for a patient to be examined by a board-certified doctor experienced in treating hair loss through the use of any form of minoxidil. The doctor will need to perform a thorough examination of the patient to make sure the person is healthy enough to take oral minoxidil and that the patient is an ideal candidate for positive results from the use of the medication. The doctor can also go through the benefits and drawbacks of using oral minoxidil before the patient makes a final decision about taking the medication on a regular basis.