Rogaine is the brand name for minoxidil, which is a drug that scientists originally developed to treat high blood pressure. During clinical trials, however, people also noticed that it seemed to promote hair growth.
Later, scientists developed a topical application of minoxidil, which the manufacturers now call Rogaine.
Rogaine allows people to apply minoxidil directly to areas where they are experiencing hair loss, from the back of the head to the beard.
A study of 11,000 people who used the topical application for at least 1 year found that 92% said Rogaine achieved fair to excellent results for slowing or stopping hair loss.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially approved an over-the-counter formula that contained a 2% solution of minoxidil. A 5% solution is now available for tough to treat conditions.
Rogaine is most helpful for people with recent hair loss who are under 40 years of age. New hair growth is usually lost when people stop applying the medication.
Scientists have not worked out exactly how Rogaine helps promote hair growth and slow hair loss. A common explanation is that it opens up the blood vessels in the scalp, which allows more oxygen, nutrients, and blood to reach the hair follicles. It may also enhance the ability of cells in the scalp to produce DNA.
Rogaine was developed to minimize the effects of male pattern baldness by promoting new growth for pigmented, terminal hairs, and limiting the scope of future hair loss.
However, minoxidil, which is the active ingredient in Rogaine, was originally developed as an oral medication to treat high blood pressure.
While the medication could lower blood pressure for hard to treat individuals, people taking it also noticed that a side effect was the promotion of hair growth, although sometimes in undesirable places.
Development of a topical application made it possible for individuals to put the medication in specific locations. Now Rogaine is available as a 2% or 5% solution, or 5% foam.
A study found that applying Rogaine helped stop hair loss for roughly 50% of men with male pattern baldness. Hair began growing back for a much smaller percentage of individuals, the report said.
Using minoxidil may cause hair color and texture to change.
In a 2002 study, researchers compared the effectiveness of the 2% and 5% topical applications in men with male pattern baldness. After 48 weeks, they found that participants using the 5% solution started seeing results sooner than those using the 2% solution and had 45% more hair regrowth.
Experts consider Rogaine to be mostly safe, although the alcohol in the topical application can irritate the skin. Also, Rogaine may lead to the following side effects:
- increased sensitivity to sunlight
- dry and irritated scalp
- burning and itching scalp
- scaling and flaking scalp
Due to Rogaine increasing a person's sensitivity to sunlight, there is also a greater likelihood of them experiencing sunburn, so users should take precautions to prevent overexposure.
Some people using the higher strength 5% solution have reported excessive hair growth in places they do not want it, such as the forehead or cheeks.
People can also be allergic to minoxidil or other ingredients that the manufacturers use in the medication.
If any of the following symptoms develop, a person should seek medical help and discontinue using the medication:
- swelling in the face
- heart palpitations
- weight gain
- chest pain
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, minoxidil is safe to use on the beard and eyebrows, as well as on the scalp.
Researchers in Thailand conducted a study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a 3% minoxidil lotion for people striving to grow beards.
Some 46 participants applied a minoxidil lotion twice a day. Based on doctor evaluation and the participants' self-assessment, this treatment resulted in a noticeably thicker, fuller beard. Side effects were reported to be mild and not statistically significant.
Female pattern hair loss is not as rare as some people might think. Many females may experience hair thinning or hair loss at some point in their lives, and more do so after menopause.
After clinical trials and a few years on the market as a medication for male pattern baldness, the FDA approved Rogaine for use by females experiencing hair loss.
Rogaine can help stimulate the growth of new hair in women, although this new growth tends to be fine hair. It also takes time to develop, and experts recommend females take Rogaine for 6 months to 1 year to see if it is effective.
Experts do not recommend Rogaine for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding as there is insufficient information on how the medication could affect the fetus. Side effects tend to be rare, and Rogaine is generally considered safe.
Rogaine, which is the brand name for minoxidil, is moderately effective at stopping hair loss and somewhat effective at promoting new hair growth in both males and females. It takes time to see the effects of this medication, and experts suggest most people try it for several months to see if it will work.
Any hair growth benefits from Rogaine will gradually disappear if an individual stops applying the treatment.