As the leading hair growth treatment on the market, Rogaine is used by both men and women alike. However, the listed side effects may be enough for you to think twice before use.
In this guide, I’m going to provide an introduction to Women’s Rogaine. This will include a look at the most common (and some rare) harmful secondary effects experienced by women who use this product.
Then, I’ll show you FOUR natural alternatives to Rogaine for women, many of them with results better than Minoxidil (Rogaine’s active ingredient).
- Rogaine and Hair Growth for Women
- How Is It Used?
- What to Expect From Use
- Common Adverse Effects of Use
- Rare Secondary Effects
- Minoxidil 5% vs. Minoxidil 2% Side Effects
- Further Complications to Consider
- How to Improve Minoxidil Results
- Alternatives to Minoxidil
- Update! Oleuropein – Rogaine Without The Harmful Secondary Effects?
- Penelope’s Thoughts On Rogaine
- Does Rogaine Work? The Science:
- Rogaine for Women Reviews
- 2% Minoxidil Topical Solution – Does It Work?
- 5% Minoxidil Foam – Does Rogaine Foam Work?
- The Short List
- Overall – Rogaine is Worth Trying, and Could Be Your Permanent Solution For Female Hair Loss
Rogaine and Hair Growth for Women
Minoxidil (the active ingredient in Rogaine) was developed in the late 1950s by Upjohn Company (now Pfizer) as a treatment for ulcers. Over time, the use of minoxidil in the treatment of hypertension was discovered and, eventually, in the treatment of hair loss.
As a hair loss treatment, minoxidil works as a vasodilator, dilating the capillaries present within the scalp.
These capillaries deliver blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the hair follicles. As a result of the dilation, blood flow is increased. This improves the function of the follicles and stimulates hair growth.
While Rogaine was originally formulated for men, it became increasingly common that women were using the product, too. After all, hair loss is not a phenomenon specific to men; in fact, women make up 40% of the hair loss population in America!
With this in mind, manufacturers created a similar product just for women.
Play with the slider below to see before and after.
The difference between Men’s Rogaine and Women’s Rogaine? There’s none. However, having a hair treatment product on the market targeted just for women did make women more likely to buy the product themselves.
How Is It Used?
In both men and women, Rogaine is applied directly to the scalp. There are different formulas available over-the-counter – including liquid and foam.
Interestingly, the FDA does have different dosage recommends for men and women.
The 5% foam is recommended as a safe treatment for both men and women. However, only men are recommended to use the 5% solution.
The 2% solution was approved for use in women in 1992. This is because women have shown to be more susceptible to minoxidil’s adverse effects (including lightheadedness, allergic dermatitis, and facial hair growth) than men.
For best use, the manufacturer recommends twice daily use. In the morning and at night, use half a cap full of the solution and massage into scalp. Avoid washing or applying other hair products for at least four hours.
What to Expect From Use
While you may be looking for a miracle cure, it’s important to understand that Rogaine is just a hair growth aid.
In advanced cases of alopecia, Rogaine may have little to no effects at all. Even in mild cases, the hair growth you see may be minimal and underwhelming.
Of course, you can combine Rogaine with other hair growth treatments (such as Propecia). This may yield better results.
All in all, I recommend you go into treatment without specific goals in mind. You may be more impressed by results in this way.
You can also read my review of Kirkland (a cheaper minoxidil product) and how it compares to Rogaine.
Common Adverse Effects of Use
The majority of side effects experienced – both by men and women – are bothersome, but not harmful.
Itching of the skin and appearance of a rash are the most common. While this can be a side effect of minoxidil itself, it can also be a side effect of propylene glycol.
This is an additional ingredient in the Rogaine solution, but is not found in the Rogaine foam. As such, you may try switching to foam to see if your symptoms lessen.
Another common side effect is shedding. This occurs in the beginning of use, and it happens as hairs in the telogen phase shed to make room for healthier, anagen phase hairs.
Telogen effluvium is the technical term for this side effect, and it’s temporary.
For some, however, the initial shedding phase was too much.
