Rogaine For Women: An In-Depth Guide

As the leading hair loss treatment on the market, Rogaine is used by men and women alike.

In this guide, I’m going to provide an introduction to Women’s Rogaine. This will include a look at the most common (and some rare) harmful secondary effects experienced by women who use this product.

I’ll also share some ways you can boost the effects of Rogaine, and these same techniques can be used even if you choose to forgo using it.

Are you ready? Then let’s get started!

Rogaine for Female Pattern Baldness

Minoxidil (the active ingredient in Rogaine) was initially developed and prescribed for the treatment of hypertension (1). It was soon discovered to have another beneficial ‘side effect,’ and that was hair growth.

The liquid and the foam versions of rogaine

As a hair loss treatment, minoxidil works as a vasodilator by dilating the capillaries present within the scalp (2).

These capillaries deliver blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the hair follicles. As a result of the dilation, blood flow is increased. This improves the function of the follicles and it may even stimulate hair growth (3).

Rogaine was originally formulated for men. However, it soon became increasingly common that women were using the product, too. After all, hair loss is not a phenomenon specific to men; in fact, women make up 40 percent of the hair loss population in America (4)!

With this in mind, manufacturers created a similar product just for women.

The difference between Men’s Rogaine and Women’s Rogaine? There’s none. However, having a hair treatment product on the market targeted just for women did make women more likely to buy the product themselves.

How Is It Used?

In both sexes, Rogaine is applied directly to the scalp. There are different formulas available over-the-counter – including liquid and foam.

Interestingly, the FDA does have different dosage recommends for men and women.

The 5 percent foam is recommended as a safe treatment for both men and women. However, only men are recommended to use the 5 percent solution.

The 2 percent solution was approved for use in women in 1992 (5). This is because women have shown to be more susceptible to minoxidil’s adverse effects (including lightheadedness, allergic dermatitis, and unexpected growth of facial hair) than men.

For best use, the manufacturer recommends twice daily application. In the morning and at night, use half a cap full of the solution and massage into scalp. Avoid washing or applying other hair products for at least four hours.

Does Rogaine Work? The Science

Rogaine has been the industry-leading hair loss treatment product for nearly three decades.

Brand longevity spanning decades simply isn’t possible when a product doesn’t work — the market and consumer experience weeds out the crappy products over time. Only the winners prevail.

A 2004 study of 391 women ages 18-49 with female pattern hair loss showed that over 48 weeks of use, 5 percent minoxidil outperformed 2 percent minoxidil (6).

Also, the 2 percent minoxidil significantly outperformed the placebo (as was to be expected).

Recent long-term studies on men using minoxidil show substantial results after 5 years of use (7).

While the causes of male and female hair loss are not always the same, there are similarities in cases where the source is hormonal, or due to excessive DHT, or a result of stress, illness, or even a result of medication or chemotherapy.

Read more about the causes of female hair loss here.

So, in short: yes. Rogaine works. The higher dose is best, but the 2 percent dose of minoxidil performs better than nothing. Best of all, minoxidil seems to work well in the long-term.

Ultimately, to really know if something will help protect your hair and grow new hair FOR YOU is to try it out yourself.

What to Expect From Use

While you may be looking for a miracle cure, it’s important to understand that Rogaine is just a hair growth aid.

In advanced cases of alopecia, Rogaine may have little to no effects at all. Even in mild cases, the growth you see may be minimal and underwhelming.

Of course, you can combine Rogaine with other treatments (such as Propecia). This may yield better results. All in all, I recommend you go into treatment without specific goals in mind. You may be more impressed by results in this way.

You can also read my review of Kirkland (a cheaper minoxidil product) and how it compares to Rogaine.

Common Adverse Effects of Use

The majority of side effects experienced – both by men and women – are bothersome, but not harmful.

Itching of the skin and appearance of a rash are the most common (8). While this can be a side effect of minoxidil itself, it can also be reaction to propylene glycol.

This is an additional ingredient in the Rogaine solution, but is not found in the Rogaine/minoxidil foam. As such, you may try switching to foam to see if your symptoms lessen.

