Kirkland minoxidil can be used to reverse hair loss, but how does it compare to other minoxidil products such as Rogaine?
This article will discuss the best way to use Kirkland, how effective it really is, and how it compares to other minoxidil products.
Minoxidil As a Hair Loss Treatment
The pharmaceutical company Upjohn originally developed minoxidil as a pill for the treatment of hypertension. Doctors and patients soon discovered that the minoxidil pill unexpectedly induced hair growth (1).
With this discovery, Upjohn redeveloped and eventually marketed minoxidil as a topical hair loss treatment, Rogaine. Once the patent expired, generic store brands, including Kirkland Signature, quickly hit the market.
How Does It Work?
Here is a closer look at how the topical formula works, as well as the benefits you may experience.
Minoxidil Increases Blood Circulation
Unlike finasteride (brand name Propecia) which reduces DHT, minoxidil works by dilating the blood vessels in the scalp (2, 3). To understand how this can benefit you, it is first important to understand how hair loss occurs at the level of the follicle.
Individuals with Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB) are sensitive to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is an androgen hormone produced from the interaction between free testosterone and the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase.
Scientists don’t understand exactly how DHT alters the normal functioning of the follicles. The end result of DHT activation, however, is a disruption of the normal hair growth cycle (5). With every new cycle, the follicle spends less of its time in the growth phase (anagen). As a result, it produces shorter and shorter hairs.
Eventually, the hairs are so short that they can no longer make it through the scalp. Without treatment, this will lead to permanent baldness.
While minoxidil does not inhibit DHT’s activities, it does make it possible for the hair follicle to thrive in a hostile environment. As a vasodilator, minoxidil ensures that the blood vessels supply the follicles with an adequate supply of blood. This means your follicle is still able to receive everything it needs to thrive.
One result of this increased blood supply is that the follicles can spend more of their time in the growth phase of their cycle. This counteracts the follicle miniaturization process that DHT causes.
Minoxidil Opens the Potassium Channel
Another activity that scientists believe may contribute to minoxidil’s effects is its use as a potassium channel opener (6).
Like other cells in the human body, hair follicle cells have large proteins on their surface that allow potassium to enter. These potassium channels have various cell functions, depending on where in the body they are (7).
Scientists don’t exactly know how minoxidil’s effect of opening the potassium channels on the follicle cell membranes helps hair growth. But they believe it must play a role because other potassium channel openers also cause hair to grow in humans (8,9)
Is It Effective?
There is no doubt that minoxidil is an effective treatment for hair loss. There are plenty of studies to back this.
One of the very first studies, published in 1987, compared two of minoxidil’s formulations (2% and 3%) with a placebo solution (10). As expected, minoxidil outperformed the placebo solution.
One of the first long-term studies on the effects of minoxidil was published in 1990 (11). Thirty-one men participated in the study, and they used minoxidil at either 2% or 3% strength. The researchers followed these men for 4.5-5 years.
The men’s active hair regrowth peaked at one year of use. After that point, regrowth began to decline. However, the men continued to maintain their existing hair for the duration of treatment.
Kirkland Minoxidil vs. Rogaine
If you are considering minoxidil as a hair loss treatment, you may be curious as to the difference between the brand name Rogaine, and store brand products such as Kirkland Minoxidil.
In short, both products contain minoxidil as the active ingredient. This means that the results in terms of hair regrowth will likely be similar.
However, there are slight differences in the inactive ingredients. These differences may change the product’s consistency, shelf life, etc. The inactive ingredients can also play a role in side effects. For example, formulations containing alcohol (specifically, propylene glycol) can cause irritation for some users.
As mentioned above, another thing to look out for is consistency.
Both Rogaine and Kirkland’s offer a foam version and a liquid (which we discuss below). Because the inactive ingredients will be different between the two brands, this can make a change in how the product applies. Some may experience differences in how quickly the product dries, and how it leaves their skin feeling.
Some users say they find Kirkland’s to be more greasy than Rogaine. Others don’t report any difference. The only way to know for sure is to try both brands, and see which one you prefer.
Liquid or Foam?
Another question that users of minoxidil products have is whether they should use the original, liquid formulation, or go for the foam.
While Rogaine quickly became a popular product for hair loss sufferers, not everyone could use the product without unpleasant side effects. One of the most common ones was an allergic reaction on the application site (12).
Interestingly, it was not minoxidil itself that caused this. Rather, the culprit was an inactive ingredient found in the liquid formulation, propylene glycol. In response to this, Pfizer (who in the meantime had acquired Upjohn) created a formulation without propylene glycol. That is how Rogaine Foam was created.
In response, store brands (including Kirkland Signature) went on to develop their own foam formulation.
If allergic dermatitis is not a problem for you, then it really comes down to preference. Some believe that the liquid formulation provides better results due to better absorption (13). In particular, the foam can sometimes stick to the hair shafts, meaning it does not reach the scalp surface. Other users don’t report any problems in this respect.
If you are looking for a more convenient formulation, then choose foam. However, if you would rather use the formulation that can potentially give the best absorption, choose liquid.
Are There Any Known Side Effects?
Whether brand name or generic, there are a few common side effects of minoxidil products (14).
Most Common Side Effects
The most common include local irritation and allergic contact dermatitis. These can cause itching, redness, flaking, and burning/tingling at the site of application. Tingling, however, can be due to increased blood flow at the site of application.