Rare Secondary Effects
As mentioned, the majority of unintended effects associated with Rogaine use are not life threatening. However, it’s important to know the signs of a more serious allergic reaction. These include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the tongue or lips
For users of Minoxidil 5% solution, another possible side effect is hypertrichosis. This isn’t dangerous – all it means is an excessive growth of hair on parts of the face – but it can be embarrassing.
Women have a higher incidence of hypertrichosis (9%) than men (1%), so this is something to keep in mind.
In addition, women may be more susceptible to such adverse effects as:
- Chest pain
- Fast/irregular heartbeat
- Swelling of hands/feet
- Unusual weight gain
The exact reason why women are more susceptible is unknown. Perhaps it’s linked to hormone levels, or other such factors.
However, I urge you to keep this susceptibility in mind. If you decide to go forward with use, keep track of any symptoms and speak with your doctor if they become too bothersome.
Minoxidil 5% vs. Minoxidil 2% Side Effects
Is it safe to assume that the higher the dosage, the higher the risk of harmful secondary effects? A 2004 study performed by Lucky et. al. set out to answer this very question.
The study consisted of 381 women with varying degrees of Female-Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL). The women were split into three groups: Group 1 received 5% minoxidil solution; Group 2 received 2% minoxidil solution; and Group 3 received a placebo solution. All groups were instructed to apply the solution twice daily for 48 weeks.
Researchers tracked progress by looking at three primary efficacy measures. These included change in nonvellus hair count, patient assessment of hair growth/change, and investigator assessment of hair growth/change.
Unsurprisingly, the 5% topical solution showed superior results to both the 2% topical solution and the placebo solution:
As assumed, the 5% minoxidil solution did lead to more adverse effects experienced by users.
As explained by researchers, these adverse events included pruritis, dermatitis, hypertrichosis, and scaling. Pruritis was the most common, and it was seen in 5% of the 5% minoxidil solution group as opposed to only 0.6% of the 2% minoxidil solution group.
In addition, 7 patients from the 5% minoxidil group dropped out of the study in comparison to 4 patients from the 2% minoxidil group. These dropouts were related to local intolerance (itching, dryness, and scaling).
This shows that while 5% minoxidil solution can be more effective, it can also lead to increased risk of adverse events in women.
Further Complications to Consider
Prior to beginning treatment (if that’s the route you choose), there are a few things to consider.
First, expect shedding to begin almost immediately upon starting use. While this may seem counterproductive – after all, Rogaine is supposed to grow hair – the shedding is temporary.
This is a result of telogen effluvium, as mentioned above.
Second, expect any positive effects you’ve experienced – such as hair growth and thickened hair – to stop when treatment stops.
Unfortunately, FDA-approved hair growth drugs (such as Rogaine and Propecia) only work while being used. Once treatment ends, so too do the results.
How to Improve Minoxidil Results
If the side effects and complications haven’t deterred you, you’ll want to ensure that you’re using minoxidil as effectively as possible. This will boost results, and it can make the minor adverse effects worth it for some users.
The number one way to improve results is with microneedling.
Microneedling is a process that involves the use of tiny needles. The needles penetrate the scalp, and this both improves absorption of minoxidil (or natural alternatives) and increases blood flow to the follicles.
While microneedling is practiced by dermatological professionals, you can also perform this at home with a dermaroller. This nifty little tool makes microneedling simple, and you can use it daily for greatest results.
Don’t believe that microneedling is the answer? Take a look at the results of this 2013 study below:
Both of the groups compared above used minoxidil for 12-week study. However, the group depicted in green also used a dermaroller.
As can be seen, the dermaroller group saw a significant increase in mean hair count over the minoxidil-only group. This is because microneedling improves the delivery of minoxidil directly to the follicles.
Alternatives to Minoxidil
Whether the harmful secondary effects are too worrisome, or you’d rather give natural ingredients a try, there are alternatives to minoxidil that are available.
In fact, I recommend you try these alternative methods out before you consider minoxidil. Why? Well, first, they’re natural and chemical free. Second, they have minimal to no side effects.