Another common adverse effect is shedding (9). This occurs in the beginning of use, and it happens as hairs in the telogen phase shed to make room for healthier, anagen phase hairs.

Telogen effluvium is the technical term for this, and it’s temporary.

For some, however, the initial shedding phase was too much.

Rare Secondary Effects

As mentioned, the majority of unintended effects associated with Rogaine use are not life threatening. However, it’s important to know the signs of a more serious allergic reaction (10). These include:

  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Swelling of the tongue or lips

For users of Minoxidil 5 percent solution, another possible effect is hypertrichosis (11). This isn’t dangerous – all it means is an excessive growth of hair on parts of the face – but it can be embarrassing.

Women have a higher incidence of hypertrichosis than men, so this is something to keep in mind (12).

In addition, women may be more susceptible to such adverse effects as:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Fast/irregular heartbeat
  • Swelling of hands/feet
  • Tiredness
  • Unusual weight gain

The exact reason why women are more susceptible is unknown. Perhaps it’s linked to hormone levels, or other such factors.

However, I urge you to keep this susceptibility in mind. If you decide to go forward with use, keep track of any symptoms and speak with your doctor if they become too bothersome.

Minoxidil 5% vs. Minoxidil 2% Side Effects

Is it safe to assume that the higher the dosage, the higher the risk of harmful secondary effects? A 2004 study performed by Lucky et. al. set out to answer this very question (13).

The study consisted of 381 women with varying degrees of Female-Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL). The women were split into three groups: Group 1 received 5 percent minoxidil solution; Group 2 received 2 percent minoxidil solution; and Group 3 received a placebo solution. All groups were instructed to apply the solution twice daily for 48 weeks.

Researchers tracked progress by looking at three primary efficacy measures. These included change in nonvellus hair count, patient assessment of hair growth/change, and investigator assessment of hair growth/change.

Unsurprisingly, the 5 percent topical solution showed superior results to both the 2 percent topical solution and the placebo solution:

A chart comparing the efficacy results of minoxidil 5%, minoxidil 2%, and placebo
Source.

As assumed, the 5 percent minoxidil solution did lead to more adverse effects experienced by users.

A comparison between adverse effects
Source.

As explained by researchers, these adverse events included pruritis, dermatitis, hypertrichosis, and scaling. Pruritis was the most common, and it was seen in 5 percent of the 5 percent minoxidil solution group as opposed to only 0.6 percent of the 2 percent minoxidil solution group.

In addition, 7 patients from the 5 percent minoxidil group dropped out of the study in comparison to 4 patients from the 2 percent minoxidil group. These dropouts were related to local intolerance (itching, dryness, and scaling).

This shows that while 5 percent minoxidil solution can be more effective, it can also lead to increased risk of adverse events in women.

Further Complications to Consider

Prior to beginning treatment (if that’s the route you choose), there are a few things to consider.

First, expect shedding to begin almost immediately upon starting use. While this may seem counterproductive – after all, Rogaine is supposed to grow hair – the shedding is temporary.

This is a result of telogen effluvium, as mentioned above.

Second, expect any positive effects you’ve experienced – such as hair growth and thickened hair – to stop when treatment stops.

Unfortunately, FDA-approved hair loss drugs (such as Rogaine and Propecia) only work while being used. Once treatment ends, so too do the results.

User Reviews

After scouring the web for reviews, let’s just say there is no shortage of interesting stuff to read. Reviewer tones vary from ecstatic to regretful.

It’s immediately obvious that women have strong feelings about Rogaine based on their experiences.

What stands out perhaps the most is the surprise from women who have used the product for a few months, after there’s measurable improvement to the thickness, amount, and strength of their hair.

As always, treatments have the best chance of being effective if they are geared BOTH to the cause of hair loss as well as treatments that promote hair growth. What this means is that if your hair loss started after a hypothyroid diagnosis, you need to take your thyroid medication AND hair regrowth treatment.

Likewise, if your hair loss was caused by a vitamin deficiency, you have to take your supplements as well as a hair regrowth promoting treatment like Rogaine.

