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Minoxidil vs Rogaine – Hair Loss Products Compared

Hair loss has been a concern for men for many a century. Modern medicine has brought with it potential solutions to this long-suffered woe, and men have been enjoying mild, moderate, or even high levels of success with different products.

One hair loss prevention product you will likely have heard of is Rogaine, which is a brand of topical product applied to the scalp around affected spots. It has been FDA-licensed for decades and is a go-to for many men dealing with male-pattern baldness.

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However, in recent times, you may have been hearing more and more of minoxidil. It is by no means new and has existed since far before Rogaine was named “Rogaine”, and it is merely the active ingredient found in Rogaine. It has been picking up speed recently, sold as a generic version of Rogaine, from a wide range of physical establishments and telehealth companies.

But are there any differences between these two medications? Which one should you take? Are they both safe? What should you know about them? This guide will help you out! Here’s what you will find when you compare minoxidil vs Rogaine.

The History of Minoxidil and Rogaine

Minoxidil and Rogaine are virtually the same in most areas. There is only one real main difference, and that difference still involves paying attention to their many similarities. In fact, they share a history!

To best understand the difference between Rogaine and Minoxidil, we need to look back at history. The first use of either of these medications was in the late 1950s when the Upjohn Company developed an ulcer treatment. Though it didn’t properly or fully cure ulcers by any means, it did function as a vasodilator, meaning that it helped to dilate blood vessels to allow for powerful blood circulation that led to healing.

More than 200 different varieties of the compound were made, resulting in one that would be named minoxidil. Minoxidil earned its name in 1963 and became approved for the treatment of high blood pressure in the year 1979 due to positive study results. Its trade name became Loniten.

However, it was during the studies of minoxidil and its 200 variations that led to unique side effects being discovered before minoxidil was even FDA-approved. Associate Professor of Medicine Dr. Charles A. Chidsey was one of the experts that the Upjohn Company approached to conduct research. He carried two studies, and in the second one, a side effect was found: hair growth. Confused by these results, he reached out to dermatology resident Guinter Kahn, and with Kahn’s colleague Dr. Paul J. Grant, they were able to conduct separate research to find out if minoxidil had potential as hair loss treatment.

The studies began with a simple 1% minoxidil solution that was mixed with liquids based in alcohol. The involved parties filed for a patent dealt with a ten-year legal battle for its rights, and the product continued to pick up speed. By the 1980s, doctors were already selling Loniten to patients dealing with hair loss, doing so off-label, because of how clear the results were.

The FDA approved minoxidil for male baldness treatment in 1988. It is here that it gained its trade name, Rogaine (adapted from the original choice “Regain”, which was rejected due to its potentially misleading name). Then, in 1991, Rogaine was made available for women, too.

A few years later in 1996, the FDA approved Rogaine and generic minoxidil formulations as over-the-counter drugs. Flash forward to 2014, and minoxidil (and its brand name Rogaine) were and have been the only FDA-approved topical treatment methods for correcting androgenic hair loss.

The Main Difference in Minoxidil vs Rogaine

So, after reading that history, you might be thinking – okay, so these products are basically the same, right? For the most part, yes! There’s only one big difference between them.

As a patented product, Rogaine is more expensive than minoxidil. It’s produced by only licensed manufacturers (though of course, some people will attempt to produce counterfeit products) and is a trusted brand name. It retains the original Rogaine formula and is backed by years of great reviews and satisfied customers – but, at the end of the day, it’s just a brand name.

But what about minoxidil? 20 years after Rogaine was patented, its patent was released for wider use. This means that it allowed other companies to make their own minoxidil formulations as a generic “minoxidil” product, without the brand name Rogaine. This meant cheaper minoxidil and slightly different formulations that mostly did the trick just as well. However, it also opened up the possibility of poorly manufactured, ineffective, and even harmful minoxidil, which is why patients must be very careful when purchasing generic minoxidil, ensuring that they get it from a good supplier, be it from a pharmacy, company, or other sources.

If you intend to ask which one is better, then chances are that no one can really give you a real answer. They’re the same product at their core and are designed to work the same way and perform the same function. If you purchase from licensed or reputable sellers, no matter which one you buy, you aren’t likely to notice a huge difference. If you’re really concerned, then you may want to try each product and see which works best, but do so under a doctor’s supervision and advice.

How Do Minoxidil and Rogaine Work?

As previously stated, minoxidil and Rogaine are both vasodilators, meaning they dilate the blood vessels to promote the growth of hair. The question, then, is why that works; why does blood vessel dilation help hair to grow?

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First, we need to understand how male pattern baldness works. Referred to also as Androgenetic Alopecia, it is characterized by a loss of hair in men following a certain pattern, fueled by DHT sensitivity. DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is an androgen, which is a sex hormone. It is produced when the male sex hormone testosterone interacts with an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase.

On its own, the production of DHT is not much of an issue. It’s a completely natural and common process. Problems only arise when you develop Androgenetic Alopecia or have a predisposition to it. This form of alopecia causes you to be at risk for sensitivity to DHT, meaning your body responds disproportionally to its production.

