Equate minoxidil is a low-cost alternative to the popular hair loss product Rogaine. And, while it’s much cheaper than Rogaine, is it the best option to reverse hair loss?
In this post, I’ll introduce you to Equate, including how it compares to Rogaine and how to use it best. I’ll then explain the most common side effects associated with minoxidil use, as well as natural methods you can use instead.
You will learn:
- What minoxidil is and how Equate compares to Rogaine and other minoxidil products.
- How to apply both the liquid and foam formulations.
- The most common side effects associated with minoxidil use.
- Three natural alternatives that can be just as effective as Equate and other minoxidil products.
Minoxidil and Hair Loss
Originally used as a treatment for ulcers, minoxidil was developed by Upjohn Company in the 1950s (1). The rights to the drug now belong to Pfizer, who purchased Upjohn in 2015.
Initially, Upjohn sold minoxidil in oral form to treat hypertension (under the brand Loniten).
As an unexpected side effect, doctors and their patients soon discovered minoxidil also stimulated hair growth. This led to off-market use as a hair loss treatment and prompted Upjohn to research a topical version for this indication. In 1988, the FDA finally approved minoxidil for this indication, making it the first approved treatment for hair loss. The brand name of the product was Rogaine.
How It Works
Minoxidil has two main mechanisms of use.
- It increases blood circulation to the scalp.
- It opens the potassium channels.
To appreciate the importance of this, you need a basic understanding of how hair loss occurs.
Men and women with AGA are sensitive to a particular hormone in their body –dihydrotestosterone (DHT). When it attaches to receptors on sensitive follicles, this results in hair miniaturization (2).
What this means is that the follicles shrink in size with each hair growth cycle. The cycle itself is also affected, Follicles spend progressively less of their time in the anagen phase, which is the active hair growth phase. Instead, they spend most of their time in the telogen or resting phase. In this phase, the hair shaft does not grow.
Eventually, the anagen phase becomes so small that the hair does not even have time to protrude out of the scalp. The result is hair thinning and eventually baldness.
If left untreated, this baldness can be permanent.
Unlike Propecia, which reduces DHT levels directly, minoxidil works by keeping the follicle healthy despite DHT’s presence. It does this by increasing blood circulation to the scalp, which prevents oxygen deprivation to the hair strands (3).
Another mechanism is the opening of the potassium channels.
These two actions of minoxidil combined lead to the restoration of a somewhat regular hair growth cycle. The hair follicle miniaturization is also blocked. Because minoxidil does not address the root cause of hair loss, however, its effect last as long as treatment. As soon as you stop using minoxidil, all the hair you might have regrown will fall back out again.
Essentially, minoxidil makes it possible for your hair to survive in a hostile environment (4).
Equate Minoxidil vs. Rogaine
When minoxidil was originally introduced to the market, it was available only under the brand name of Rogaine. However, the patent for the drug eventually expired in 1996. This allowed several other manufacturers to start producing their generic versions.
One such brand is Equate. Equate is the brand name associated with Walmart. It’s also one of the cheaper minoxidil options currently available on the market.
Aside from price, what are the differences?
The main difference will be found in the list of inactive ingredients. While the active ingredient (minoxidil) will be the same, the inactive ingredients play a role in product consistency and quality.
Here is a look at the inactive ingredients found in Rogaine liquid:
Butane, butylated hydroxytoluene, cetyl alcohol, citric acid, glycerin, isobutane, lactic acid, polysorbate 60, propane, purified water, SD alcohol 40-B, stearyl alcohol.
And here’s a look at the inactive ingredients in Equate liquid:
Alcohol, propylene glycol, purified water.
These differences seem inconsequential. And, for the most part, they are. However, they can play a role in side effects and possible reactions.
Formulations that contain alcohol, for example, can cause certain side effects in sensitive individuals. These include dryness of the scalp, itching, and flaking.
So, which should you choose? Ultimately, this depends on your budget and your willingness to experiment with various brands.
How to Apply
Just like Rogaine, Equate is produced in both liquid and foam (aerosol) formulations. Both of these are available in 5% strength. This is the strongest strength that is readily available. There is also a 2% liquid solution for women.
How to Apply Equate Liquid
Using the dropper from your package, take up one mL of liquid. Squeeze the liquid directly onto the scalp.
Use your fingertips to massage into the scalp. Unless the minoxidil reaches the scalp, it will not affect regrowth. Once done, wash hands thoroughly. Ensure the liquid has dried before applying any hair product.
Do this two times per day.
How to Apply Equate Foam
- Rinse your hands with cold water. Be sure to dry completely.
- Dispense one-half capful of foam directly onto your fingertips.
- Apply the foam directly to the scalp, making sure to target trouble areas.
- Use your fingers to massage the foam into your areas of loss, and then wash your hands thoroughly.
- Let it dry fully before applying any styling products.
Just like the liquid, you’ll need to repeat this every morning and night.
Are There Any Side Effects?
The majority of side effects experienced by minoxidil users are bothersome, but not harmful. They include local irritation (such as redness, itching, flaking, and burning).
These side effects are typically caused by one particular ingredient – propylene glycol. In the liquid formulation, propylene glycol works as a vehicle. Essentially, it ensures the delivery and absorption of the active ingredient, minoxidil.