Addressing both the cause of your hair loss as well as the effect with regrowth agents is the most comprehensive solution giving you the highest chance of success.

How to Improve Minoxidil Results

If the possible adverse effects and complications haven’t deterred you, you’ll want to ensure that you’re using minoxidil as effectively as possible. This will boost results, and it can make the minor adverse effects worth it for some users.

Let’s look at just a few ways you can do so.

Use a Microneedling Tool

The number one way to improve results is with microneedling.

Microneedling is a process that involves the use of tiny needles. The needles penetrate the scalp, and this both improves absorption of minoxidil and increases blood flow to the hair follicles (14).

Using a dermaroller along the hairline

While microneedling is practiced by dermatological professionals, you can also perform this at home with a dermaroller. This nifty little tool makes microneedling simple, and you can use it daily for greatest results.

Don’t believe that microneedling is the answer? Take a look at the results of this 2013 study below (15):

Both of the groups compared above used minoxidil for the 12-week study. However, the group depicted in green also used a dermaroller.

As can be seen, the dermaroller group saw a significant increase in mean hair count over the minoxidil-only group. This is because microneedling improves the delivery of minoxidil directly to the follicles.

But is microneedling the only way to boost results? No!

Add In Daily Scalp Massages

A simpler way to increase blood to the scalp is to add daily scalp massages to your daily routine.

Scalp massage is manual stimulation of the scalp using either your fingertips or a specialized massage tool. But even more than that, this method has been proven effective at stimulating the growth of healthy hair (16).

Just like microneedling, the increase in blood flow that’s triggered by scalp massage can help to deliver minoxidil more thoroughly. And it can also help to break down any calcification (a natural result of prolonged inflammation) that occurred as a result of miniaturization of the hair follicles (17).

All you need is to take 10 minutes per day to follow the routine in the video above, and you can begin seeing benefits similar (but not quite extensive) as those produced by microneedling.

Conclusion

As side effects vary widely – and long-term effects aren’t known – it’s important to go into treatment with your eyes wide open. This means understanding that you may not see the results you hope for, and you may have to stop use should the symptoms become too worrisome.

Before using minoxidil, I have two pieces of advice. First, consult with your physician. Second, learn more about the cause of your hair loss.

The more you know about the causes of your hair loss, the greater the chances of you being able to regrow it.

Do you have any questions about the information above? Leave a comment below.

*This article was reviewed by Dr. Anil Simhadri

50 thoughts on “Rogaine For Women: An In-Depth Guide”

  1. Thanks for the feedback! I think a lot of women losing their hair think they just have to suffer and deal, but there are products that work and have been out there forever to help. It’s also a bit of a denial thing, because a lot of hair loss patterns are more like overall thinning rather than the big ol’ bald spot on the middle of the head (like for men). Just make sure you suggest it in a positive way! 🙂

  2. I have been through a lot of hair fall at the age of 18 and trust me it was so depressing. I have tried rogaine and it works! I have regained most of my hair and have even stopped using it. Although I must admit that it did grow a bit facial hair while I was using it but that eventually went away with time.

  3. Thank you for the feedback, and I’m glad Rogaine worked for you. It must have been hard to deal with hair loss so young. As for the facial hair consequence…well, that’s its own beast. I’m Italian and have dealt with a “moustache” since puberty, and I’ve also noticed a lot of post-menopausal women get facial hair from hormonal shifts…so I guess it was a small price to pay? Awesome that it went away over time.

  4. Hi,
    Thanks for your review of rogaine for women. People forget that hair loss is not just affecting men, and woman have the same issues too. I glad to hear that rogaine actually works and that is pretty affordable at just $10 a month. So if there are woman with hair loss issues, they hopefully will feel better to addressing the problem, cheers.

  5. Thank you for the feedback. It is surprising how affordable Rogaine is, especially since it’s the main solution for so many women’s hair loss. I’ll post a follow-up with my own experiences with Rogaine once enough time has passed to see the results.

  6. Hey Penelope,
    With that much hair growth as a side effect, I wouldn’t even dare to touch Rogaine if I am a woman. But with that much risk, hoping alone won’t increase your chances.

