Our hair says a lot about us, so it’s no surprise that men and women alike are prepared to do pretty much anything to help stop us losing our barnets! Rogaine (marketed as Regaine in the UK and Europe) is one of the leading treatments for androgenic alopecia (AGA, or male/female-pattern-baldness for those of us without a string of fancy letters after our names!). It’s a topical foam treatment, one for men and one for women, applied to the scalp twice a day. Their website claims it leads to hair regrowth in 80% of male users and 60% of female users. But if this really is a miracle cure, then why is anybody still bald?!

A bit about AGA
AGA is a partial or complete loss of hair that occurs in a progressive pattern that affects both men and women. It occurs due to both genetic and environmental factors, many of which aren’t yet fully identified or understood. The hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) seems to be the main culprit – it is derived from testosterone, the male sex hormone (but this is actually present in both men and women). Most people with AGA start to display the signs in their mid-twenties, and the condition gets worse with age. AGA causes reduction in anagen (the growth phase of the fair follicle) and hair follicle miniaturization, which is where hair follicles that were producing healthy hairs begin to produce thinner, shorter, more brittle hairs with weaker shafts. These hairs are sparser and so give the appearance of hair loss.

So how does Rogaine fight AGA?
The active ingredient in Rogaine is called minoxidil. Minoxidil was originally used to treat high blood pressure, but it was seen to have the side-effect of increasing growth of body hair. It is now used at 5% concentration for treating AGA in men or at 2% for AGA in women (though 5% for female treatment has recently been approved in Canada).

The mechanism by which it works is not fully understood, but here’s what we know so far: minoxidil is known to dilate (widen) blood vessels, which allows more oxygen, blood and nutrients to the hair follicle. This leads to a happier healthier hair follicle, so this definitely ticks boxes! These vessel-widening effects were why it was originally developed for treatment of high blood pressure.

Minoxidil also increases cell division in the living part of the hair, leading to better hair growth – exactly what we’re looking for! This occurrence is thought to stem from the fact that minoxidil opens channels in the cell walls so more potassium enters the follicle cells.

The clinical trials show mixed results, but the majority prove clinical efficacy (which means it works!) and a number of the studies that didn’t statistically prove that the molecule is effective still noted some degree of change was visible – hurray! One downside is that treatment must be continuous if you want to see maintained results – stopping using the product leads to reversion back to finer hair. Oh dear!
You can read more about minoxidil and its clinical trials in our Molecular Mondays here!

So Rogaine sounds promising then! Let’s looking back at the claims:

The Rogaine website claims to stimulate hair growth in 4 ways:
1) Reverses follicle miniaturization
2) Increases blood flow to the follicle
3) Stimulates the growth phase of hair growth
4) Increases the amount of time each follicle spends in the growing phase

The science suggests that it does indeed deliver on these promises! However, it isn’t perfect:

– Rogaine causes follicles in the telogen phase (this is the hair that would fall out when you brush it or in the shower) to fall out, to be replaced by new, thicker hairs – so hair thickness can actually get worse before it gets better (you’ve got to be in it for the long-haul!)
– It doesn’t work for everyone – studies have shown it is more effective for people under 40 years old whose hair loss is recent. The area of hair loss, the type of hair loss condition, the length of time you’ve been losing your hair and the predominance of hereditary hair loss in your family will all influence the result
– It has no major effect on receding hairlines, and new hair growth is only maintained provided the product is used continuously at least once a day
– Side effects are common, particularly dry scalp, often leading to dandruff
– It is worth remembering, however, that most medicinal products have some sort of side effects, and that these affect people to varying amounts.

All in all, Rogaine looks like a hit! Hair loss can be damaging to confidence and in the flood of treatments and procedures that claim to help the situation, it can be difficult to know what to trust. Although it isn’t a cure, Rogaine does seem in many cases to be able to press pause on hair loss and boost barnets – great news! If you’re concerned about hair loss, head over to our Hair Loss Science behind the Problems feature for more info!

If you want to try Rogaine out for yourself, then click HERE!

A Single-Centre, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial to Investigate the Efficacy and Safety of Minoxidil Topical Foam in Frontotemporal and Vertex Androgenetic Alopecia in Men
topical Minoxidil – Medline Plus
Minoxidil use in dermatology, side effects and recent patents
5% minoxidil: treatment for female pattern hair loss
Promotive Effect of Topical Ketoconazole, Minoxidil, and Minoxidil with Tretinoin on Hair Growth in Male Mice
Promising Therapies for Treating and/or Preventing Androgenic Alopecia
Is topical minoxidil solution effective on androgenetic alopecia in routine daily practice?
Minoxidil may suppress androgen receptor-related functions
Rogaine official website: http://www.regaine.co.uk
Image reference: http://www.luckyvitamin.com/p-189368-dropped-rogaine-mens-extra-strength-hair-regrowth-treatment-unscented-one-month-supply-2-oz-clearance-priced