Kirkland Minoxidil vs. Rogaine: Which Gives Best Results?

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Kirkland minoxidil can be used to reverse hair loss, but how does it compare to other minoxidil products such as Rogaine?

In this article I’ll discuss the best way to use Kirkland, I’ll show you how effective it really is, and how it compares to other minoxidil products.

In addition, you’ll learn:

  1. Common side effects from usage (and how you may be able to reduce them)
  2. Whether you should use the liquid or foam version
  3. How to use a process known as “dermarolling” to make Kirkland 3-5  times more effective (clinically proven)

Minoxidil As a Hair Loss Treatment

Originally developed as a treatment for hypertension, it was soon found that use of minoxidil was associated with hair growth (1).

With this discovery, the drug was soon redeveloped and eventually repackaged and sold as Rogaine. Of course, store brands (including Kirkland Signature) were quick to follow suit.

How Does It Work?

Let’s look more closely at how the topical formula works, as well as the benefits you may experience.

Minoxidil Increases Blood Circulation

Unlike Propecia (generic name finasteride) which works by reducing DHT, minoxidil works by dilating the blood vessels in the scalp (2, 3).

To understand how this can benefit you, it’s first important to understand how hair loss occurs and the effects that it has on 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 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme).

When DHT comes into contact with the hair follicles of an androgen-sensitive individual, a process known as follicle miniaturization occurs (4).

The miniaturization of hair follicles as a result of DHT sensitivity.

The sensitivity triggers an inflammatory response. As the follicle inflames, it interrupts the hair growth cycle (5). This leads to shorter and shorter hairs being produced, until eventually the hair can no longer make it through the follicle.

If left untreated, this leads to permanent baldness.

While minoxidil doesn’t inhibit DHT’s activities, it does make it possible for the hair follicle to thrive in a hostile environment.

As mentioned, DHT sensitivity causes inflammation. The connection between the blood vessels and hair follicle weakens, and this leaves the follicle without proper oxygen or nutrients.

As a vasodilator, minoxidil ensures that the blood vessels and follicle stay connected. This means your follicle is still able to receive everything it needs to thrive, and the hair growth cycle can then start again.

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).

In short, potassium channels are mechanisms that control the flow of potassium ions to certain areas of the body. Potassium (K) is an important nutrient, performing a number of vital biological functions (7).

So, what happens when the potassium channel is closed?

While the channel should open and close according to its programming, the effects of hair miniaturization can damage the channels mechanisms.

Therefore, the channel stays closed when it should be open, and this deprives the follicles (and hair) of a vital element.

And potassium channels may also stimulate cell proliferation, which is just one more reason to keep them open (8).

There are two main potassium channels near the hair follicle, Kir6.2/SUR1 and Kir6.1/SUR2B. According to research published in 2008, only one responds to minoxidil (9). However, this seems to be enough for it to have a positive impact on nutrient delivery.

Is It Effective?

There’s no doubt that minoxidil is an effective treatment for hair loss. In fact, there are plenty of studies to back this.

One of the first long-term studies that followed the effects of minoxidil was published in 1990 (10). Thirty-one men participated in the study, and their minoxidil use (either 2 percent or 3 percent solution) was followed for four-and-a-half to five years.

The period of active regrowth peaked at one year of use, after which regrowth began to decline. However, maintenance was continued for the duration of treatment.

An earlier study, published in 1987, compared two of minoxidil’s popular formulations (2 percent and 3 percent) with a placebo solution (11). As expected, minoxidil outperformed the placebo solution.

Kirkland Minoxidil vs. Rogaine

The liquid and the foam versions of rogaine

If you’re 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.

However, there are slight differences in inactive ingredients which may change the consistency.

So, which product should you go with? It all comes down to personal preference.

While the active ingredients are the same (and, therefore, the results will likely be similar), the inactive ingredients can play a role in side effects.

For example, formulations containing alcohol (specifically, propylene glycol) can cause irritation for some users.

(Learn more about alcohol-free minoxidil here.)

Another thing to look out for is consistency, as mentioned above.

Minoxidil is minoxidil, whether it’s under a brand name or not. However, the inactive ingredients can change a lot in how the product applies. For many, the differences are minimal.

Though, if you’re sensitive to such things, you may want to stick with the brand you know.

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.

But why are there two formulas available for the very same product?

Rogaine 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, this wasn’t caused by the active ingredient, minoxidil. Instead, it was caused by an inactive ingredient found in the liquid formulation, propylene glycol.

In response to this, Pzifer decided to create a formulation without propylene glycol. That’s where Rogaine Foam comes in.

Of course, store brands (including Kirkland Signature) then went on to develop their own foam formulation.

So, which one should you choose?

If allergic dermatitis isn’t a problem for you, then it really comes down to preference.

