Minoxidil Side Effects: What You Need to Know

Written by the Manual Team · Medically approved by Dr Earim Chaudry - MD

In 30 seconds…

Minoxidil is one of the most popular and effective ways to combat hair loss in men. It is also one of the safest. However, as with all medications, Minoxidil can cause side effects.

Minoxidil side effects can include irritation where the medication has been applied; dizziness, light-headedness, and headaches; and chest pain. These side effects of Minoxidil are rare, however, and usually come from over-application.

Side effects do not occur in the vast majority of cases. Minoxidil is the only licensed topical product for hair loss. It is a medication that has been proven to stop – and even reverse – hair loss.

What Happens When You Use Minoxidil?

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Minoxidil is one of the most effective methods of treating hair loss in men. Unlike oral Finasteride, it is generally applied topically, as a spray or foam. 

It has been found to produce hair regrowth in 60% of men. Minoxidil works as a vasodilator. When applied, it dilates the blood vessels in your scalp and so allows extra blood to flow to the area. More blood means more oxygen and more nutrients – the things that your hair follicles need to stay healthy. 

It is not, however, an instant fix. As Minoxidil restarts the cycle of hair growth in your hair follicles, you will see results in six months to a year of continuous use. And as we’ll mention later in this article, there is also hair shedding which can occur in the first few weeks, as the product brings your hair from the resting phase to the active growth phase.

 

What Are the Side Effects of Minoxidil?

All medications have side effects, and Minoxidil is no exception. However, the drug has been approved for medical use and the Minoxidil side effects are usually rare, temporary, and mild. 

The most common side effect of Minoxidil is irritated skin – either a mild rash or burning sensation – where the spray has been applied. This can be the result of a reaction either to the Minoxidil itself or to another substance, such as alcohol, in the solution. It can also be a result of overapplying the treatment, so it’s always best to stick to the recommended dose.

As the drug is a vasodilator, it lowers your blood pressure slightly. As a result, men can experience Minoxidil side effects including dizziness, drowsiness, and tiredness, as well as swelling around the head, face or hands. This is normal and is just a reaction to your body’s adjustment to the changes in blood pressure. Other side effects of Minoxidil can include heart palpitations, chest pain, flushing, alterations to your vision, and nausea. These are not common and are usually the result of overuse. 

It is also possible that you can be allergic to Minoxidil, although this again is very rare. If you experience severe rashes, itching, hives, difficulty breathing, or sudden weight gain, stop using Minoxidil and consult a doctor.

 

Applying Minoxidil Safely

Minoxidil should be applied twice a day. As with all medications, if you miss an application, do not double-up the dose the next time around. This will increase the chances of Minoxidil’s side effects. 

Be careful when you are applying Minoxidil too. Avoid contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth – and wash your hands thoroughly after application. If the solution gets into your eye, it can be very irritating. Contact a doctor if this occurs.

 

Can Minoxidil Cause Hair Loss?

Ironically, one of the more well-known side effects of Minoxidil is hair loss. However, this is not so much a side effect as a part of the process by which the drug works. So, don’t worry; your hair is coming back. 

By bringing life back to your hair follicles, Minoxidil kickstarts the hair growth cycle through which the follicles pass. Shedding is part of each follicle’s cycle and any hair loss you will see is a natural step before your hair’s regrowth. This is normal.

When taking Minoxidil, you may also see hair growth occur on different parts of your body too. Most commonly, your facial hair may grow more than usual – but you can see increased hair growth on other parts of your body too. This is the result of the Minoxidil in your bloodstream.

 

Using Minoxidil With Other Medications or Conditions

The side effects of Minoxidil are rare. However, they are made more likely when the drug is used with some other medications or by people who have particular medical conditions. 

Minoxidil is effective specifically for men experiencing male pattern baldness or hereditary hair loss. It should not be used in cases where hair loss is accompanied by scabs or lesions on the scalp. This increases the chances of the drug entering your bloodstream.

It is generally not recommended to use Minoxidil if you are on medication for high blood pressure. These medicines will, like Minoxidil, lower your blood pressure. As a result, Minoxidil side effects like dizziness and fainting become more likely.

 

Is Minoxidil Safe?

Despite the possibility of side effects, Minoxidil is safe in the vast majority of cases and it has been licensed for medical use. Generally, the benefits far outweigh the possible risks. Minoxidil promotes hair regrowth in the majority of cases and, when combined with Finasteride, is effective in 90% of men. 

Meanwhile, in most studies of Minoxidil, the frequency of side effects is not statistically significant. One study, with hundreds of participants, showed no cases of side effects over a three-month period.

If you are interested in taking treatment for hair loss, at Manual we’ll ask you to take a short questionnaire first. This applies whether you are intending to take Minoxidil or Finasteride and is to determine that the treatment is appropriate for you. You’ll be in safe hands.

 

Key Takeaways...

Like all medicines, Minoxidil does have possible side effects. These can include irritated skin, slight dizziness, and drowsiness. However, these occur rarely and, when they do, they are usually mild and temporary. 

There are a few serious Minoxidil side effects. Changes in blood pressure can occur and your body may react to this in different ways. Consult a doctor if you are on other medications or if you suspect you have an allergy to Minoxidil.

Minoxidil is entirely safe and is used by millions of men worldwide to treat male pattern baldness. If you are experiencing hair loss, Minoxidil might be the best treatment for you. The benefits certainly outweigh the risks.