Alopecia treatments: minoxidil

Kayla, Emma, Annie X and Grace had all tried using minoxidil for their alopecia areata. It can also be used for other types of alopecia such as telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia (male and female pattern baldness).

Minoxidil is a topical treatment in a liquid, cream or mousse/foam form which is applied to the area of hair loss. It can be prescribed by doctors on a private prescription but is not available as an NHS prescription, or it can be bought online and over the counter in some shops and chemists. Brand names for minoxidil include Regain and Rogaine.

Kayla tried a minoxidil product when she was 15 and living in New Zealand but is unsure whether it was prescribed by her doctor or if she bought it online.

Minoxidil can be applied to the skin to stimulate hair growth. Some people found minoxidil helped, but others couldn’t see a difference. Kayla says it was hard to tell if it helped because her hair loss and regrowth changed so much at the time. Annie X stopped using minoxidil after a while. As with topical steroids, she says it felt “wrong” to be “putting chemicals on the hair.”

Professor Moss talks about minoxidil and says it’s not often prescribed by doctors.

Gender Female

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Grace’s doctor recommended she order minoxidil online and advised her on which strength product to go for.

Age at interview 18

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 10

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No one talked about having experienced any side effects from using minoxidil. However, Emily researched minoxidil and thinks there can be more side effects for women using the treatment than for men.

For the people we talked to, minoxidil was seen as quite an “easy” treatment: it could be bought from a shop, meaning that the person didn’t have to go to their doctors to get it prescribed, and used at home as part of a routine. Grace found it was quite a cheap treatment because she bought a bulk supply online. Emma says she would feel more comfortable using a topical treatment like minoxidil than something like oral steroids or steroid injections.

Emily talks about minoxidil being available in shops in different strengths for men and women.

Age at interview 20

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 19

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Emma tried prescribed topical steroids and shop-bought minoxidil. This helped when she had a small patch of alopecia, but doesn’t use either now.

Age at interview 23

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 14

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Alopecia treatments: topical immunotherapy

Topical immunotherapy, also known as contact immunotherapy, was talked about by a few of the young people we interviewed as a treatment for alopecia areata. This...