Scalp Inflammation and the effectiveness of Minoxidil

Is inflammation a good thing or bad thing?

When it comes to predicting how well minoxidil is going to work, inflammation can be good and bad. It's well known that one way to make minoxidil more effective is to pair it with a chemical known as a 'retinoid.' Topical retinoids create inflammation and irritation and help minoxidil better penetrate the scalp. 

So, one might predict that anything associated with inflammation should help minoxidil work better. Right? Not quite.

Studies dating back to 1993 showed that inflammation present in scalp biopsies of men with male pattern balding actually translated into the drug being less effective. These studies were preformed by Dr David Whiting and showed that in men with male balding  whose biopsies showed no significant inflammation, regrowth occurred in 77% of cases, versus 55% in cases with significant inflammation.


Inflammation is not always good. In male balding, the presence of inflammation in the skin before treatment may actually predict a poorer response to the drug.



Whiting DA.Diagnostic and predictive value of horizontal sections of scalp biopsy specimens in male pattern androgenetic alopecia. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1993.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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