Minoxidil is approved for treating male and female pattern hair loss. This medicine has not been approved for use in children. Occasionally, minoxidil is prescribed for off-label (unapproved) reasons, including the treatment of alopecia areata. It will not treat hair loss caused by certain medications, chemotherapy, or medical conditions such as thyroid disease or severe nutritional problems.
An Introduction to Uses of Minoxidil
Minoxidil (Rogaine®) is a nonprescription medication used to stimulate hair growth in people with male or female pattern hair loss, known medically as androgenetic alopecia. It is a topical medication, applied directly on the scalp.
(This article applies only to minoxidil formulations that are applied on the scalp. An oral form of minoxidil is available by prescription and is used to treat severe hypertension. Oral minoxidil should not be used to treat hair loss, as it can cause serious side effects. Click Loniten for more information.)
The Hair Growth Cycle
To understand hair loss, it is helpful to first understand how hair grows. Hair is grown out of tiny structures under the skin called hair follicles. These follicles go through cycles that include a growth phase, a transitional phase, and a resting phase.
Up to 90 percent of hair follicles are in the growth phase at one time. As might be expected, hair is actively growing during this phase, which lasts two to six years. At the end of the growth phase, there is a brief two- to three-week transitional phase when the hair stops growing. Finally, the hair follicle enters a resting phase for three to four months. At the end of the resting phase, the old hair is shed, and the cycle restarts.
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