There are very few sufferers of male pattern baldness (MPB) out there who are happy about losing their hair. It is possible there are one or two who don’t mind all that much, but they are the minority. As such, it isn’t hard to understand why there are so many ‘cures for baldness’ out there – acupuncture, yoga, saw palmetto, etc.
The science on all of these is at best, patchy. In fact, if we were to be harsh (or some would say ‘scientific’), then you would have to say there isn’t any strong scientific evidence that any of them work. There are of course some exceptions. Minoxidyl, or Rogaine as it is known in the US, does have scientific evidence to back it up.
We will now delve – as far as is possible – into exactly how it works.
A Brief History of Minoxidyl
Rogaine is one of the trade names for a drug called Minoxidyl, along with Regaine. Minoxidyl has an interesting history. In its first incarnation it was available only as an oral drug, named Loniten, used to treat high blood pressure. In one of those happy coincidences that make the world go round, it was discovered that a common side effect of Loniten was either a thickening of fine, dark hairs or a sudden increase in hair growth.
Pharmaceutical corporations didn’t get rich by being stupid, and it wasn’t long until Minoxidyl was formulated into a topical treatment for hair loss, with the name that you now know it by, Rogaine. A foam version was released in 2007, though it can still be found in liquid form.
How Does It Work?
Actually, nobody is one hundred percent sure how it works. For those budding amateur scientists out there, Minoxidyl is known for its properties as a potassium channel opener, which causes hyperpolarisation of cell membranes. This, in turn, causes vasodilation which improves blood flow to the hair follicle.
For those who – like me – find science to be something of a dark art, it basically helps grow the hair follicles. Why would that help? Hair naturally goes through three phases – growth, cessation (stopping) and resting. These are known as anagen, catagen and telogen. As MPB sets in, the growth phase becomes shorter and shorter, until finally it stops altogether. An increase in blood flow seems to boost the growth phase of hair.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Yes. Firstly, whilst studies have shown it has helped up to 85% of men with hair loss, these studies have primarily been on younger men who have only experienced hair loss for 5 years or less. Secondly, it tends not to work as well on a larger area of hair loss. Finally, it only works for central hair loss, known as vertex hair loss.
This is what the scientists and the medics say – that doesn’t mean that it matches up with your experience.
If Rogaine worked for you – let us know. If it didn’t – let us know. And if you’re considering using it – let us know that, too.