Does Rogaine® work? This article discusses who might benefit from Rogaine and looks at some of the possible side effects.
NOTE: This information should not be seen as medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor to discuss your concerns about your hair loss and your treatment options.
What is Rogaine®?
Rogaine® – known as Regaine® outside the US – is the brand name of the drug minoxidil. Minoxidil has been proven to help regrow hair in some individuals. It is marketed under several different names, but Rogaine is the most well known.
Rogaine® has an interesting history…
because minoxidil was never intended to treat hair loss initially. Instead, it was developed to treat high blood pressure. During clinical trials to test its effectiveness, researchers noticed that patients previously affected by hair loss were now regrowing hair.
A new hair loss remedy was born!
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FDA and Health Canada approved – also licensed in the UK
The FDA in the US, Health Canada and the UK’s Medicine and Healthcare Product Regulatory Agency all approve Rogaine as a product for treating hair loss.
This means that – following rigorous testing – they deem it to be safe and effective.
WOMEN’S ROGAINE® 5% MINOXIDIL FOAM is the only once daily product approved to treat female pattern hair loss.
A review published in the July 2014 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology concluded that:
“For female AGA (androgenetic alopecia), topical minoxidil solution appears to be the most effective and safe treatment.”
This conclusion was reached after a thorough review of published controlled trials, open studies and case reports of the treatment of male and female AGA.
How Does Rogaine® Work?
Experts do not agree on this 100% – however, the Rogaine website states that minoxidil promotes blood flow to the hair follicles and increases both the size of the follicles and the diameter of the hair shaft.
This stimulates hair growth and prolongs that growth.
Follicles that had, over time, become shrunken and were therefore producing finer hairs should then become larger and subsequently produce thicker hair.
What Rogaine® Products Are Available for Women?
Women’s Rogaine is available as Women’s ROGAINE® 2% Topical Solution and Women’s ROGAINE® 5% Minoxidil Foam.
The 5% Minoxidil Foam tends to be the most popular, as I’ll explain later in this article.
Does Rogaine® Work for All Types of Hair Loss?
Minoxidil is recommended for women with hereditary hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia or AGA.
Hereditary hair loss causes the hair follicles to shrink over time. This tends to cause thinning on the top of the scalp, particularly around the part and sometimes near the front of the scalp.
As explained above, Rogaine has been found to reverse this problem in some women. But it is NOT intended for hair loss caused by other conditions, such as:
- low iron or thyroid problems
- chemotherapy or other medication
- scalp problems
It’s also believed to work best in cases where the hair loss is not yet too extensive.
It is a good idea to discuss with your doctor whether or not Rogaine might work for you.
What Results Can You Expect?
Something that the manufacturers of Rogaine make very clear on their website is that Rogaine will not work for everyone with hereditary hair loss, nor will anyone grow back all their hair.
Nevertheless, some people DO see results – the website claims around 80% of women experience regrowth, whilst a variety of studies have been published indicating some degree of success.
The website WebMD discusses clinical trials that demonstrated that “the 5% minoxidil solution is significantly more effective in both retaining and regrowing hair in women with androgenetic alopecia than the 2% solution.”
NOTE: You may come across some websites saying that you will need to use Men’s Rogaine in order to receive the 5% dose. Please note that this information was likely not updated when the Women’s ROGAINE® 5% Minoxidil Foam was introduced.
This result is also supported by a fair bit of anecdotal evidence.
Until recently, the 5% solution was only available for men, but that all changed in 2015 when Women’s Rogaine Foam was introduced.
The initial effects of using Rogaine® can be alarming…
with many users experiencing an INCREASE in hair loss.
However, Rogaine’s manufacturers point out that this is a normal – and temporary – state of affairs.
It happens, they say, because the minoxidil prompts the beginning of a new growth cycle. The lost hairs are ‘old’ hairs that would have been lost anyway, but now they are shed in order to make way for the NEW hair growth.
