Has my minoxidil stopped working?
Minoxidil is FDA approved for the treatment of male balding and female thinning. After using it for a period of time, some patients find that it no longer seems to be working the way that it once did. This leads many to ask :
"Has my minoxidil stopped working?"
The most likely explanation is that the minoxidil is, in fact, still working but the machinery that controls balding is working harder. It is likely that more and more genes are being expressed inside the scalp and hair follicles that are accelerating the balding process forward.
Genetic hair loss has many genes
A recent study from the UK, however, has shown that male balding is far more complicated and many hundreds of genes contribute to balding in men. It identified 287 genetic regions linked to male pattern baldness. This large study examined data from over 52,000 men.
Consider the 30 year old male who started noticing balding at 21 and started minoxidil. At age 16 - 18 he might have had 4-6 genes expressed at the start of balding (before he even noticed) and 21 there may have been a dozen or so distinct genes pushing the balding process. At age 30, there could be dozens and dozens of genes expressed. For many users of Minoxidil, it is usually working the same - and while it was pretty good at stopping 4 genes, it can't fully hold back the genetic changes associated with 60 or 70 genes. These numbers are different for everyone - but it illustrates an important point. The scalp environment and hair follicle milieu changes drastically over time.
Hagenaars SP, Hill WD, Harris SE, Ritchie SJ, Davies G, Liewald DC, et al. (2017) Genetic prediction of male pattern baldness. PLoS Genet 13(2): e1006594
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