    Is there anything we could do to boost the positive effect of Rogaine whilst reducing the side effect? Speaking of which, is the hair growth permanent though, or does it grow only when we take the meds?

  7. The picture of the excessively hairy person was a joke. Minoxidil was modified to target the scalp only after they discovered it resulted in hair growth.

    That said, the biggest challenge of Rogaine and Minoxidil products is that you do have to use them indefinitely. After a year of good steady regrowth, you can scale back your application from daily to a few times a week. But if you stop altogether, the gains will fall out over the next few hair cycles.

  8. Wow, this sounds really good! A friend of mine is always commenting about hair fall, this might help. Is Minoxidil the technical name for this? Or is there another generic name for it that you know about?

    Just wondering how to search for it in other countries.Thanks for your help!

  9. Minoxidil is the name of the active ingredient. Rogaine is the brand name of the most popular Minoxidil product in the US. There are generic versions available at both Costco and Walmart, but some users say they are more irritating. In the US, generics aren’t required to have identical inactive ingredients as the brand-name product.

    I know Rogaine is also available in Canada, but in Europe only the tincture (not the foam) is available for purchase. I hope that helps. There might be another brand available. I would recommend that your friend google Minoxidil the name of her country to find product suggestions.

  10. I found this very interesting. A woman’s hair really is her crowning glory. Losing it is, for most women, devastating and having a treatment that helps is a godsend for those women. Is it true that hair loss in a woman is often related to physical or emotional problems such as stress or hormonal disorders?

  11. It is definitely true that stress and hormonal disorders play a role in hair loss. Thyroid disease, which is a hormonal disorder, contributes to hair loss. Women going through menopause as well as pregnant women also can experience hair loss because of the drastic hormonal fluctuations during those times. And our bodies do all kinds of crazy stuff during stress!! What’s nice about living at this time (vs. any other time in history) is that we have medical and chemical tools to help regrow hair.

  12. Hey Penelope! I don’t think most people realize that there is quite a population of women who experience hair loss. From way back when, all commercials were strictly dealing with male hair loss. Thank you for sharing your story and your review of Rogaine for women. Hopefully, many women will experience success with usage, as like you said, it varies with each person. Take care…

  13. Thanks for the feedback! I agree that most people don’t know that many different women experience hair loss, for many different reasons. One analogy that comes to mind is that most people also don’t know that men get breast cancer! Diseases don’t discriminate, that’s for sure.

  14. I like this topic and it is a very real one as men and women grow older. I must say that your review of this product for hair growth was quite thorough with the pros and cons clearly detailed out.
    I have heard about the side effect of minoxidil but this is the first time I am hearing about this product Rogaine using this side effect to an advantage. From your review, it is clear that it is an innovative product.
    You mentioned about propylene glycol used in this product as a skin irritant. Are you able to get any information on any other health hazards in the long term use of propylene glycol?

  15. Haha, this makes me think about a while back when a friend of mine experienced hair loss due to stress. She then also started with some supplements and the new hair grew so rapidly in all directions and made her look like a little chick. Thanks for introducing this product

  16. A little chick, I love it! Thanks for the great comment. I’m sure my readers will be encouraged by that, because little chicks are nothing if not fuzzy and covered in cute hair!

  17. Hi Sporkypie
    This is a very detailed review on Rogaine for Women. You bottom line the good and the bad issues quite well. I havent tried the Rogaine yet. I had issues with Keranique and dont think I will try anything else till my itching goes away! One of the cons about them both is that if you quit doing it, you lose the hair. I dont like getting locked in to doing that lol

  18. Thanks for the feedback, I’m sorry to hear you had a reaction to keranique that’s still ongoing…that’s one I haven’t reviewed or tried yet and will keep that in mind! And yeah, it does seem like all these hair regrowth products are “rigged” in that they must be kept up eventually…but I’d rather do that than have thinned hair.

  19. HI again! Commenting here since now I’m talking Rogaine 🙂 Have you read any of the anecdotal evidence of people saying it causes premature aging by draining collagen? Also I worry that I’ll roll over onto my pillow at night and start growing (more) hair on my face. I sure don’t need that!