These natural alternatives come in two different categories:
- DHT blockers
- Circulation boosters
Let’s take a closer look.
To Block DHT…
The first step you’ll want to take is to remove DHT from the scalp. This will give you a clean, healthy start and will also make the below two methods more effective.
Here’s the scalp peel recipe I use, and I recommend it strongly:
What You’ll Need:
- Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
- Powdered activated charcoal
- Lemon juice
- A juicing machine (or a blender and muslin cloth)
- Create a ginger and cucumber juice blend. Using either a juicer or blender, juice a handful of chunks of ginger, and then add in one whole cucumber. If using a blender, you’ll also need to pour the blend through a muslin cloth to remove pulp, skin, and fibre.
- Combine the ingredients. Add 100 mL of the ginger and cucumber juice blend with salt (½ tablespoon), powdered activated charcoal (1 teaspoon), and lemon juice (1 whole lemon). Pour into the bottle of your choosing.
- Shake the combination vigoursly, both after mixing and prior to each use.
- To use, pour into palm and apply directly to trouble areas. You’ll want to focus on areas with excess thinning and hair loss, as well as those areas which are itchy and irritated. Use your fingertips to massage the mixture in.
- Leave in for 5-10 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly. I recommend you rinse with lukewarm water, as hot water can dry out the scalp and cause further irritation.
You may need to perform this peel a number of times. However, this will depend on severity of buildup.
Apply DHT Blockers Topically
Now that excess DHT has been removed from your scalp, you can begin to use natural DHT blockers as a topical solution to prevent further buildup.
There are five, in particular, that I recommend. Let’s take a look:
Each of the above DHT blockers has their own benefits, so I recommend you take your time in picking the one that’s right for you. (Or, of course, you can use a combination of the above).
You may need to experiment with each of the ingredients to get a better idea of how effective it is for you. This means using the ingredient consistently for at least 6 weeks.
Add DHT-Blocking Foods to Your Diet
While the long-term use of internal DHT blockers can have some unpleasant side effects (such as loss of libido and decreased ejaculatory volume), adding a few such foods to your diet can help to kickstart hair growth.
These foods include:
You don’t need to go overboard. However, it helps to be consistent, and choose the foods that will be most easy for you to incorporate into your regular diet.
For example, if you’re a smoothie drinker, you can easily add any of the above ingredients into your morning power drink. Or, if salads are a diet staple, use any combination of flaxseed, sesame seed, or pumpkin seed oil to dress them up.
To Boost Circulation…
Similar to blocking DHT, there are a few methods available for the boosting of circulation to the scalp.
This will do a few things to benefit hair growth.
- Deliver oxygen and vital nutrients.
- Remove waste and harmful chemicals.
- Keep the hair growth cycle on track.
To get started, there are two courses of action I suggest:
Apply Stimulants to the Scalp
While topical DHT blockers will cleanse and protect your scalp from buildup, they won’t stimulate blood flow. However, there are a few essential oils that will do just that.
For better penetrative abilities and to protect your skin from the concentrated oils, you will want to pair these oils with a carrier oil.
Coconut oil is an excellent choice, as it’s an oil with one of the highest penetrative percentages:
Use Manual Stimulation
Either alone or in conjunction with the essential oils above, you can perform scalp exercises to get the blood flowing.
I’ve already touched upon the dermaroller above, and this is a great tool for use with natural ingredients.
However, you can also use scalp massages in a pinch. And, while they won’t have the same results as a dermaroller, a 10-minute massage every day can have significant effects on blood circulation and hair growth.
There are even specialty tools you can purchase for your scalp massage sessions. These tools look similar to unraveled whisks with rubber-tipped ends. They gently stimulate the scalp, and the tool can help you to reach those hard-to-reach spots.
Update! Oleuropein – Rogaine Without The Harmful Secondary Effects?
Given some of the adverse effects of using a minoxidil product like Rogaine, you might be interested to hear that there is a compound made from the olive leaf that has been proven in academic studies to be more effective than minoxidil.
