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How Minoxidil Works: Everything You Need To Know

UPGUYS > Blog > Hair > How Minoxidil Works: Everything You Need to Know
The person who wrote this article

Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on May 19, 2022
Last Updated on January 14, 2024

Did you know that prescription medication costs around 34.3 billion in Canada? Between 2021 and 2023, experts predict prescription drug spending will increase by 0.4 percent. 

Have you wondered how minoxidil works and if you can afford this common medication? Ordering minoxidil in Canada generally requires a physician's prescription. 

To better understand how minoxidil works, we have put together a complete guide that will go over its mechanism of action, side effects, and how much it will cost. Keep reading on for more information!

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Table of contents:

What Is Minoxidil?

Minoxidil is a generic prescription medication. Some of its dosages cannot be found over-the-counter. You may also have heard of Rogaine, which includes minoxidil as its active ingredient. Minoxidil is an antihypertensive agent and helps vasodilate blood vessels. 

It has been FDA-approved and used by physicians since 1986. 

How Minoxidil Works

Minoxidil's mechanism of action is similar to Rogaine's. Medical experts found that minoxidil becomes activated in the liver. 

It opens potassium channels in cells, resulting in cellular hyperpolarization. In return, smooth muscles relax, resulting in dilated blood vessels. In tablet forms, systemic reactions are more noticeable, including liver damage if misused. 

Topical solutions have fewer systemic side effects and help vasodilate your scalp's blood vessels. This process facilitates improved blood flow and nutrients to your hair follicles. 

How Long Does Minoxidil Take to Work?

Considering minoxidil before and after usage, approximately 92% of patients reported success using minoxidil (or Rogaine) after one year. Unfortunately, it can take a while before you start seeing results. 

Most people saw improvements after four to six months. The first few weeks can cause an increase in hair loss. Don't give up quite yet! This is a normal process and stabilizes after eight weeks. 

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How To Use Minoxidil

Minoxidil used for scalp and hair loss typically comes in a topical form. There are options for solutions or foams, and most minoxidil dosages range from two to five percent. Before applying, you should ensure your scalp is clean.

Medical experts recommend avoiding topical minoxidil with these skin conditions:

  1. Scalp psoriasis
  2. Seborrheic dermatitis
  3. Active scalp infection

If you have recently shaved your scalp, you should also exercise caution. Here is a general rule of thumb on how to apply minoxidil:

  1. Use one-millimetre solution
  2. Place on the center of your affected scalp area
  3. Avoid washing hair for four hours
  4. Repeat twice per day 

The five percent solution is stronger and shows more promising results, but it may not be for everyone. Your doctor may likely want to start on two percent and increase as needed. 

Read more: Mixing Minoxidil And Alcohol

Are Minoxidil and Rogaine the Same?

In short - yes. Minoxidil and Rogaine include the same active ingredient, dosages, and mechanism of action. The only difference is they are sold under two different brands. 

Rogaine is the brand-name version, while minoxidil is the generic version. The only difference is that you may find slight changes with inactive ingredients.

These slight changes give tablets different colours and can increase your chances of allergic reactions to one product versus the other. 

Minoxidil Side Effects

Minoxidil's side effects are somehow similar to Rogaine's. If you use the product correctly, it should be fairly mild or nonexistent. Here are some typical minoxidil topical side effects:

  1. Changes in hair color
  2. Changes in hair texture

Minoxidil tablets may cause more systemic side effects such as lethargy, dizziness, and nausea. Take minoxidil warnings seriously and if you start experiencing an allergic reaction like hives or swelling, talk to your doctor immediately. Like other medications, minoxidil comes with more serious side effects, including:

  1. Tachycardia
  2. Unwanted facial hair growth
  3. Rapid weight gain
  4. Tingling
  5. Extreme scalp irritation

To minimize serious side effects, use minoxidil only as prescribed and talk to your physician about other medications you take. 

How Much Does Minoxidil Cost?

Minoxidil is usually not covered by insurance when used on your scalp. Yet, if you purchase minoxidil out-of-pocket, save your receipt and submit it to your insurance just in case. Insurance coverage varies, and it could save you money in the long run.

Another way you can save on minoxidil costs is by purchasing the generic versus brand name version. Generic drugs can cost almost 70% less than brand-name versions. 

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Finding Solutions to Hair Loss

Minoxidil works as an antihypertensive and vasodilator drug. It can help bring nutrients to your scalp, helping hair follicle repair and growth. 

In order to get the best results from minoxidil (Rogaine), you need to be patient and persistent. It takes a while for minoxidil to work, and you see the result. 

Remember, a while after you stop using minoxidil, the hair loss will resume.

This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.