The DHT will attach itself to the hair follicles’ androgen receptors, typically around the front area (where the hairline is) or the vertex. This inflames the follicles and causes the follicles to shrink over time. Thicker hair falls out and is replaced by thinner hair in a process referred to as miniaturization. This also shortens the cycle of hair growth and regrowth, leading to balding, and no treatment typically leads to irreversible hair loss and baldness.

During the miniaturization process, hair follicles also receive less and less blood flow, which means they don’t get sufficient oxygen, carried on the red blood cells, or nutrients, carried by other cells. This limits their survivability and further speeds up the thinning process.

Minoxidil and rogaine both cause the blood vessels to dilate, or widen. This allows blood to flow more smoothly to the hair follicles, which can delay miniaturization. In especially successful cases, or when combined with other supporting treatments, this can even lead to some reversal of the hair loss.

Do Minoxidil and Rogaine Really Work?

Considering that approximately two out of three men will deal with hair loss in their life, the fact that minoxidil and Rogaine are both considered working and prescribable treatment options indicate that they must work to some degree. But there’s no need to take anyone’s word for it. Here are some scientific studies on the effects of these medications:

“Long-term follow-up of men with male pattern baldness treated with topical minoxidil.”

This paper was published in March 1987 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. It showed that all applications of minoxidil produced positive effects, with minimal side effects. It involves groups of people using twice-daily 2% minoxidil application, once-daily 3% minoxidil application, and placebo applications. Both cases of minoxidil application showed hair count improvement, with the twice-daily application boasting better results.

“A randomized clinical trial of 5% topical minoxidil versus 2% topical minoxidil and placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men.”

This paper was published in September 2002 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Compared to the placebo, both 5% and 2% minoxidil solutions worked for the 48-week study with minimal side effects, though the 5% solution was clearly superior (and with higher irritation side effects). Subjects who used either of the solutions saw hair growth, quality of life, and benefit improvements.

“Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review.”

This paper was published in August 2019 in the Drug Design, Development, and Therapy journal. This paper discussed the use of minoxidil in the treatment of hair disorders, noting that all applications seemed to produce good results, including the use of off-label minoxidil. It was all found to be safe, effective, and functional, though it admitted the need for additional data.

“Topical minoxidil for hair regrowth.”

This paper was published in September 1984 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. This study was conducted with a 1% solution and a 5% solution and involved a 12-month study in those exhibiting signs of hair loss. Higher percentages of the patients saw improved hair growth with the 5% solution, but only in those with androgenic alopecia; those with alopecia areata did not note any hair regrowth.

“Clinical utility and validity of minoxidil response testing in androgenetic alopecia.”

This paper was published in January-February 2015 in the Dermatologic Therapy journal. It found that 40% of individuals who use 5% topical minoxidil over the course of between three and six months experience some degree of hair regrowth and found, through further testing, that it was effective.

“Alopecia Areata Treated With Topical Minoxidil.”

This paper was published in April 1984 in the Archives of Dermatology journal. It found that in 48 patients experiencing hair loss, a 1% minoxidil medication led to 25 instances of hair regrowth (11 of which the patients rated as cosmetically acceptable) and no systemic side effects.

“Topical minoxidil in early male pattern baldness.”

This paper was published in August 1985 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. It involved 126 men in the early stages of male-pattern baldness, studied throughout an entire year. The research was performed as a controlled trial involving a double-blind test with a placebo, a 2% minoxidil solution, or a 3% minoxidil solution. Some individuals started with a placebo and were swapped to a solution. In comparison with the placebo, the proper solutions showed clearly better terminal hair number increases and resulted in no net hair loss.

“A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 5% and 2% topical minoxidil solutions in the treatment of female pattern hair loss.”

This paper was published in April 2004 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, and it’s an outlier on this list because it focuses on female pattern baldness instead. It’s included as it shows that minoxidil can also work for women. The study involved 381 women and took 48 weeks to conduct. Compared to the placebo, both 5% and 2% minoxidil solutions worked for women with minimal side effects.

Applying Minoxidil and Rogaine

Both minoxidil and Rogaine are typically applied in the same way. They are topical solutions that you apply to the scalp, usually focusing on affected areas. This is usually done via a dropper, which you use to collect some of the liquid and drop it onto your head around the balding areas.

Once you’ve dropped the liquid on following the correct dose, you use clean fingers and hands to help work the solution into the scalp. You must then thoroughly wash your hands and avoid hair products such as hairspray, gel, and mousse as well as steer clear of any showers or getting your hair wet for the following four hours. This is why this is usually done in the morning after a shower or right before bed, or both depending on a doctor’s instructions.

There is also a foam-type solution that is fast-drying and simpler to put on. Just place the right amount of foam onto a hand, use your fingers to gently rub the foam into balding areas across the scalp, and keep rubbing until the foam is completely absorbed. Full drying must be completed before you style your hair, and you should wash your hands completely afterward.

Side Effects of Minoxidil and Rogaine

No medication is without side effects, and that means Rogaine and minoxidil come with their fair share. Though they are somewhat rare and, when occurring, are usually manageable, that doesn’t mean you should discount them altogether.