Let’s take a look shall we…
In all of the criteria that the researchers gave for a successful treatment, Oleuropein beat minoxidil.
Firstly, there was hair length. The chart below shows that after 28 days Oleuropein (OP) was significantly more effective than minoxidil (MXD) and the control (CON) at stimulating the growth of the hair.
Then we have the actual number of hair follicles, and the diameter for the hair follicle. Both good indicators of healthy, thick and lustrous hair.
In both cases, OP came out on top, beating MXD by a clear margin after 28 days.
Next up we have the derma thickness. This is important because the thickness of the top layer of the skin can determine how much blood gets to the hair follicle itself. Thin, lifeless skin equates to thin, lifeless hair because of the amount of nutrients and blood getting to the hair follicle.
(This is why men who have been bald for a long time have hard and inflexible scalps (there is no blood supply keeping the skin soft and supple and providing the hair with what it needs to grow.)
In the diagram from the same study we can see how much the thickness of the skin has improved over the control, and over the MXD. A clear sign that more blood flow is taking place.
Finally, we have the data from the study that counted the average number of viable dermal papilla cells. These are the cell group from which the hair follicle itself grows out of. So it’s easy to see that the more of these, the better.
Again, OP at 3 varying concentrations beats the control and the minoxidil test.
So what does this all mean?
Essentially, the point I’m trying to make is that there are alternatives that are completely natural (remember, Oleuropein is made from the olive leaf) that are proven to be more effective in all ways at regrowing hair.
The pharmaceutical companies have us right where they want us though. They are the ones with the big advertising budgets pushing their chemical products.
The evidence is there that there are better natural compounds we can use. The choice is yours about which one you decide to use.
For me, and most of the loyal readers of this website, the possible side-effects from using a chemical based product like Rogaine are just too great to risk, especially when the alternatives are as good as they are.
Before using Minoxidil, I have two pieces of advice. First, consult with your physician. Second, give natural alternatives a try.
As side effects vary widely – and long-term effects aren’t known – it’s important to go into treatment with your eyes wide open. This means understanding that you may not see the results you hope for, and you may have to stop use should the symptoms become to worrisome.
Do I personally recommend Rogaine? No.
While Rogaine will give you temporary hair growth, the effects will stop once treatment ceases. I believe it’s better to take a natural approach, one which supports your body and which drives the growth of healthy, strong hair.
First, however, I recommend you learn more about the cause of your hair loss. Only in this way can you move forward and choose the best treatment method for you.
Penelope’s Thoughts On Rogaine
Minoxidil started out as a treatment for high blood pressure.
Physicians used it with their patients with high blood pressure, and noticed that those patients using Minoxidil were growing more hair as a side effect.
The encouraged clinicians went on to developed an application of Minoxidil for people suffering from hair loss, to apply directly to the scalp.
Rogaine was first approved for use with women in 1991, and the rest is history!
Does Rogaine Work? The Science:
Rogaine has been the industry-leading hair loss treatment product for nearly three decades.
Brand longevity spanning decades simply isn’t possible when a product doesn’t work – the market and consumer experience weeds out the crappy products over time. Only the winners prevail.
A 2004 study of 391 women ages 18-49 with female pattern hair loss showed that over 48 weeks of use, 5% minoxidil (Rogaine foam) outperformed 2% minoxidil (Rogaine topical solution).
Also, the 2% minoxidil significantly outperformed the placebo.
A placebo is “fake” medicine – participants think they’re being prescribed and using medicine, but what they get is a sugar pill. Scientific studies often use placebos – it’s an easy way to prove if something works, when comparing “something” to “nothing”.
Recent long-term studies on men using minoxidil show substantial results after 5 years of use.
While the causes of male and female hair loss are not always the same, there are similarities in cases where the source is hormonal, or due to excessive DHT, or a result of stress, illness, or even a side effect of medication or chemotherapy.
Read more about the causes of female hair loss here.
So, in short: yes. Rogaine works. The higher dose is best, but the 2% dose of minoxidil performs better than nothing. Best of all, minoxidil seems to work best in the long-term.