Some believe that the liquid formulation provides better results due to absorption abilities (13). However, this has not been proven.

My advice would be to choose the formula you’re more likely to use.

If you’re looking for a more convenient formulation – one that dries quickly and leaves little in the way of greasy residue – then choose foam.

However, if you’d rather use the formulation that’s been around longer, choose liquid.

(Are you interested in learning more about the differences between liquid and foam Rogaine? Go here.)

Are There Any Known Side Effects?

Whether brand name or generic, there are a few side effects commonly associated with minoxidil products (14).

The most common side effects 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 site of application.

In rare cases, a more severe reaction, called anaphylaxis, can take place (15).

Symptoms of such an event include hives, body rash, nausea/vomiting, and swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or mouth. In such a situation, stop 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 known as telogen effluvium (16).

The period of shedding is caused by the shortening of telogen phase so as to push more follicles into anagen (active growth).

It’s common to experience an increase in shedding for four to eight weeks, but any longer than that and it’s best to stop use and speak with a physician before continuing.

Who Shouldn’t Use Minoxidil

While minoxidil is sold over-the-counter and, therefore, a prescription is not necessary, there are still those individuals who should avoid use. They include:

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Those with patchy hair loss
  • Those with sudden hair loss with no known 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 use. The same can be said for anyone who is currently taking any prescription medications to be sure that no interactions exist.

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, there’s no doubt that you’ll spend less. For example, a 6 pack of 2-ounce minoxidil runs for $16.99 on the Costco website, while just a 3 pack of 2-ounce Rogaine runs for $37.99 on Amazon.

Considerations Before Use

Before using minoxidil – Rogaine brand or not – there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Namely, minoxidil is not a cure for baldness. Minoxidil is a product that has been shown to regrow hair; however, it cannot create new hair follicles or replace what has been lost.

With this in mind, you’ll get best results if you begin use immediately upon noticing the signs of hair loss.

(Unsure if you’re beginning to bald? Learn the early signs so you can begin treatment now!)

Second, you’ll only see results for as long as you use minoxidil.

As minoxidil doesn’t treat the underlying cause of hair loss, it cannot prevent it from recurring in the future. This means, if you want to keep a full head of hair, you’ll have to continue to use minoxidil.

Last, minoxidil results vary from person to person.

The reviews you see online are the individual experience of the user. There’s no guarantee that you’ll see much in the way of results – if any.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give minoxidil a try, but it does mean to be wary of anyone claiming it as a miracle drug.

Microneedling + Minoxidil: A Worthwhile Combination?

If you choose to add minoxidil to your hair care routine, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the product most effectively. That’s why I recommend you add microneedling into the mix.

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 skin care technique commonly used to lessen the appearance of scars (17, 18).

While professional treatments are commonly used, you can also perform this treatment at home with a dermaroller.

The tool is fairly cheap, and the time it takes to perform the treatment only adds about 10 – 15 minutes to your routine one to three times per week.

A man with a large bald spot receiving microneedling

Even better, the use of a dermaroller in combination with minoxidil has proven to be effective.

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 was instructed to skip use of minoxidil on the day of the treatment, and for 24 hours afterward.

They were then to continue their twice-daily use of minoxidil lotion (5 percent). The other group applied minoxidil lotion 5 percent twice daily with no breaks.

The results of the 12-week study speak clearly for themselves:

Before and after photos of minoxidil group + dermaroller
Source.

As is obvious from the comparison images above, the group that underwent minoxidil plus microneedling saw significantly more hair growth than the minoxidil-only group.

What does this mean for you?

Well, if you want to increase absorption of minoxidil and increase its effects, then the use of a dermaroller is a must.

Just look at this graph below from a clinical study that shows how effectively the dermaroller helps hair growth:

Source.

(Ready to add a dermaroller into your hair care routine? Learn more here!)

If this interests you, I’d also recommend one more thing when it comes to ‘microneedling.’

Because a dermaroller is hard to use anywhere apart from the hairline (because it can tangle with the hair) and it also because it causes a larger (but not deeper wound) I recommend using a stamp instead of a roller.

This makes the treatment even more effective.

My preferred dermastamp for this process looks like this:

Now you can do the microneedling process all over the scalp. This drastically improves blood flow, reduces fibrosis, and maximizes absorption of the Kirkland or whatever topical treatment you choose (20).

Conclusion

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.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that minoxidil doesn’t treat the underlying cause of hair loss. Instead, it covers up the symptoms, and they’ll be sure to return once the course of treatment has ended.

This means it’s important that, during treatment, you also work to discover the cause of your hair loss and work to treat that directly. This will provide you with longer, more noticeable results.

The best way to begin learning the cause of your hair loss? Check out the posts on this website! You can also work closely with a dermatologist, or speak with your primary care physician about your concerns.