It Turns Out You Can Pop a Pill to Reverse Hair Loss

Increasing number of dermatologists are prescribing low-dose minoxidil pills
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2022 3:40 PM CDT
Updated Aug 28, 2022 9:03 PM CDT
Pop a Pill to Reverse Hair Loss? That Drug Already Exists
   (Getty Images / phatthanit_r)

For all those who wished a magic pill could make their hair grow back, some heartening news: such a pill exists, and in the New York Times' telling, it's cheap and safe. The drug is minoxidil, which you likely know as the active ingredient in scalp treatments like Rogaine. But it can also be taken in low-dose pill form, though the Times notes it's not widely known, even among dermatologists. That seems to be changing. Minoxidil is a blood pressure medication, and when it was given to patients decades ago, the hair-growth side effect was noted, spurring the manufacturer to develop Rogaine.

But it was a patient of an Australian professor of dermatology who helped give rise to the pill form some 20 years ago. The woman had thinning hair, and Rogaine helped but caused an allergic rash. "The one thing we knew was that if a patient has an allergy to a topically applied medicine, one way to desensitize is to give very low doses orally," Dr. Rodney Sinclair tells the Times. He cut a pill into quarters, and it did the trick: The patient's hair grew, but her blood pressure didn't budge. Sinclair kept whittling down the amount until he determined 1/40th of a pill was effective.

And possibly more effective than the lotion or foam version. Besides general comfort issues around applying it, there's the science: Sulfotransferase enzymes found in hair roots convert minoxidil to an active form—so long as there are enough of those enzymes. The pill form, which costs just pennies a day, automatically converts upon being ingested. GQ chimes in with one word of warning: The pill form doesn't know which hair you want to grow, so it can spur hair growth elsewhere on the body, too. (Read more hair loss stories.)

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