Minoxidil is a medicine used to treat hereditary hair loss, which is also known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness. It works by helping to prevent further hair loss and by encouraging hair regrowth, and is applied directly to the scalp where the hair loss has occurred.

Baldness occurs more frequently in men – around half of all men will experience some hair loss by the age of 50 – but it can also occur in women. Male and female pattern baldness are the most common types of hair loss, and frequently start in the late 20s or early 30s for men, and slightly later for women.

Is minoxidil suitable for me?

Minoxidil is designed to treat hair loss that runs in your family. It's not intended to treat hair loss due to other causes, such as stress, illness, iron deficiency or treatments for cancer. It's recommended that you see your Doctor or pharmacist before starting treatment with minoxidil, to make sure your hair loss is due to male or female pattern baldness rather than any other cause.

As for most medicines, minoxidil isn't suitable for everybody. You shouldn't use it if:

  • You're allergic to any of the ingredients
  • You have a scalp condition such as psoriasis
  • You've recently shaved your scalp
  • You have high blood pressure (even if it's controlled with medicine)
  • You have sunburn to your scalp
  • You're using plasters or other dressings on your scalp
  • You're pregnant or breastfeeding
  • You're under 18 or over 65 years old

You should check with your Doctor or pharmacist before using minoxidil if you're taking medicines that contain any of the following ingredients:

  • Tretinoin
  • Corticosteroids
  • Dithranol
  • Petrolatum
  • Guanethidine

You can also check with your pharmacist if you're not sure what's in any medicines you're taking or whether they may interact with minoxidil – they'll be happy to advise.

How do I use minoxidil?

Minoxidil is applied directly to the scalp, in the areas where you've experienced hair loss. It's available as a foam or a liquid. Different brands and strengths have different usage instructions, so always read the patient information leaflet carefully.

It's available in two strengths – regular strength (2 percent) and extra strength (5 percent) and different products are recommended for men and women - ask your pharmacist for advice on which one to choose.

It takes around four months of daily treatment to see hair regrowth. If you stop using minoxidil, any areas of hair regrowth will disappear in around three to four months, so you need to keep using it regularly for best results. If no regrowth occurs after 12 months' use, you should stop using this medicine.

Where can I get minoxidil?

You can buy minoxidil from your pharmacy without a prescription. Minoxidil treatment for hereditary hair loss is not available on the NHS, so your Doctor may only be able to prescribe it for you privately.

Next steps

• It's recommended you see your Doctor or pharmacist before starting to use minoxidil, to ensure your hair loss is due to male or female pattern baldness rather than any other cause

• As for all medicines, minoxidil isn't suitable for everyone. Talk to your Doctor or pharmacist for advice

• You'll need to keep using minoxidil regularly to maintain hair regrowth