Does Rogaine Work For Women?

You may have seen advertisements for Rogaine as a treatment for men's hair loss, but does Rogaine work for women? The answer is yes, but only if the hair loss is caused by a specific genetic condition.

What is Rogaine?

Rogaine is a topical treatment for hair loss that contains the drug Minoxidil, which is FDA approved to treat androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male pattern baldness in men and female diffuse hair loss in women.

Rogaine can be purchased without a prescription, but consulting a doctor before using it is advisable.

Does Rogaine work for women?

Rogaine can be an effective treatment for female diffuse hair loss, but only if the hair loss is caused by androgenetic alopecia. Hair loss due to any other cause should not be treated with Rogaine.

Symptoms of androgenetic alopecia in women

Androgenetic alopecia is a genetic condition. 40% of people who have it are women, and 60% are men.

Women with androgenetic alopecia typically lose their hair gradually. They don't experience the receding hairline that men get. Rather, their hairline stays the same, but their hair becomes thinner. Some women get a bald spot on top of the head, or towards the front of their head.

What is happening is that the hair follicles are gradually shrinking. Human hair is constantly falling out and being replaced by new hair. But in women with androgenetic alopecia, when a hair falls out, the smaller hair follicle is not capable of producing a replacement hair just as thick as the last one. So a finer strand of hair grows in place of the one that fell out.

Doctors think androgenetic alopecia is triggered by a change in a certain type of hormone called androgens (testosterone is one example of an androgen). Women most commonly experience this condition after menopause, a time when the female body goes through radical hormonal changes. According to some estimates, 40% of post-menopausal women experience androgenetic alopecia.

It is very rare that a woman would experience androgenetic alopecia before menopause, but there are some other possible triggers for the condition, such as:

  • pregnancy
  • ovarian cysts
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • oral contraceptives that contain androgens

What other reasons might women lose their hair?

Hair loss in women is not necessarily caused by androgenetic alopecia. Other possible causes include the following:

  • thyroid dysfunction
  • nutritional deficiencies such as anemia
  • scalp infections such as ringworm
  • heavy metal poisoning
  • extreme stress
  • physical damage (heat treatments, chemical treatments, excessive pulling or brushing, etc.)

It is also possible that hair loss could be a side effect of a medication. Medications for the following conditions can all cause hair loss:

  • cancer
  • arthritis
  • depression
  • gout
  • high blood pressure
  • heart problems

If you are experiencing hair loss, you should speak with your doctor before you start treating the hair loss with Rogaine. Only your doctor can confirm that your hair loss is due to androgenetic alopecia, and not due to some other health condition. Hair loss could be a symptom of another serious problem that has not yet been diagnosed.

How can women use Rogaine?

For women who have already determined with their doctors' help that their hair loss is caused by androgenetic alopecia, using Rogaine is an option. Rogaine can be purchased at the pharmacy and applied in your own home.

Rogaine makes a women's formula and a men's formula. The women's formula only contains 2% Minoxidil, the active ingredient in the product, while the men's contains 5%.

The women's formula contains a lower dose because the 5% concentration is likely to cause unwanted facial hair growth in women. Even when using a minimal amount, some of the product will inevitably run from the scalp on to the face, where it can stimulate the facial hair follicles.

Additionally, women are more likely to experience lightheadedness as a side effect of Minoxidil, so the dose is lower in the women's product.

Rogaine recommends using only half a cupful each day on the scalp area where the hair is thinning. Before applying the product, you should first wash your hands with cold water and dry them. Making your hands colder will prevent the product from sinking into the skin on your fingers.

Once your hands are washed, massage the product into your scalp gently and thoroughly. Do not wash it out. Simply let it air dry. Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water when finished.

You can apply Rogaine when your hair is dry or damp, but not wet. It is safe to use on color-treated hair, but you should not use it on the same day you are getting a chemical hair treatment.

How effective is Rogaine for women?

About one-fifth of women who use Rogaine actually experience new hair growth. For the other 80%, the product stops or slows down the hair loss, but does not stimulate new growth. There is no way to know for certain how effective the product will be for any given woman.

Rogaine is more likely to be effective if you start using it as soon as you start losing your hair. You also need to use it consistently.

One downside of Rogaine is that it may not work right away. It is actually normal to see more hair loss in the first two to four weeks of using the product. This does not necessarily mean the product is not working.

However, women typically have to use Rogaine for at least four months before seeing results, and they may have to use it for up to a year before they see results.

Does Rogaine have any side effects?

Side effects of Rogaine include:

  • changes in hair color or texture
  • scalp irritation
  • facial hair growth
  • chest pain
  • rapid heartbeat
  • swelling of hands or feet
  • rapid weight gain
  • lightheadedness
  • flushing