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Minoxidil Warnings And Precautions: Dangerous Or Safe?

UPGUYS > Blog > Hair > Minoxidil Warnings and Precautions: Dangerous or Safe?
The person who wrote this article

Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on May 11, 2022
Last Updated on January 14, 2024

Studies show minoxidil improves hair density by up to 20 square centimetres in as little as 16 weeks. With such impressive results, minoxidil seems like a miracle cure for the stress, trauma, and discrimination caused by hair loss. Now you may want to order Minoxidil, apply some minoxidil to your scalp, and grow back your hair, right?

Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

Minoxidil is an effective treatment for hair loss that your physician might prescribe for you, but it comes with its own set of unique and dangerous side effects. In this article, we propose a minoxidil warning. Follow along to learn about some minoxidil precautions you should know about before using it.

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Table of contents:

What Is Minoxidil?

Believe it or not, minoxidil wasn't intended to address hair growth. Upjohn, a division of Pfizer pharmaceuticals, was conducting clinical tests for a new hypertension drug in the late 1960s at their headquarters in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They meant to use minoxidil to relieve high blood pressure.

At first, they dismissed the new hair growth on their patients as a harmless side effect. They ended up releasing minoxidil as intended, though the public found out about its fast hair growth qualities. Upjohn realized that if they didn't produce the miracle baldness cure, someone else would.

The first release of minoxidil for hair loss was in the UK circa 1988. Branded "Regaine Topical Solution 2%," consumers could only get the drug via prescription. Eventually, minoxidil became available to the public as an over-the-counter solution to regrow hair.

Post-market surveys on minoxidil before and after use, showed that minoxidil helps up to 92% of users in the first year. Now, you can find minoxidil at most pharmacies at reasonable prices. 

How Minoxidil Works

Minoxidil works on many different causes of hair loss. One theory on how it helps hair growth is that minoxidil's vasodilation properties help with hair follicle stimulation. Basically, experts speculate that minoxidil works by widening your blood vessels. This increases blood flow to your scalp and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles faster.

The result? Fast, new hair regrowth.

An animal study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine supports this theory. Click here to read the study's abstract.

How To Use Minoxidil

There are two types of minoxidil (Rogaine): 2% and 5%. You should consult with your doctor to know what percentage and what minoxidil dosage is right for you. Also, make sure you are using the correct gender product- women should not use minoxidil formulated for men.

Once you have the right product, you can start using it:

  1. Wash your hands before using minoxidil
  2. Use only one dropper or pump (approx. 1 mL) of minoxidil at a time
  3. Apply it directly to a clean, dry scalp
  4. Leave it on for at least 2-4 hours before rinsing off with warm water and shampooing as usual
  5. Do not exceed 2 doses (2 mL) within 24 hours. Follow your doctor's directions on the dosage
  6. Store it in its original container away from direct sunlight and heat when not in use

These general instructions cover most use-cases for minoxidil. But, we always recommend following the manufacturer's instructions and professional advice.

Where To Find Minoxidil

Before 2014, you could only get 2% minoxidil solutions over-the-counter in Canada. However, the Ministries of Health voted to increase the percentage to 5. Now, while you can still request a prescription from your doctor, most drugstores carry at least one brand of minoxidil solutions.

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Minoxidil Warning and Minoxidil Precautions

While all this impressive information seems great, a minoxidil warning is necessary. Unlike many topical creams and lotions, minoxidil isn't an "apply and go" kind of drug. Transferring minoxidil can cause serious adverse reactions.

Minoxidil doesn't just make hair grow on your head. So, if you fall asleep before your minoxidil dries, you can transfer it to your forehead, hands, and other areas with hair follicles you don't want hair to grow. Here are some other minoxidil handling precautions:

  1. Avoid applying to broken or irritated skin
  2. Avoid contact with eyes, nose, mouth, or mucous membranes
  3. Rinse off minoxidil if it comes into contact with unwanted areas or causes irritation
  4. Seek medical attention if irritation persists after rinsing
  5. Discard unused minoxidil solution after four months or sooner if the package shows signs of deterioration or leakage

Also, minoxidil can stain fabric and clothing. So, while it's drying, you should take care not to transfer it to anything. 

Read more: Is There an Interaction Between Alcohol & Minoxidil?

Minoxidil Side Effects

One of the major minoxidil risks is its potential side effects. Users of minoxidil report the following adverse reactions:

  1. Skin irritation at the application site
  2. Increased heart rate and palpitations
  3. Headaches
  4. Dizziness
  5. Dry mouth/eyes/nose/throat
  6. Increased hair loss

Some minoxidil precautions don't refer to the drug itself but the solution that carries it. For example, some people are also allergic to propylene glycol in minoxidil. Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  1. Swelling of the face or lips
  2. Rash
  3. Itching
  4. Hives
  5. Difficulty breathing
  6. Chest tightness
  7. Tongue swelling

If you experience any of the side effects or an allergic reaction, stop using minoxidil and seek medical attention. In some cases, side effects may wane after prolonged use. However, allergic reactions will persist, and you should find another hair loss solution.

Read more: Minoxidil Cost in Canada

Who Cannot Use Minoxidil?

While minoxidil for hair loss is safe for many people, there are some select people who should be careful to use it. For example, those with an allergy must stay away from topicals with propylene glycol. If you fall under the following categories, consult your doctor before using minoxidil.

  1. Those with heart disease
  2. Pregnant people
  3. Nursing/breastfeeding people
  4. People under 18 years old

If you become pregnant while taking minoxidil, stop using the treatment until you have a chance to consult with your doctor.

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Final Words on Minoxidil

While it's wise to learn about minoxidil warnings and precautions, it shouldn't dissuade you from trying to find hair loss solutions. But, minoxidil is not a miracle cure-all. Many different factors influence hair loss, so simply using minoxidil as instructed may or may not yield your desired results.

We recommend consulting your doctor and reviewing the minoxidil precautions and risks to answer the question "is minoxidil safe" for yourself.

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.