That being said, if the extra shedding does happen to go on for more than 2 weeks, you should speak to your doctor.
The next step should (hopefully) be the appearance of fine new hairs
They may be colorless and very soft. This sometimes happens at around the 3 month mark, but for some people it can take up to 6 months.
The new hair should begin to thicken and strengthen somewhat, although it may be a little different in color and texture to the rest of your hair.
And once you have started to experience regrowth?
Then you need to keep using the Rogaine. Every day. For the rest of your life.
Yes, it sounds daunting, but minoxidil is not a permanent fix or hair loss ‘cure’. It works only as long as it continues to be used.
For some, the thought of having to use a product like this on a daily basis and forever more is simply too much, in which case Rogaine is not for them.
For others, however, the benefits of even SOME regrowth can outweigh this disadvantage.
It’s certainly something to think long and hard about if you’re planning on giving Rogaine a try.
What side effects could you experience?
Rogaine is a topical treatment and does not affect your hormone levels – however, there are other possible side effects to be aware of…
- A change in the texture or color of the hair
- Dry/flaky/itchy scalp (although this is more common with the 2% solution – which contains propylene glycol, a known irritant – than with the 5% foam, which does not)
- Initial increase in hair shedding (as described above)
- Rapid heartbeat*
- Dizziness, light-headedness*
- Chest pain*
- Weight gain*
- Swelling of stomach, face, ankles or hands*
* You should speak to your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms
Will Rogaine® make me grow a beard?
This is a common concern and there are some reported cases of hair appearing on the face and other parts of the body.
This side effect may be caused by not properly washing the hands after using the product (and therefore transferring it to other parts of the body), or by some of the active ingredient being absorbed by the skin into the circulatory system.
Alternatively, this unwanted hair could have been caused by another medical condition, but coincidentally appeared after the application of Rogaine.
In research published in the May 2003 issue of the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 4% of a group of 1,333 women using minoxidil topical solution reported unwanted hair growth.
However, it’s worth noting that some of these women had unwanted facial hair BEFORE using minoxidil (and were, therefore, already prone to excessive unwanted hair growth).
The report’s authors suggested that women sensitive to minoxidil topical solution (MTS) should use the lowest strength (2%) in order to avoid the problem.
It’s also important to note here that unwanted hair growth caused by Rogaine is not permanent. If you stop using the Rogaine, the hair will be lost (in much the same way, unfortunately, as the new hair on your scalp).
It’s up to you to decide if you are prepared to take the relatively small risk of this side effect occurring.
Will Rogaine® make me look old and haggard?
This is an interesting question, because it’s a concern that seems to have spread quite a bit across hair loss forums – yet it’s not a side effect that’s listed in any official literature.
Some women – via comments on websites and forms – claim to have experienced
- dark circles under the eyes
- enlarged pores
- sagging skin
- nasolabial folds
- loss of fat from the face
- premature aging
after using Rogaine or other brands of topical minoxidil.
Many of these comment include mention of a scientific study which, they say, describes how minoxidil has a negative impact on collagen production.
I found this both concerning and intriguing and subsequently spent quite a bit of time researching it. And whilst the people making the comments may have experienced the skin problems mentioned, I feel it is unlikely they were caused by Rogaine (or any other minoxidil hair loss product).
For a start, the research referenced often – and said to ‘prove’ that minoxidil destroys collagen – seemed to be either one of two studies.
The first was research into burn wound healing in rats and therefore likely to be of little relevance, the second was an investigation into the prevention of human scar tissue. This investigation involved ‘bathing’cells directly in concentrated minoxidil, which is not the same as applying topical minoxidil to the scalp!
There is no published clinical research into a relationship between the use of minoxidil topical solution and the breakdown of collagen.
There could be various reasons for women feeling that Rogaine was aging their faces.
