Minoxidil’s mechanism of action explained

Minoxidil’s mechanism of action is complex and not entirely understood. Yet, there are some things we do know why it’s so effective to combat hair loss, and to promote new hair growth.

These are several key processes that contribute to its effectiveness in treating hair loss:

  1. Vasodilation

    Minoxidil was originally developed as an oral medication to treat high blood pressure. One of its primary effects is the dilation (widening) of blood vessels.

    When applied topically to the scalp, minoxidil causes blood vessels to relax and expand. This dilation increases blood flow to the hair follicles, providing them with more nutrients and oxygen.

    Improved circulation can potentially enhance the health of hair follicles and stimulate hair growth.

  2. Potassium Channel Opening

    Minoxidil is a potent opener of adenosine triphosphate-sensitive potassium (KATP) channels. KATP channels are found in various tissues, including our hair follicles.

    By opening these channels, minoxidil leads to a decrease in cell membrane potential and an influx of calcium ions. In return, this may stimulate hair follicle cells and hair growth.

  3. Prolonged Anagen Phase

    Hair growth occurs in cycles, including anagen (growth), catagen (transition), and telogen (resting) phases.

    Minoxidil is thought to prolong the anagen phase, allowing hair to grow for a longer duration before entering the telogen phase once again. This results in longer and thicker hair strands.

  4. Dermal Papilla Stimulation

    The dermal papilla is a structure at the base of hair follicles that plays a crucial role in hair growth and follicle cycling.

    Minoxidil is believed to stimulate dermal papilla cells, promoting their activity and supporting the development of new, healthy hair.

  5. Increased Follicular Size

    Minoxidil may also increase the size of hair follicles, leading to thicker and stronger hair strands.

    This effect is likely due to the combination of increased blood flow, improved nutrient delivery, and direct stimulation of follicular cells.




Bottom line

It’s important to note that while minoxidil can be effective for many people with androgenetic alopecia (male and female pattern baldness), its exact mechanisms can vary between individuals.

Results might also take time to become noticeable, and consistent and long-term use is typically required to achieve, and maintain the hairs you’ve grown due to the drug.