Minoxidil vs. PRP: Which hair loss treatment is right for you?

Countless hair loss treatments are both a blessing and a curse since choosing the right one can become quite overwhelming. Keeping this in mind, we’ll be diving right into the three of the hottest hair loss treatments and comparing them to help you make your pick!

There is no doubt that hair plays a significant role in making one feel confident in their skin. That being said, permanent hair loss at a relatively early age can be very troubling. The good news is that depending on the type and extent of hair loss, there are available treatment options. 

If you’ve spent some time in the world of haircare, chances are you have probably heard of minoxidil, PRP, or both. While both of these are used to treat other physical problems as well, they are commonly used for treating hair loss associated with androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness). In this article, we will address the pros, cons, and side effects of minoxidil vs. PRP, the types of hair loss they can treat, related drugs such as Finasteride, and which of these treatments would be the better option for you depending on your type of hair loss. 

Types of Hair Loss 

Before we get into the differences between Minoxidil vs. PRP, let’s take a look at the different kinds of hair loss and which ones can be treated by minoxidil and PRP, respectively. 

Hair loss is usually caused by an interruption in the body’s hair growth cycle. The Hair growth cycle goes through three phases; 

  • Anagen phase – the hair growth phase 
  • Catagen phase – the hair stops growing and separates from the follicle
  • Telogen phase – the hair falls out, and the follicle rests for 2-3 months before the cycle repeats itself.

Hair loss can be genetic and therefore inherited, as in the case of androgenetic alopecia or hypotrichosis. It can also be caused by autoimmune disorders, where the body attacks the healthy hair follicles. An example of autoimmune hair loss includes Alopecia Areata. Fungal infections on the scalp, inflammatory diseases, and various skin conditions can also cause hair loss. Conditions affecting the growth cycle, such as chemotherapy and Telogen Effluvium, can also be causes of hair loss. 

Why is this important? 

All of this goes to say that the treatments we discuss in this article do not help with all kinds of hair loss. In Minoxidil vs. PRP, type of hair loss is an important factor to weigh as both these treatments act differently on different kinds of hair loss. It is important to understand what type of hair loss you might be experiencing and seek out the cause so that appropriate medication can be used to focus on hair regrowth.

Minoxidil vs. PRP: What is Minoxidil?

Minoxidil is a vasodilator and belongs to a class of drugs called antihypertensives. Originally, minoxidil was meant to treat hypertension or high blood pressure. Minoxidil works by opening up (dilating) the blood vessels so that they are not as narrow. This way, blood flows more easily through the blood vessels, and the heart does not need to pump as hard, resulting in a decrease in blood pressure. Drugs such as minoxidil are direct vasodilators and are only used when other drugs or treatments for hypertension do not work. 

Although minoxidil was initially introduced in the 1970s only to treat hypertension, it was observed that taking minoxidil led to Hypertrichosis or increased hair growth. This then led to the development of a topical minoxidil solution for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, first in male and then female individuals. [1]

The topical minoxidil is usually available as a liquid solution that is to be applied directly on the scalp. Different percent solutions are produced. While minoxidil is the generic drug name, it is available under various brand names, such as Rogaine. 

Benefits of Minoxidil

As previously mentioned, minoxidil works as a vasodilator, which means it widens blood vessels to provide a better supply of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the hair follicles, promoting and prolonging the anagen phase of hair growth. 

The drug is usually used twice a day and is applied on dry hair and scalp only. Minoxidil usually takes anywhere between 4 months to 1 year of usage to see any significant results.

Minoxidil is US FDA-approved to treat only androgenetic alopecia. Still, it is also used as an off-label medication to treat other hair disorders, such as alopecia areata, scarring alopecia, and hair shaft disorders. [1]

Minoxidil is available over the counter in most countries, but it is still recommended to seek professional advice from a dermatologist before starting to use minoxidil. 

Side effects of minoxidil

Topical minoxidil is generally considered safe; however, it can have adverse effects sometimes. The most common side effect is irritant contact dermatitis causing itching and scaling. Other side effects can include: 

  • Hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth) on unwanted parts of the body 
  • Weight gain 
  • Allergic reaction to minoxidil (conduct patch test before usage) 
  • Swelling of the face
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Difficulty breathing 

Minoxidil vs. PRP: What is PRP? 