In rare cases, a more severe reaction, called anaphylaxis, can take place (15). Symptoms include hives, body rash, nausea/vomiting, and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or mouth. In such a situation, stop the use of the product and seek emergency medical care.
One other common adverse effect to consider, especially as you begin treatment, is an increase in shedding.
Sometimes referred to as ‘minoxidil shedding’ or ‘dread shed,’ the start of minoxidil products can induce short-term hair shedding. The scientific name for this is telogen effluvium (16). This is caused when inactive follicles that were not growing shed their hairs to make way for new active hairs.
It is common to experience shedding for four to eight weeks. If it persists for longer, it is best to speak with your physician.
Who Should Not Use Minoxidil
While minoxidil is sold over-the-counter, there are individuals who should avoid its use. They include:
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Those with patchy hair loss
- Those with sudden hair loss of unknown cause
- Babies and children
- Those with inflamed, irritated, or otherwise infected scalps
- Anyone with a history of low blood pressure
- People who use other medications on their scalp
In addition, anyone with cardiovascular health problems should speak with their primary care physician before they begin to use. Similarly for those taking prescription medications, to ensure there is no interaction with the minoxidil.
Availability and Cost
Kirkland Signature is a brand offered by Costco. As of this writing, these brand products are also available at Walmart and Amazon. However, it seems that these products may soon be phased out from Walmart stores.
As a store brand product, you will be spending far less. For example, a six-pack of 2-ounce minoxidil runs for $16.99 on the Costco website. On the other hand, a three-pack of 2-ounce Rogaine runs for $37.99 on Amazon. This makes Kirkland’s at least four times cheaper than Rogaine.
Considerations Before Use
Firstly, minoxidil is not a cure for baldness. It is a product that stimulates hair follicles to spend more of their time in the active growth phase of their cycle (anagen). It cannot create new hair follicles or replace what you have lost.
With this in mind, you will get the best results if you begin using immediately upon noticing the signs of hair loss. If you delay starting treatment, many hair follicles will be lost forever.
(Unsure if you’re beginning to bald? Learn the early signs so you can begin treatment now!)
Secondly, you will only see results for as long as you use minoxidil. As minoxidil does not treat the underlying cause of hair loss, it cannot prevent it from recurring in the future. As soon as you stop using minoxidil, any new hair that you have regrown will fall back out again. This typically happens 3-6 months after you stop treatment.
Thirdly, minoxidil results vary from person to person. A large percentage of users, close to 50%, will probably not see any new hairs whatsoever. These users should stop treatment after 4 months.
This does not mean you should not give minoxidil a try. Its affordability and widespread availability make it a very attractive treatment option. Just bear in mind it is not a miracle drug, and you will only get results for as long as you use it.
Microneedling + Minoxidil: A Worthwhile Combination?
If you choose to add minoxidil to your hair care routine, you will want to make sure you are using the product most effectively. One way to do so is with microneedling.
As a natural way to stimulate blood circulation, as well as a way to encourage the repair and regrowth of healthy hair follicles, microneedling is a skincare technique commonly used to lessen the appearance of scars (17, 18).
While many professionals offer this treatment, you can also perform it at home with a dermaroller.
The tool only costs a few dollars and will only take 10 to 15 minutes of your time, once every one or two weeks.
Even better, using a dermaroller in combination with minoxidil multiplies minoxidil’s effectiveness.
In a study performed on 100 men in 2013, the participants were split into two groups (19). The first group used minoxidil treatment only, while the second group used minoxidil in combination with once-weekly dermaroller treatment.
The group that received microneedling skipped minoxidil on the day of the treatment. They resumed their twice-daily use of minoxidil lotion on the following day (5%).
The other group applied minoxidil lotion 5% twice daily, every single day. In the images below, you can see the before and after photos of some men in the combination treatment:
As you can see, some of these men experienced almost complete regrowth.
Combination Treatment With Microneedling vs Minoxidil Alone
The same study also included hair counts of the two groups of men. The researchers actually counted the hairs in a small area of the balding scalp at the start and the end of treatment.
In the graph below you can see that the hair counts in the minoxidil group increased roughly four times as much. This explains the far better cosmetic results of the men in the combination treatment.
It is not clear exactly how microneedling achieves these results. One possibility is that it enhances the absorption of minoxidil (20). It also works to stimulate the release of growth factors and reduce the fibrosis that is often seen in patients with pattern hair loss.
Kirkland minoxidil and similar brands have proven to be an effective hair loss treatment. As such, they are one option that you might consider as you start (or continue) your hair growth journey.
The active ingredient in both Kirkland’s and Rogaine is the same compound: minoxidil. This means that in terms of regrowth there will essentially be no difference between the two.
The differences are in the inactive ingredients. These will affect factors like how quickly the products dry off and how dry or greasy they leave your skin feeling.
By some user accounts, Rogaine is slightly superior in these aspects. Other users, however, do not report this.
The big advantage of Kirkland’s, on the other hand, is that it costs a fraction of the price. Since you are meant to take minoxidil indefinitely, these cost differences can add up over time.
The simplest thing to do is try both brands for some time. If you find there are very small differences between the two, then Kirkland’s is your obvious choice. On the other hand, if you find Rogaine to be far more user-friendly, it may be worth the extra cost.