Rogaine is one of the best hair growth products for women on the market today.
Ultimately, to really know if something will help protect your hair and grow new hair FOR YOU, you need to take a look at the science, and read user reviews, or consult well-researched resources like this blog (sorry, couldn’t resist the plug :).
If it still sounds like a good idea after carefully reviewing the facts, that’s the time to try it out.
Rogaine for Women Reviews
Scouring the web for Rogaine for Women reviews, let’s just say there is no shortage of interesting stuff to read. Reviewer tones vary from ecstatic to regretful.
It’s immediately obvious that women have strong feelings about Rogaine based on their experiences.
What stands out perhaps the most is the surprise from women using Rogaine for a few months, after there’s measurable improvement to the thickness, amount, and strength of their hair.
As always, treatments have the best chance of being effective if they are geared BOTH to the cause of hair loss as well as treatments that promote hair growth.
What this means is that if your hair loss started after a hypothyroid diagnosis, you need to take your thyroid medication AND hair regrowth treatment.
Likewise, if your hair loss was caused by a vitamin deficiency, you have to take your supplements as well as a hair regrowth promoting treatment like Rogaine.
Addressing both the cause of your hair loss as well as the effect, with regrowth agents, is the most comprehensive solution giving you the highest chance of success.
2% Minoxidil Topical Solution – Does It Work?
This type of Rogaine, the topical solution, contains the lowest dose of Minoxidil in the entire product line.
To apply, simply measure the dose of the liquid in the marked dropper, drop onto scalp, and massage the liquid into your scalp.
I will note that the topical solution contains propylene glycol, an ingredient which some find irritating and may be responsible for the adverse effects related to itching.
The advantages of using the topical solution Minoxidil liquid are:
1) precision in dosing because of the dropper application
2) lower dose of the ingredient Minoxidil for those who are sensitive to it,
3) the lack of “greasy” or “mousy” texture that people observe while using the foam
The disadvantages of using it are exposure to propylene glycol, and the less aggressive dose of the active ingredient, Minoxidil.
For those who don’t know whether they will have a strong reaction to Minoxidil, starting with the lower dose could be the safest choice.
A 2002 study (for male Rogaine users) showed that the 5% minoxidil content was more effective for hair growth than the 2% minoxidil solutions.
5% Minoxidil Foam – Does Rogaine Foam Work?
This version of Rogaine contains the highest dose of active ingredient in their product line.
To use, it, simply spray the foam into your palm and then massage into your scalp, once a day, four hours before washing hair.
Rogaine foam does not contain propylene glycol.
The main complaint for the foam application is the texture it can leave behind. Some describe it as sticky or “mousy”, which can make hair (especially longer hair) difficult to style.
On the plus side, some say the texture of Rogaine foam gives their hair more body and volume.
What stands out in reviews of women’s Rogaine foam is how shocked women are to see their hair regrow, even after long periods of experiencing thinned hair or bald spots. It brought weak or dormant follicles back to life.
The Short List
- It works
- It’s affordable at just under $10/monthly dose
- It’s widely available
- Brand longevity & trust
- Multiple forms: foam and liquid
- Must be used indefinitely to maintain regrowth
- Some women find it irritating
- Some women find it ineffective
- Must be used consistently – nightly routine required
- Requires months of patience to see results, because of the natural timing of our hair growth cycles, and because hair, on average, grows only a half an inch a month.
Overall – Rogaine is Worth Trying, and Could Be Your Permanent Solution For Female Hair Loss
Rogaine for women has mostly pros, but a few cons. Not everyone has the same experience, and user experiences vary wildly.
Some women SWEAR by it, and others say it did more harm than good.
In my opinion, part of the cause of the negative experiences could result from the time needed to see a major difference. It’s possible many women don’t have the patience to wait and see if it works.
For the rest of the negative experiences, it’s likely that some users have sensitivities to the ingredients; those users should opt for more natural remedies.
For those concerned about the side effects of Rogaine, or who have experienced negative results or reactions to Minoxidil in the past, I recommend trying Rosemary oil.
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