The most common side effect of these topical medications is the irritation of the local area. You may experience flaking of the skin, notice redness, experience a tingling or even burning sensation, or just find that the area is itchy. For most, these symptoms are manageable and worth continuing usage. However, certain people may have stronger reactions, or see them get worse or simply never stop. In this case, seeking your doctor’s advice is recommended, and you should also stop your usage in the meantime.

Unfortunately, this irritation can also grow into something more serious. Rashes may break out, or even hives. You may experience swelling in your tongue, lips, mouth, or, most dangerously, your throat, and thus you may find yourself having difficulty breathing. These symptoms require immediate medical attention.

Other side effects may also occur on a rare basis. You may feel dizzy or develop headaches when using the products or get acne due to a negative skin reaction. Other side effects can affect sexual health, but these are even rarer.

Considerations Involving Minoxidil and Rogaine

Before you jump into this treatment, there are a few things you should keep in mind. To begin with, and perhaps the most important is this – there is no cure for hair loss. Minoxidil can slow the process, reverse it a little bit, or halt it to a certain degree, but stopping usage will mean that the hair loss returns. You will need to use the products for the rest of your life to continue seeing the results you see now.

Of course, as with all medications and medicines, not everyone will experience positive results from either Rogaine or minoxidil. Each person is unique and has a different reaction to medications. It may cause severe side effects for you or simply be completely ineffective. It’s not going to work for everyone, and there’s a chance that it won’t work for you.

Then, you need to be prepared for how minoxidil works. What it does is slowly bring the hair follicles back to wider shape and better health. This means that hair shedding is extremely common at first as the Rogaine or minoxidil pushes the thin hair out to replace it with healthier and thicker hair. For most, these effects should slowly dissipate within a few months, but there will be some people who do not feel this is worth the risk of losing more hair to gain some back later.

Finally, one more thing: minoxidil is primarily formulated for men. Though lower concentrations of the product can and have been used for women, it is male-oriented. Women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or trying to conceive should not use it or be exposed to it in any way. If you have a female partner or housemate, you will have to be sure not to expose them to much of it – or any at all, if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Other Trade Names Of Minoxidil and Rogaine

Across the world, Rogaine is known by many other names, so if you’re looking for reputable brands but can’t find Rogaine, then there are chances the products are being sold under other names.

These names can be Ylox, Regaine, Minscalp, Renobell Locion, Aloxidil, Splendora, Zeldilon, Capillus, Alostil, Tugain, Womens Regaine, Minovital, Neo-Pruristam, Hairgaine, Si Bi Shen, Tricolocion, Belohair, Guayaten, Coverit, Minostyl, Mandi, Folcare, Vaxdil, Locemix, Moxidil, Recrea, Anagen, Men’s Rogaine, Pilogro, Minox, Minodil, Pilfud, Minoximen, Hairgrow, Maev-Medic, Reten, Hairway, Piloxidil, Mantai, Morr, Rogaine, Eminox, Neoxidil, Lacovin, Alopek, Inoxi, Regroe, Regrowth, Carexidil, Rexidil, Superminox, Dinaxcinco, Hairgain, Rogan, Relive, Tricoxane, Hair Grow, M E Medic, Da Fei Xin, Noxidil, Minoxi, Mintop, Regaxidil, Botafex, Regrou, Minoxidilum, Loxon, Tricoplus, Loniten, Tricovivax, Trefostil, Nherea, Apo-Gain, Regain, Boots Hair Loss Treatment, Minoxiten, Hair-Treat, Lonolox, Ivix, Modil, Manoxidil, Headway, Pilomin, Regro, Dinaxil, Axelan, Alopexy, Alorexyl, Minodril, Lonoten, Xenogrow, Oxofenil, Xue Rui, Neocapil, Aloxid, Trugain, Keranique, Minoxidil, Ebersedin, Unipexil, Vius, Dilaine, Alomax, or Lonnoten.

Final Thoughts

So, in a battle of minoxidil vs Rogaine, who wins? The answer is no one. Minoxidil and Rogaine share so many similarities that, for the most part, they’re functionally the same product – after all, minoxidil is Rogaine’s active ingredient. As such, they work similarly on the body.

Both products are applied the same way, have the same side effects, have been similarly studied, and work through the same methods. No wonder there is so much confusion surrounding them! How can you even tell them apart?

The difference between them is singular. Rogaine is a brand name, manufactured reputably at a higher price (barring counterfeit materials). Those who choose Rogaine often do so because of its long-lived brand, which has been used by men for decades with great results.

On the other hand, minoxidil is the generic form of Rogaine, sold by a variety of different companies at a lower price, with small formula tweaks in some cases. There is a greater risk of buying from a shady company, but for the most part, a doctor’s prescription would only point you in the right direction. Those who choose minoxidil often do so for its more affordable cost.

So, which one is right for you? Well, that depends on you and what your doctor recommends! If you really can’t tell, discuss with your physician the possibility of giving both medications a try and see if either happens to have a better effect for you.

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