This is where minoxidil foam comes in.
Formulated without propylene glycol, users sensitive to the ingredient have more favorable results.
Of course, more serious side effects can occur whether you’re using the liquid or foam formulation. These may include:
- Swelling of the hands or feet
- Unexplained weight gain
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe rashes, hives
- Swelling of the tongue or lips
- Bags under the eyes/dark circles
If any of these side effects occur, stop minoxidil use immediately and consult with your doctor or other healthcare professional. Many of these symptoms are a sign that there is too much minoxidil in your system, and this might be interfering with your regular circulation. They can also be a sign of an allergic reaction.
If you decide to resume use, be sure to use the correct dosage (as indicated on the bottle). Applying more minoxidil or more often than the manufacturer recommends will not give more regrowth. It only increases the risk and severity of side effects.
If you still experience side effects, cease use altogether.
Availability and Cost
As a Walmart brand, you can purchase Equate minoxidil in-store or online from the retailer. You can also find it on Amazon.
At Walmart, a three-month supply of 5% minoxidil liquid can be purchased for $18.76. A one-month supply currently retails for $12.98. A 3-month supply for women costs $16.37.
The foam formulation is a bit pricier, and until recently was only available for men. A 3-month supply costs $29.98, compared to $49.98 for the 6-month package.
For a one-month supply, the minoxidil foam can be purchased for $19.92.
For comparison, a 3-month supply of the branded Rogaine costs just under $50 for either the liquid or foam version. This makes Equate roughly two to three times cheaper.
Are There Natural Alternatives?
If you prefer natural hair loss treatment methods, you might opt against using minoxidil. Fortunately, other alternative treatments can be just as effective.
Scalp Massage and Exercise
As the main mechanism of minoxidil is increased blood circulation, one of the things you’ll want to be sure to focus on is scalp stimulation. Two of the best ways to achieve this are scalp massages and scalp exercise (5).
Both of these methods stimulate the scalp and increase blood flow to the follicles. This ensures that oxygen and proper nutrients are delivered to the follicles, as well as waste (including CO2 and DHT) is removed.
You can practice these yourself or with the help of another.
How to Perform Scalp Massage
Using your fingertips or a scalp massager, start at the sides of your head just above your ears. Massage in a circular motion.
Slowly work your way to the top of your scalp, continuing your circular motions. Work on this area for about 2-3 minutes, and then slowly work your way towards the hairline and temples.
Begin at the middle of the hairline, and work your way towards the sides. Do this for about 2 minutes, and slowly move back to the base of your skull.
At any point during this session, you can backtrack to previous areas.
In total, you should spend about 10 – 15 minutes per day massaging your scalp.
How to Perform Scalp Exercises
Similar to massage, scalp exercises involve manipulation of your scalp’s skin. However, with scalp exercises, you use your muscles to assist.
The two most common exercises are these:
- Furrow your brows as deep as possible.
- Lift your brows as high as possible.
You can hold your muscles in each position for 1-2 minutes, and slowly return to a relaxed position. Or, you can alternate positions (going directly from deep to high, or vice versa) without stopping in the relaxed position.
Other scalp exercises involve gentle pulling of the skin. This is similar to a massage, except you focus on one area only. Place your fingers on your scalp, and push in one direction. Your fingers shouldn’t move, but you’ll feel a slight pressure on the area.
Another popular method for increasing blood flow to the scalp is microneedling. This involves the use of tiny needles that, when applied to the scalp, create micro wounds. As these wounds heal, the hair follicles “regenerate” (6).
This is a common practice for the treatment of scarring and wrinkles, but it’s becoming increasingly common among the hair loss community (7) . And, while you can visit a dermatologist for the procedure, you can also do it yourself at home.
To get started, you’ll need a dermaroller or dermastamp. I recommend the dermastamp, as it’s easier to target and puts less strain on surrounding hairs.
For best effects, there’s a three-step process I recommend for each microneedling session:
- Clean the scalp.
- Perform the microneedling.
- Apply a hair growth tonic.
You can learn more about this procedure here.
While I believe that manual scalp stimulation is the best way to see hair growth results, the use of all-natural topicals can be beneficial, too.
Many topicals can stimulate the scalp themselves which further improves the results of scalp massages/exercises and microneedling.
Peppermint + Magnesium Oil Scalp Spray
- Magnesium oil (100 mL)
- PEO (10 mL)
Mix the two ingredients in a spray bottle. Spritz the combination onto your scalp each night before bed. Use enough to dampen the hair, but not soak it.
Then, use your fingertips to massage the spray into your scalp (particularly trouble areas).
Can equate minoxidil be used to reverse hair loss? Chances are that if you respond to the branded Rogaine, you will almost certainly respond to Equate as well. Having said that, due to the differences in formulation, you may find Equate applies differently to your scalp. Depending on your sensitivity to the inactive ingredients, you might also experience some topical side effects.
The best way to find out for sure is to try out Equate for a few months. If you find that your skin tolerates the formulation well, it makes sense to stick to Equate. Remember that minoxidil is a treatment of indefinite duration. As soon as you stop using it, all the hairs you have grown out will fall back out again.
This means that over the years, the cost savings from Equate over Rogaine will add up to a substantial figure.