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Scientists originally developed minoxidil Trusted Source to treat high blood pressure. Its developers found that it had the side effect of excessive, unwanted hair growth.

This effect gave drug companies reason to consider it for male baldness.

Researchers do not know exactly how minoxidil works. The drug appears to widen the hair follicle, which causes a thicker strand of hair to grow.

In addition, minoxidil appears to prolong the growth period of hair, which results in longer hair and a higher number of hair strands. When used properly, minoxidil has been shown to be safe and effective.

It is more effective in individuals who are under 40 years of age.

A 2019 reviewTrusted Source notes that topical minoxidil is only approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in males and females. However, minoxidil is used off-label for other hair disorders, such as alopecia areata, scarring alopecia, and hair shaft disorders.

The FDA Trusted Source notes that the term “off-label” refers to approved medications that doctors prescribe for unapproved uses.

Minoxidil can cause some side effects, includingTrusted Source:

Hair shedding

Skin irritation and redness

Itchy, yellow, or white scales on the scalp
allergic contact dermatitis

Excessive hair growth over the body, including on the face in some females

Minoxidil is also not suitable for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for those who have a hypersensitivity to the ingredients in this medication.

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