Rogaine Foam Vs. Liquid – Which Works Best for Hair Growth?

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Rogaine used as a topical treatment for hair loss, which was first approved by the FDA in 1998 for the treatment of androgenic alopecia in men.

Three years later it received approval for women’s use, and four years after that it became available as an over-the-counter treatment.

The Upjohn pharmaceutical company, formed in 1875, which is now a part of Pfizer, initially began testing a new drug called minoxidil in the 1950s, which turned out to be an effective vasodilator. This led to FDA testing of the drug for the treatment of hypertension.

However, one of the tests resulted in unexpected hair growth. Upjohn patented the drug for hair loss and began developing a commercial product, which eventually arrived on the market as Rogaine.

The Rogaine brand now belongs to Johnson & Johnson, as a result of the 2006 acquisition of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. The line of products includes Rogaine Foam, Rogaine Extra Strength Solution for Men and Rogaine Topical Solution for Women.

How Does it Work?

Using the liquid version on my scalp

The active form of the minoxidil molecule is minoxidil sulfate, which occurs as a result of metabolism by sulfotranferase in the scalp.

Continuing analysis is being done to determine whether the mechanism is due to the molecule’s vasodilatory effect – increasing blood flow in the capillaries which supply hair follicles.

Testing has shown that around 40% of men experience regrowth of hair after between three and six months of applying minoxidil to the scalp, although this application must be maintained in order to preserve results. If the application of the drug is stopped, hair regrowth will stop and alopecia will continue to progress.

It is also believed that minoxidil lengthens the anagen phase of a hair’s life – as this is the period in which a hair grows, it would mean longer and possibly stronger hairs growing as a result of the drug’s effect.

Why Are There Two Forms of the Same Product?

Healthy hairline

The foam form of Rogaine is a more recent development than the topical solution. This was prompted by complaints about certain side effects of the topical solution, including causing the hair to look and feel greasy.

The most serious complaint about the topical solution was that it caused numerous allergic reactions and irritation of the skin. This was found not to be caused by the active ingredient, minoxidil, but by a compound called propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is used in the liquid formulation to allow minoxidil to penetrate the surface of the skin in order to be able to reach the hair follicles.

As a result of this, it became a priority to work on a form of treatment that could work without propylene glycol, which is classified as a moderate level toxin by the Environmental Working Group.

The liquid solution should be applied to dry areas of the scalp where the hair is thinning, using a 1 ml dropper. After this, it needs to be massaged into the skin, in order to make sure it can reach the follicles.

The foam is also applied to a dry scalp, but instead of a dropper, is simply rubbed on by hand. Obviously, it is recommended that users thoroughly wash their hands after application.


It should not be imagined that Rogaine will cure baldness, or come anywhere near to it. The application of Rogaine cannot cause new follicles to grow where there are none, and therefore, for those with advanced alopecia, it may prove to be ineffective.

What Rogaine can, and does do, is slow down the rate of shedding. It is often used in combination with other treatments, such as finasteride, in order to stimulate regrowth.

The best chance of this occurring is in patients who are experiencing the early stages of alopecia. In this stage, hair follicles have been less exposed to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which damages them.

Research done at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, indicates that both the foam and liquid solutions yield similar results in terms of hair regrowth, but that incidence of chronic itches is significantly lower among those who use the foam treatment – 1.1%, as opposed to 6.6% for the liquid solution.

There is a body of anecdotal evidence that suggests the foam treatment may not be as effective as the liquid solution. Whether this is due to the inherent properties of both treatments or the way in which they are applied is debated.

How Much Do They Cost?

There isn’t much difference in pricing. The foam solution is available from Amazon for $17.76 for a month’s supply, whereas the same amount of solution is available for $16.95.


The studies done at Duke University also included a ‘consumer use’ rating, in which the foam treatment was rated higher than the liquid solution due to factors such as ease of application, lack of dripping and quicker drying.

Before using either form of Rogaine, it’s important that you consult your physician. If the cause of your hair loss has not yet been discovered, you should not use it at all. There are the potential side effects of using Rogaine, that you should be aware of.

Your physician can advise you on any potential dermatological risks which may influence your decision to use foam or liquid.

In terms of effectiveness, tests have shown both forms of treatment to achieve the same results, although it has been claimed that many people do not apply the foam treatment properly, causing it to be less effective.

The liquid treatment, however, carries a greater risk of provoking an allergic reaction, and some people should not use it at all if they experience and adverse reactions. Talk to a medical professional first.