PRP, which stands for Platelet-rich plasma therapy, is a relatively new biotechnology that takes advantage of the body’s healing properties to fix problems such as injured tendons, ligaments, or muscles and, more recently – to promote hair regrowth. 

Plasma is the liquid part of our blood. Platelets are cells in the blood whose primary function is to prevent and stop bleeding. Platelet-rich plasma is precisely what it sounds like – a processed liquid fraction of the blood that contains platelets above the baseline. 

How PRP works and its benefits

PRP works by taking the patient’s blood, creating the plasma solution, and injecting it into the part of the body that needs healing. The reason this works is because the plasma contains growth factors, which play a role in fibroblast activation, collagen synthesis, and stimulation of the extracellular matrix, so when injected into the scalp, these growth factors promote hair growth. [2]

One of the critical benefits of PRP treatment is that it is minimally invasive. The treatment is done only with injections, and the plasma is directly injected into the target area. PRP is also safe because it is derived from the individual’s blood, which means there is no risk of HIV or other transmissible diseases. 

Minoxidil vs. PRP in terms of treatment time

Like minoxidil, PRP treatment takes anywhere between 3-6 months to start showing effects, but it has been known to show satisfactory improvement in hair growth. Like all hair treatments, maintenance is essential, so the PRP treatment might have to be repeated every 12-24 months after initial treatment. However, unlike minoxidil, it’s not something that needs to be done every day. 

Side effects of PRP 

While PRP for hair loss does not have major adverse effects and is considered a very safe treatment, it might cause some temporary pain at the injection site. Additionally, since blood is drawn for the procedure, it might cause some dizziness or nausea. In some very rare cases, there may be damage to the nerves. 

What is Finasteride? How it works; benefits

Finasteride, like topical minoxidil, is an FDA-approved drug used to combat hair loss, but unlike minoxidil, it is not suitable for all. Finasteride is to be used in adult men only – in male individuals above the age of 18. It also treats Benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH (enlarged prostate). Generally, the higher dosage of Finasteride is used to treat the enlarged prostate, and the lower dosage is used to treat hair loss. For hair loss treatment, the recommended dose is 1mg a day. It generally takes at least 4 months to see significant results. 

Finasteride belongs to a class of drugs called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, or 5-ARIs. These drugs block the action of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which converts testosterone into a different hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT plays a central role in pattern baldness, so lowering the amount of DHT in the bloodstream via Finasteride can certainly help with hair loss. 

It is important to note that Finasteride cannot work with all kinds of hair loss. Since DHT influences male pattern baldness, Finasteride will work to treat male pattern baldness, but it will not show any effect if used to treat hair loss due to other reasons. For instance, Finasteride cannot be used to treat hair loss caused by autoimmune disorders, stress, or poor nutrition.

Side Effects of Finasteride 

Most of the side effects of Finasteride are mild but cannot be disregarded as they can affect your quality of life. These side effects include: 

  • Lowered sex drive or decreased libido
  • Inability to get or maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • Pain or discomfort in the testicles
  • Poor semen quality 
  • Depression 
  • Decreased ejaculate volume
  • Low blood pressure 

Studies have also shown that Finasteride can increase your risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

Not all patients who take finasteride report experiencing all of the above symptoms and most of the reproductive symptoms do go away with stoppage of drug use. However, some men have claimed that the effects have persisted. 

Minoxidil vs. PRP vs. Finasteride 

To sum up the differences and similarities between the three treatments:

