Rogaine or Generic Minoxidil, Which One Is More Useful?

Rogaine was the first medicinal drug in history that was in the early 1990s approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating genetically determined hair loss in men and later also in women. By now it has been approved and is available as a topical hair growth stimulant in many other countries. Its principal active ingredient is minoxidil, a vasodilator that was originally approved as an oral drug Loniten for the treatment of high blood pressure. Minoxidil was later found to be able to stimulate hair growth on the scalp but its exact mechanism of action is not known. Since Loniten has long come off patent, generic minoxidil is commonly available in drugstores at a very reasonable price and in most countries its topical formulations are available at no prescription.

Rogaine was approved by the FDA to be used in concentrations of 2% of minoxidil for women and 5% for men but many experimental generic minoxidil treatments use concentrations of up to 20%. Minoxidil is probably the most commonly used hair loss drug these days and although it is not without side effects they are not too common and serious. However, they are often being grossly exaggerated, especially by those who try to sell you their own alternative treatments. Negative side effects that were observed in less than one percent of patients include an irregular or fast heart beat, decreased blood pressure, swelling face and ankles, blurred vision, numbness in the hands, etc. These symptoms are directly related to minoxidil being a vasodilator and a blood pressure lowering agent. In addition, minoxidil can cause increased hair growth on the face and other parts of the body which is mainly of concern to female patients. This is due to its ability to stimulate new hair growth. But some side effects that minoxidil is often blamed for are not caused by this substance. They include inflammation, redness and itchiness of the scalp, dandruff and allergic reactions. These skin reactions can be attributed to the chemical vehicles used in the solution, such as ethanol, propylene glycol, glycerol and isopropyl alcohol (propanol). Many hair loss sufferers have discontinued their minoxidil treatment because of scalp problems triggered by these chemicals, although minoxidil itself rarely causes such reactions.

Furthermore, many generic, minoxidil based lotions contain supplementary ingredients that are supposed to improve their overall efficacy, such as azelaic acid (believed to inhibit the DHT conversion in the scalp), retinoic acid (should increase the penetration of minoxidil deeper in the skin by peeling off dead skin layers), herbal extracts, etc. These substances, especially the herbal extracts, are known to be allergenic to many people. Thus you should better stay away from such concoctions and stick with clean minoxidil as they hardly add any value but increase the risks of negative side effects. Good advice is to try several different minoxidil based products, for instance, those that do not contain propylene glycol, in order to test their tolerability for your scalp. A more expensive product, e.g. the original formulation, Rogaine solution, is not necessarily a better choice than a less expensive generic minoxidil mixture as their tolerability largely depends on the solvents used. However, Rogaine foam, though a bit more expensive than lotions, is typically very well tolerated by most patients. Since Rogaine foam contains 5% of minoxidil (which makes is a stronger hair growth stimulant than Rogaine for women 2%) while it is practically free from negative side effects, many doctors recommend it also to their female patients afraid of facial hair growth stimulation. Anti dandruff shampoos such as Nizoral (ketoconazole 2%), can, in the majority of patients, be employed successfully to treat scalp inflammations, itchiness and dandruff caused by the substances dissolving minoxidil. Irritated skin can overabsorb minoxidil which in turn leads to side effects such as sudden blood pressure drop or undesired growth of facial hair in women. So you better make sure you avoid negative skin reactions when using minoxidil.