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What is Minoxidil? (i.e. Regaine)

Regaine - Picture

Treatment Summary

Effective in: 60% of men
Avg. Cost: £199 per year
Time to take effect: 2 months


Minoxidil is a medicine licensed in the UK as a hair loss treatment for men and women. Because it does not require a prescription, it is available from many high street pharmacies. Some pharmacies offer Minoxidil as an own-brand product, but most sell the branded version Regaine.

Minoxidil is commonly used in the treatment of male pattern baldness and, as cited in a 48 week study, whilst 23% of men using a placebo reported improvements, 60% of men using Minoxidil experienced more hair coverage.

How do you use Minoxidil?

Minoxidil comes as a lotion, liquid or foam, normally in a strength of 2% or 5%.  The higher concentration is usually only recommended for use by men and is labelled by Regaine as Extra Strength for Men. To have any positive effect upon hair loss, Minoxidil must be applied at least once a day, every day for as long as treatment is desired.

The method of application will differ depending on whether you are using lotion or foam, but the basic technique is to apply a small amount (usually 1ml) very carefully to areas of the scalp affected by balding and to massage it into the skin. If you are using liquid Minoxidil, it is likely that you will be provided with an applicator to make the process easier and more accurate.

It is important not to apply Minoxidil to irritated or sore skin and to avoid getting it in your eyes. Minoxidil can also lead to unwanted hair growth if it comes in to contact with other areas of the body.

Does Minoxidil work?

Yes, Minoxidil has been proven to halt hair loss and promote new hair growth in men and women.

In one photographic study, 60% of men who used Regaine Extra Strength every day for 48 weeks experienced visible regrowth of hair. In a similar study, Regaine for Women Regular Strength (2%) was shown to “stabilise” hair loss in 88% of women who used it every day for 48 weeks. This means that they experienced a halt in hair loss and/or hair regrowth.

Minoxidil is the most effective hair loss treatment for women and the second most effective hair loss treatment for men, after finasteride. Finasteride is a tablet taken every day to combat male pattern baldness, and is branded in the UK as Propecia. However it must not be taken by women. In one study, Propecia was shown to be effective at halting hair loss and promoting regrowth in 90% of men who used it. Learn more about Finasteride (Propecia) here.

The key thing to bear in mind when using Minoxidil is that any positive effects upon hair loss will be reserved once you stop treatment. Typically, hair loss will resume as normal after 3-4 months of ceasing treatment with Minoxidil. For this reason, Minoxidil should not be thought of as a hair loss cure, but as a temporary solution.

It’s also important to remember that this type of treatment will not work for everyone. Regaine Extra Strength states in its Patient Information leaflet that it should be used by men aged 18-65, and that it is most likely to be effective in people who fall into the following categories:

  • men with hair loss or thinning only on the top of the scalp
  • younger men
  • men who have been experiencing hair loss for a short time only
  • men who only have mild hair loss

If you are suffering from very severe hair loss then it is unlikely that Minoxidil will be a viable treatment. You should talk to your GP about your options.

Are there any side effects from Minoxidil?

As with any medicine, Minoxidil comes with some mild side effects such as mild skin irritations. However if you experience any side effects you should stop using Regaine and tell your doctor or pharmacist.

If you are a man who has tried Minoxidil and found it ineffective, or if you are a seeking an alternative treatment for hair loss, you might consider prescription tablets known as Propecia. Visit our online hair loss clinic to find out more.

Where can you get Minoxidil?

Because Minoxidil is not a prescription treatment for hereditary hair loss, it is not available for free on the NHS. It can, however, be bought in many high street pharmacies (including LloydsPharmacy). Most pharmacies will offer Regaine but certain pharmacies will also offer other brands of Minoxidil, such as Kirkland. In some cases pharmacies will also have an own-brand Minoxidil on their shelves. It is up to you which brand of Minoxidil you use, however you may find that price is a factor.

It is standard for a one-month’s supply of Minoxidil to cost between £20 and £30, depending on the brand and the strength of the solution. This price will go down if you buy in bulk (i.e. a six-months’ supply).

It is important to speak to your doctor before you start using Minoxidil. This is because over-the-counter Minoxidil such as Regaine is only licensed for use on hereditary hair loss (male and female pattern baldness). If you are experiencing hair loss of another kind, then treatment with Minoxidil may not be suitable.

However as above, Minoxidil (Regaine) has been proven to be effective in 60% of men with male pattern baldness.