  20. Hello hello! I haven’t heard that about Rogaine – the main thing I’ve heard is that once you start, you really can’t stop, and that it also can make hair really greasy. It’s funny that you worry about the face hair!

  21. Well, I’m going to try Rogaine, and, like you suggested elsewhere, throw everything I can at this. Speaking of which, one more question (and then I swear, I’ll stop bugging you – LOL!) I’m thinking of trying Propriden too, but wondering if upping my Biotin to 10,000 mcg is too much, considering that has 2500 mcg in it. Thoughts?

  22. Ha – thanks! Okay, here’s my plan if you’re interested: go back to taking Viviscal 2x/day since that helped me a year ago, adding Rogaine and Propriden. I’m sticking with Biotin 5000 mcg for now, since the Propriden has 2000 mcg, bringing my daily total to 7000–but I’m trying your recommended Biotin brand. The Ultax shampoo looks great but expensive, ditto Nutrafol, so holding off on those for now. Meanwhile – here’s a coverup tip: Joan Rivers Great Hair Day. It fuzzes up the hairs and also sort of colors your scalp to match. Not perfect, but it helps (along with good old mascara if you can find it in a matching color.) Thanks for the blog and the advice! Nice to find you 🙂

  23. I’ve also never heard of the great hair day – is it a thickener like the salt sprays, or actual hair fuzz like infinity hair??? Fascinating!

    My problem of late is of my own doing: I’m kinda addicted to dying (lightening) my hair. Bleach weakens hair, and harms the scalp. SO I go for months saying I’ll wait it out, but then I snap and go get it colored again. I’ve been maintaining my supplements during this time but I know it undoes the progress I get from no-poo and also using the specialty shampoos. THIS TIME I’ll let it go au natural!

  24. It’s not a thickener, just a powder, almost like an eye shadow, but I find it does help. Yeah – I can’t give up the color either. What is the regimen that works for you, of all the ones you’ve reviewed here?

    I’m giving up on the minoxidil already. I woke up with a weird headache, and my heart races a little at night after I put it on. I’m also totally paranoid about it getting anywhere, on my pillow, etc. and then on my face.

    One thing I am doing is sleeping in a satin bonnet, which I was advised to do by a black woman who was shampooing me at the salon one day. It’s not the most attractive look, but it keeps my curls from tangling.

  25. What about the Propriden? Did you find that helped? I just ordered that to try, also the Biotin supplement in 5,000 mcg since the Propriden has 2500. I am going to try try the shampoo but am not sure about washing my hair so often. I will also check out the collagen! That sounds like a good product.

  26. I haven’t physically taken Propidren just yet. When I do, I’ll update this review! Many of my reviews are products of research as opposed to experience, although I’ve certainly tried many of these products. This process helps me figure out what’s worth trying in the future…because of the nature of the hair loss and hair cycle beast, products can take weeks to months before you know if they’re actually working. And I always hope to hear from people who’ve tried them, in the comments – more information is always better!

  27. My wife uses this and swears by it, but i will divorce her if she ever turns out like the person in the photo that you put up,hahaha

  28. Very good post. Well, after kids almost every woman experience the hair loss , i am also having this problem and probably left few hairs on my head hahahah joking, but i am seriously thinking about it now and will give it a try. Have a good time.

  29. Hi Penelope, thanks for another great hair growth product review. Rogaine sounds like one of the least expensive options to try. I actually want to try all the things you recommend as my hair is thinning around the front, and I think I’ve learned from your posts that it could be female pattern baldness. It is not bad enough yet to even be noticeable (probably why I haven’t started any treatments yet), but I know I should catch it early. I think I may try the natural way first by trying the rosemary oil. i will do it for a good amount of time, at least 6 months and then I will let you know how well it has worked.

  30. Hey Stefanie – thanks for the great comment. Yeah, try Rosemary first for sure, and come back and let us know about your progress! And you are absolutely right that you’ll need to start treating your hairline now while those follicles are still alive but struggling, vs. dead and impossible to resurrect.