As a hair loss sufferer myself, I know that we spend a LOT of time peering into mirrors, minutely inspecting our scalps and hairlines. This makes us very conscious of the state of our skin – and it can be very easy, after reading comments like – “Rogaine has given me wrinkles” – to think “Hey, that’s happened to me!”.
Yet the passing of time – and possibly nutritional deficiencies, stress, or whatever else has contributed to our hair loss – has likely taken its toll on our skin, too.
Something else that struck me as I researched these claims were comments made by William Rassman MD on his ‘Balding Blog‘:
“I’ve had 3 people in almost 4 years ask about minoxidil and wrinkles… questions based on what they’ve read or heard (not experienced).”
“I’ve had 1 or 2 people on this site post under at least 30-40 different names, all with the same basic message (about problems with minoxidil), same spelling errors, and same IP address. Just goes to show that those that are most vocal are the ones that have a complaint — but, it might even just be one person under a few dozen names trying to be deceiving.”
I found this interesting because I, too, had noticed the repeated use of certain phrases and grammar on the comments I had read on a variety of forums.
Whilst I’m not implying that there’s any ‘conspiracy’ going on here, it could be that a lot of ‘sharing’ of information online and subsequent panic may have made the problem seem more widespread and ‘real’ than it actually is.
Nevertheless, if YOU feel that you have experienced similar symptoms as a result of using Rogaine, then please do let me know by using the form at the end of this article.
Who SHOULDN’T use Rogaine®?
If any of the following apply to you, you should not use Rogaine, or at least speak to your doctor first.
- If your thinning hair is due to anything other than hereditary hair loss (AGA).
- If you are using any other topical medication on your scalp.
- If you are pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant.
- If you have any allergies.
- If you have any existing scalp conditions, such as eczema, or a scalp infection.
- If you have heart, liver or kidney problems.
- If you are taking any other medication.
- If you have sunburn or broken skin on your scalp (this can cause you to absorb too much minoxidil through your skin).
Tips for using Rogaine®
If you or your doctor have decided that Rogaine might be right for you, here are some useful tips for avoiding problems and getting the best results possible…
- Many women prefer the Women’s ROGAINE® 5% Foam as it is less likely to cause irritation, it has been found to be more effective, it is easier to apply, it only has to be used once a day, and it dries more quickly.
- Women’s ROGAINE® 2% solution might be the best choice if you are already prone to unwanted hair growth.
- Test a small area of your scalp before using Rogaine all over, to make sure you are not allergic to it.
- Don’t panic if you shed more hair initially – this is common, as explained above. But if it continues past 2 weeks, discuss the problem with your doctor.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after use to avoid transferring the treatment to other parts of the body.
- Use it 2 to 4 hours before going to bed, to give it time to dry properly. There is some suggestion that it can get on to your pillow-case if it is not properly dry – and then on to your face – potentially causing unwanted hair growth.
- If buying Rogaine online at a ‘discount’ rate, check first that it is well within its “use by” date (I have heard from women who bought a large, cheap supply, only to discover that they could never possibly use it all before its expiration date).
- If you miss a dose, don’t try to catch up. One or two missed doses are not believed to have any negative effect.
- Don’t try using extra Rogaine in order to see results more quickly. It won’t speed things up.
- You can still blow dry your hair and use styling products on your hair as usual.
- You can still have your hair colored, permed or relaxed, but it’s important not to use Rogaine for 24 hours before and after the treatment, and to wash the hair and scalp before applying the chemicals.
- Don’t get your hair wet up to four hours after using Rogaine.
- Do not dry Rogaine with a hairdryer. It may make the dose less effective.
- If you’re using a cotton pillowcase, try switching to silk or satin. The texture is ideal for fragile hair and helps prevent breakage.
Resources and for more information…
Your experiences with Rogaine
If you’ve tried Rogaine, please share your experience by filling out the simple form below.
With your approval I’ll publish your comments here to help other readers decide if minoxidil might be right for them.