Minoxidil  PRP  Finasteride 
  • FDA approved drug 
  • Available over the counter for hair loss treatment 
  • Used for AGA, but can be used off-label to treat some other hair loss issues as well
  • Cost-effective (in comparison to treatments like prp and hair transplant)
  • Generally not covered by insurance for this use
  • Can have several side effects
  • Daily application
  • Continued usage required for results 
  • Takes at least 4 months for visible results 
  • Can be used by all adults 
  • Not considered a drug since derived from one’s own blood
  • Requires consultation from a specialist and multiple clinic visits
  • Like Minoxidil, can be used to treat hair loss problems other than AGA
  • Although more cost-effective than other treatments such as hair transplant surgery, this might still burn a hole in your pockets.
  • Generally not covered by insurance for this use
  • Not as many side effects
  • Treatment requires multiple sessions. 
  • Requires maintenance for results 
  • Takes at least 3-6 months 
  • Suitable for anyone 
  • There can be initial shedding of hair before regrowth begins
  • FDA approved drug
  • Not available over the counter, requires prescription
  • Can only be used to treat male pattern baldness 
  • Cost-effective (in comparison to treatments like prp and hair transplant)
  • Generally not covered by insurance for this use
  • Can have several side effects 
  • Daily intake 
  • Continued usage for results 
  • Takes at least 4 months 
  • Only for adult men

Combined therapy 

You might be wondering – if any one of these treatments can help with hair loss, then how would a combination of these treatments work? Minoxidil vs. PRP? Or Minoxidil and PRP?

Research and various studies have shown that in comparing Minoxidil vs. PRP, PRP showed better results and overall better outcomes. These studies have concluded that PRP therapy can be a valuable alternative to topical minoxidil therapy and can replace it in AGA treatment. [3]

However, studies exploring the effects of combined therapy have shown that combinations of Minoxidil and PRP, or combinations of PRP and Finasteride, work better than just one of these treatments alone. So while it is not necessary to use minoxidil or Finasteride after or alongside PRP, using these medications can undoubtedly boost your chances of having better outcomes. [4]

Wrapping Up

So, what does this all boil down to? 

All of these treatments have their pros and cons. Still, PRP appears to be a winner – with the most significant results for treatment of Androgenetic alopecia, and at minimal risk and no severe side effects. However, Minoxidil and Finasteride are also good options since they show nearly the same results and at a much cheaper cost. 

Ultimately, the kind of hair loss treatment you should get is a personal choice that should be well thought out. Seek professional advice and consider factors such as financial costs, health risks, pre-existing health conditions, cause of hair loss, etc., before jumping into any of these treatments. 

Wanna read up on more treatments for hair loss?
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FAQs

Which is better, Minoxidil or PRP? 

When trying to find treatments that work for your hair loss, you will come across various types. Some of which being PRP and Minoxidil. Out of the two, PRP is generally the better option since it has no severe side effects and can produce great results. However, minoxidil can be more cost-efficient and easier to access.

Can I use Minoxidil or Finasteride after PRP? 

Finasteride is also another very popular treatment that people often consider when they are troubled with hair loss. With all of these treatments, the question comes down to whether you can use one after the other or use them in combination. So can you use Minoxidil or Finasteride after PRP? Yes. The use of minoxidil or Finasteride during or after PRP generally has no adverse effects. In fact, combined therapy is encouraged as it can produce even better results.

Can minoxidil be used to treat multiple types of hair loss?            

Minoxidil is relatively one of the more popular hair treatments that is also very effective. It can be used off-label to treat certain other types of hair loss as well. So can PRP. On the other hand, Finasteride can only be used to treat male pattern baldness.

Should I consult a professional before using minoxidil? 

Not necessary, especially if you are certain your kind of hair fall can be treated with it. However, although topical minoxidil is available over the counter, it is not a bad idea to consult a professional before starting usage and with any concerns that may arise during usage. 

References 

  1. Suchonwanit, Poonkiat et al. “Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review.” Drug design, development and therapy vol. 13 2777-2786. 9 Aug. 2019.
  2. Stevens, J, and S Khetarpal. “Platelet-rich plasma for androgenetic alopecia: A review of the literature and proposed treatment protocol.” International journal of women’s dermatology vol. 5,1 46-51. 21 Sep. 2018. 
  3. Verma, Kuldeep et al. “A Study to Compare the Efficacy of Platelet-rich Plasma and Minoxidil Therapy for the Treatment of Androgenetic Alopecia.” International journal of trichology vol. 11,2 (2019): 68-79.
  4. Elena, E Pakhomova, and O Smirnova Irina. “Combination therapy with platelet-rich plasma and minoxidil leads to better clinical results than monotherapy with these methods in men with androgenetic alopecia.” International journal of trichology vol. 14,1 (2022): 1-7.
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