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The good and bad of minoxidil.

The topical medication minoxidil has been used for decades to stimulate hair growth in men and women. It works, but it also comes with possible side effects.

Studies have shown that minoxidil can provide hair growth in people with androgenic alopecia (genetic hair loss), alopecia areata (a type of patchy hair loss), hair loss due to chemotherapy, and hair loss secondary to traction on their hair (tight braids or weaves, tight turban). Hair transplant surgeons have also found that using minoxidil before and after a hair transplant can enhance results.

However, like all medications, minoxidil may cause side effects. In a small percentage of people, the medication can cause hair growth on the face. For men, this isn’t usually a problem. But it isn’t welcome for most women. Scalp irritation or itchiness can occur. Shedding of some hair can also occur for the first 4-6 weeks that the medication is used. Additionally, this medication should not be used if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Like most treatments for hair loss, the benefits of the medication slowly dissipate once you stop applying it, and your hair loss will continue.