Summary: Minoxidil shampoo is currently only available as the brand name Rogaine. Which makes it more expensive. However, I think it could be a good option for guys wanting to avoid using products like Propecia and the possible side effects. It’s important to understand that minoxidil takes a while to start working.
Dear Curtis: I’d be interested to find out what you think about using minoxidil shampoo. I’m a man in my late 20’s. Not bald but am definitely starting to see a receding hairline and overall thinning of my hair.
Patrick Stewart, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis. You do realize bald is the new sexy, right? At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
Anyways, the shampoo isn’t actually available as minoxidil – it’s only available in the brand name Rogaine and it’s technically a foam, not a shampoo and is actually applied a bit differently than a typical shampoo.
Does It Actually Help?
In clinical trials the researchers basically looked at a one inch diameter circle on each participants vertex of their head (basically, the vertex is the top of your head, towards the back where so many men start going bald along with the temples). They essentially measure the number of hairs is that circle before and after treatment.
Now keep in mind, even though these were studies the hair counts were still done by humans and it’s not like they are going to get every hair so it’s a subjective assessment of how much hair growth occurred. But, with that being said, topical minoxidil did prove to be significantly more effective at growing hair than the placebo.
In the one inch square researchers estimated that the minoxidil group had an increase from the baseline of 72 new hairs versus an increase of 39 hairs in the placebo group (yes, the men grew hair with a fake oil – just goes to show you the power of the mind).
Another way of putting this is that about 8% of the minoxidil users had moderate-to-dense hair growth versus 4% for the placebo.
Keep in mind that these studies originally look at the minoxidil topical solution (which is available as a generic now). I’m not aware of any studies that have looked at the shampoo itself. But the active ingredient (5% minoxidil) is the same for the solution or the foam – so I’m confident that the same level of results would be achieved.
Why A Minoxidil Foam?
Speaking of the solution, if it works why did the manufacturer introduce a foam. Well, I’m sure there was a financial reason since it’s only available as brand. But, feedback from consumers regarding the topical solution was pretty clear as well.
There were complaints that the topical solution could give the scalp a sort of scaly appearance. Also, users complained that it gave the hair a greasy appearance as well. From the reviews I’ve read the foam appears to be the preferred way to apply minoxidil.
Minoxidil Side Effects
While I’m comfortable saying that minoxidil does help for male pattern baldness – there are some trade-offs as far as side effects.
Remember this: minoxidil is a vasodilator. So blood vessels become larger and bring more blood to the area where it’s applied. The immediate concern with minoxidil (yes, even if it is only applied topically) is in folks who have high blood pressure. Studies have shown that in rare cases topically applied minoxidil can have effects in blood pressure and pulse rate.
However, I’d like to point out that in studies the actual rate of any sort of cardiovascular side effects in the minoxidil patients was 1.5%. The placebo group was 1.6%. Essentially the same. So I wouldn’t concern yourself with anything happening but I need to point out that it is a possibility, albeit a small one.
Honestly, the only side effect that appears to be fairly profound with the minoxidil shampoo and topical solution is things like scalp irritation, redness and itching. This happened in 7.4% of the patients who used it versus roughly 5% of the placebo users.
What To Expect
Minoxidil has two things going for it that I always look for in a product: safety and effectiveness. However, minoxidil has a big knock against it as well: it takes a while for it to start working. This is important for you to understand because you need realistic expectations before you start using it or you’ll quit before you even give the product a chance to start working.
So, how long do you have to wait? In studies the 2% solution was used frequently. In those cases a 4 month trial is considered the bare minimum before you should expect to see even small results (the trials actually ran for one year). However, as I mentioned above the shampoo is actually a 5% minoxidil. So it is stronger and it appears to possibly give results sooner. With consistent use of the 5% concentration some participants saw some results in 2 months.
Personally, I’d recommend you just go in the with the mindset that you are going to have to use the product for four months minimum. Six months is probably better because even at four months the hair growth will most likely be very young hairs which haven’t actually taken on much color yet and will be harder to see.
Like the studies, I’d encourage you that if you are going to try minoxidil be realistic and shoot for using it for at least one year.
Minoxidil Shampoo is a Good Option if:
- You’re committed to using the product faithfully, as directed, every day for a minimum of four months.
- You’d like to avoid using more dangerous products like Propecia – even though you may get better results, quicker with oral tablets
- You don’t mind spending more money. Remember, minoxidil in the foam formulation is only available as brand name Rogaine. A 3 pack of the foam will set you back around $45. That will probably last you about 3 months. So, let’s say $90 for a six month supply of the foam. You could probably get a six month supply of the minoxidil solution for no more than $30.
- You understand that it’s not a cure-all. It can help you grow more hair. But, in many cases, it doesn’t give you a full head of hair. You’ll likely experience improvements but, be realistic, and expect that you may still be thinner than you want.
- Khandpur S, Suman M, Reddy BS. Comparative efficacy of various treatment regimens for androgenetic alopecia in men. Department of Dermatology and S.T.D., Maulana Azad Meical College and Associated Lok Nayak Hospital, New Delhi, India. J Dermatol. 2002 Aug;29(8):489-98.