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
Originally developed as a treatment for hypertension, it was soon found that the 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?
Here is a closer look 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 is 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).
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 does not 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 follicles 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).
While the channel should open and close according to its programming, the effects of hair miniaturization can damage the channel’s mechanisms. Therefore, the channel stays closed when it should be open and this deprives the follicles (and hair) of a vital element.
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 is 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
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. However, there are slight differences in inactive ingredients which may change the consistency.
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.
Another thing to look out for is consistency, as mentioned above.
Minoxidil is minoxidil, whether it is 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 are 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.
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 was not 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 is where Rogaine Foam comes in.
Of course, store brands (including Kirkland Signature) then 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 absorption abilities (13). However, this has not been proven.
If you are looking for a more convenient formulation, then choose foam. However, if you would rather use the formulation that has been around longer, choose liquid.
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 the 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 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 known as telogen effluvium (16). The period of shedding is caused by the shortening of the telogen phase so as to push more follicles into anagen (active growth).
It is common to experience an increase in shedding for four to eight weeks, but any longer than that and it is best to stop use and speak with a physician before continuing.
Who Should Not Use Minoxidil
While minoxidil is sold over-the-counter and, there are still 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 is no doubt that you will spend less. For example, a six pack of 2-ounce minoxidil runs for $16.99 on the Costco website, while just a three 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 will get best results if you begin using 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 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. This means, if you want to keep a full head of hair, you will 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 is no guarantee that you will see much in the way of results – if any.
This does not mean you should not 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 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 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 to 15 minutes to your routine one to three times per week.
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 the 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:
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.
If you want to increase the 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:
As the above studies highlighted, microneedling improves blood flow, reduces fibrosis, and maximizes absorption of the Kirkland or whatever topical treatment you choose (20).
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 is important to keep in mind that minoxidil does not treat the underlying cause of hair loss. Instead, it covers up the symptoms, and they will be sure to return once the course of treatment has ended.
This means it is 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.