  31. Thank you for the information! I have been doing research on hair regrowth and came across minoxidil. Do you know if it is only good for hair regrowth or if it will work on your current follicles and stimulate longer hair growth? I am interested in both, but am looking for something to stimulate other than biotin. Any suggestions?

  32. Do you know if it is only good for hair regrowth or if it will work on your current follicles and stimulate longer hair growth?

  33. Hi Richal, thanks for the comment. Rogaine will stimulate new growth from dormant/alive follicles, in areas where you may not see any hair. Rogaine will also strengthen existing follicles and prevent you from losing more hair. If you’re just starting to lose hair, now is the time to get on the Rogaine bandwagon, so you can protect what you have and bring some of it back.

  34. Rogaine has been around for almost along as I have been on this earth but I never put much thought into how much help it could give women. I am glad that it does work because losing your hair, as a woman especially, is very frustrating. I too agree that I think most of the negative reviews come from a lack of patience, that is with most products. Those that hung in there got to see the fruits of their labor. Great article once again!

  35. Thanks for your thoughtful feedback. I agree, Rogaine has been around for such a long time, but it does take a good several months to produce results!

  36. Wow Penelope, this product is so amazing and the way you have mentioned every point is great, Some of my friends using this product and are really happy with the results, so it is not just reviews I have seen this product working really amazingly, highly recommended for women who are experiencing hair loss.

  37. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Rogaine is the big daddy hair loss product, having been around longer than most and also having the distinction of being FDA approved. Glad to know you’re seeing it work in your life 🙂

  38. Rogaine is really great and effective product. I have seen the results of rogaine for men on some of the people I know so Rogaine for women must be great as well. This product is not very expensive and easy to afford as compared to expensive hair growth treatments that contain harmful chemicals as well. Highly recommended..!!

  39. Thanks for the great question! I’m no chemist, but propylene glycol is an ingredient commonly found in vaping substances, beauty products, and processed food products. It’s also an ingredient in anti-freeze. It’s “generally recommended as safe” by the USDA, but that’s not the same thing as “completely safe for every person”.
    There haven’t been any human studies on its long term effects – only studies on monkeys and cats. However, it is common for people to have allergic reactions to it, and it’s potentially toxic to the liver and kidneys.

  40. I like your comments, keep ’em coming! What I’ve read about super high doses of Biotin is kinda interesting – it’s an experimental treatment for MS. Because of that, I don’t think it’s automatically necessarily “poisonous” for everyone. Of course, blah blah, ask your physician about your specific situation, but here’s another resource with some possible side effects suggested at the bottom.

  41. Out of everything I’ve tried here, the biotin supplement plus the collagen peptides plus the Ultrax Shampoo has worked the best, but I also really liked the Grow New Hair treatment. Unfortunately I must have developed an allergy to it when I moved to a different climate this spring. Further complications are my resistance to stop dying my hair (which absolutely makes it fall out)…and the extra scalp sensitivity that follows the dye job a good month or two after.

  42. Minoxidil is specifically targeted at new growth, so this is an excellent question. If you want fuller hair for your existing hair, I’d recommend going with a caffeine serum like Ultrax Plush or even Grow Gorgeous Hair Serum Intense. Both of these are super well reviewed to boost volume and hair strength! Finally, start taking a collagen peptide supplement each day (made from bovine hide and bones.) You’ll not only notice better skin and hair, you’ll also probably notice less joint pain!.

  43. I was delighted to find this very informative article. I am about to try your alternative suggestions for my hair loss. I tried Rogaine and used it for a little over a year but had a break-out of tiny blackheads all over my cheeks.
    I was interested to see that this is not one of the side affects, as I believe that Rogaine has an ingredient in it that open pores and that would explain my out-break. I found it so distressing that I stopped using Rogaine and would not recommend it to anyone.

    • Thanks for the comment Patricia. Interesting to hear it caused a breakout. This isn’t one of the main side effects that I’m aware of, but unfortunately one of a growing list that our readers have experienced with minoxidil products.

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