For many men, the thought of going bald is something that scares them beyond belief. There is a general worry about going bald that stems from many years of unnecessary portrayals of bald men being evil, geeky or weak (think of all the bald villains or geeky bald computer nerds with giant glasses that you’ve seen in various Hollywood films through the years). Despite this odd portrayal, going bald is actually not a bad thing at all and it is incredibly normal, as half of all men experience hair loss by the time they reach 40 years old. So, you’re not alone in the hair loss department and you’re certainly not any less of a man because of it. In fact, studies have even shown that bald men are considered more confident, more masculine and even more trustworthy in business.
No matter what the image is, for a lot of men all over the world, going bald is not an option or they’re not ready to face it and look for ways to delay the inevitable. My advice has always been to just shave it all off when the thinning becomes noticeable – it is by far the best option and one you will appreciate more. However, for a lot of guys, they believe it’s better to go down the treatment route, and that is what I’m going to address today.
One of the most common treatments for hair loss – probably because it’s the easiest and the cheapest (in the short term anyway) – is Minoxidil, also commonly sold under the names Rogaine or Regaine depending on where you buy it. It generally comes as a topical liquid or foam that you apply to the scalp in order to stimulate hair growth in areas of thinning. But some of the questions people ask are:
I’m going to go over some of the information behind Minoxidil and try to give you as much truth as I can, with honest, experience-based opinions. I never used Minoxidil on my head but I did use it as a way to fill in a patch that I had in my beard and was a little self-conscious about.
What is Minoxidil?
The original formula known as Minoxidil was developed back in the 1950s and was actually supposed to be for treating ulcers. However, scientists noticed that it was also a powerful vasodilator and by the late 1970s was approved by the FDA as a treatment for high blood pressure. When they were running various tests for their new medicine, one of the side effects they found was excessive hair growth, which then raised the question of whether or not it could be used to treat hair loss.
By the 1980s this was the case and Minoxidil was commissioned for use and became available for doctors to prescribe it to patients suffering from hair loss. By the mid 90s it was available over the counter in various forms and strengths. As far as I know it now comes in strengths of around 3-5% and in either liquid from with a dropper, or foam that you can apply using your fingers.
It is worth noting that even during the 1980s, the scientists behind the research said that it would not work on all men.
How does it work?
As previously mentioned, Minoxidil was found to be a powerful vasodilator, meaning it causes the widening of blood vessels and improves blood flow. Hair loss in men is caused when the hair follicles on the top of the head stop their growth cycle and essentially become dormant. This means the hair gets thinner and thinner until it falls out and isn’t replaced by a new hair. What minoxidil does is boost the blood flow to those hair follicles which causes them to ‘wake up’ and start their growth cycle again and eventually produce hair again. You need to apply it once or twice daily to the scalp in order for it to work and it can take anywhere from weeks to months before you see a difference (but this will vary depending on the person as will results).
Does it actually work?
Well, the short answer is yes, it does work. However, it’s not that black and white and the results will vary from person to person. Minoxidil has been on the market for over 30 years now and in that time, many men have used it to great success, and it continues to be an incredibly popular and widely used product. The results in many of these men are very good and they absolutely do regrow their hair to a fairly decent thickness, as it was before balding. This product wouldn’t be so widely used if it was a gimmick and didn’t work at all. But there is hard evidence and proof, collected over a few decades, to show that this product does in fact work.
BUT… as I mentioned and as the scientists who developed the formula as we know it today said, it would not work on all men. And this absolutely true, for some men it has little to no effect at all, but it is impossible to know who it will or won’t work for unless you try it – thus making it a bit of a gamble in terms of time, effort and money (not to mention the potential side effects).
What are the side effects?
As with all medication and chemical compounds, there are a few side effects that come from using Minoxidil and it’s very important that if you’re going to use it, you do your research and you consult your doctor first. I would not advocate using this product unless you have the proper information and consent from a medical professional because your body is your temple and you should always be careful what you put in/on it.
Two of the most common side effects are headaches, heart palpitations (this is blood flood flow medication after all) and itchy/dry skin. However, according to Wikipedia, other side effects that have been reported include:
Loss of libido
Reduced semen volume
Reduced penile sensitivity
Prostatic enlargement and congestion
Random panic attacks
Even though I think these are much rarer, I would still approach with some caution and do your research first. Another odd side effect that has been reported before is actual hair LOSS. I’m not a scientist and this is just my personal opinion, but I would imagine the hair loss is just the initial shedding caused by the follicle’s restarting their cycle.
How long does it last?
This is an easy one with a very simple answer: as long as you use it for. Unfortunately, aside from surgical options, there are no permanent treatments for hair loss (specifically male pattern baldness), so once you stop using the product, your follicles will start to decrease their cycle once again and you will start to lose all that hair you’ve spent time and money trying to regrow.
This is the conundrum with Minoxidil, especially if it does work for you. If you do regrow your hair, you are tied to the product, and you will need to keep buying it and using it for as long as you want your hair to stay – thus becoming a fairly expensive thing to embark on. Not to mention you are loading your head with chemicals for a long period of time, which I would never recommend unless it was absolutely necessary.
Does it work for facial hair?
I’m going to answer this in the same way I answered in terms of its directed use for your head: yes, it does work for growing facial hair – but again that will vary from person to person. It also works a bit differently to head hair in that once you have grown terminal hairs (permanent), they will stay forever. Beard hairs are not affected by pattern baldness and hair loss and sparseness or patchy areas just mean the follicles in your face just haven’t begun their cycles yet. What minoxidil does it encourage those follicles to begin their cycles and produce vellus (thin, temporary) hairs, which will eventually turn into terminal hairs.
Successful use on your facial hair will also depend on genetics and will not work for every man. But I will say this, a few years ago I used Minoxidil to fill in a patch on one side of my beard, and it absolutely did work and I grew terminal hairs in the area where there were previously none, and they have stayed. This process did take a long time though and my genetics do lean towards a fairly decent facial hair growth, I just had a patchy area that needed waking up. (not me in the picture)
You can go on YouTube and look up Minoxidil beard stories, there are hundreds of them, and see for yourself that it does actually work. But it will vary from man to man and genetics will play a part in the success.
Would I recommend it?
The short answer is no, I wouldn’t recommend using Minoxidil for your head or your face. At the end of the day it's a strong chemical that affects your blood flow and is something you are supposed to use for long periods of time, which I believe to not be beneficial to the body. I did use it over the space of a few years, very sporadically, and I had some mild headaches and palpitations but nothing more, but I can’t vouch for everyone, and I am absolutely not a medical professional.
But many men do choose to use it (including myself) and if you are not ready to face baldness or you want to try and grow that beard you’ve always wanted, then that is your choice. I will just remind you to tread carefully and do your research as this product does have some side effects and it’s important to understand what it may or may not do to your body over time. It is also fairly expensive long term so just be sure you can afford it if you embark on this journey!
What would I recommend instead?
Embrace your baldness. There is absolutely 100% nothing wrong with being bald, any negative image you’ve somehow concocted through history or media is just not relevant. Going bald is something that does cause anxiety for many men, but by shaving it all off and taking ownership of it, you actually remove that anxiety and can just move on with your everyday, awesome life. There are even some benefits to being bald and you can read about those in my article here.
Whatever you choose to do just remember that you are already awesome, and you shouldn’t worry about minor life issues like baldness. We’ve got so much more to care about!
If you are still interested in purchasing Minoxidil after reading this article, you can buy it from Amazon: