At the time I’m writing this, it’s been a little over 1.5 years since I started my Rogaine journey. And I’m so glad I did! I have really lovely, soft regrowth and this medication has really taken care of my most egregious hair loss issues: a bald spot and a thinning part that were stressing me out to the max.
However, these are the things I wish I knew about Rogaine and Minoxidil for women’s hair loss when I started.
After getting the ok from my health care practitioner to use Rogaine (as you should too if you’re considering it), I’ll never forget that first day that I strolled up to purchase it. I hit up the always-packed Walmart inside Dufferin Mall in Toronto, where I live.
Now, I’ve been to Walmarts all over the country in Canada and in the US as well, and this is the busiest one I’ve ever been in! Kind of nerve-wracking when you’re a little embarrassed to be buying Rogaine in the first place.
“Isn’t that for guys?” Is what I thought when I first started researching Rogaine and wanted to broach the topic with my healthcare provider. But the more I looked, the more I found that lots of women used it. Just not anyone I know.
Women’s hair loss, let alone Rogaine (or minoxidil, the name of the drug in generic form)… It’s not really talked about, am I right?
Anyway, back to Walmart. My eyes scanned up and down the aisles where I thought it might be. Here in Canada and also in the United States, it’s available over the counter and usually is on the shelf. So I looked. Near the shampoo? Nope. Near the hair colour? Also no.
Feeling dejected, sweaty, and kind of anguished about the whole ordeal, I walked over to the pharmacy counter to ask the pharmacy assistant for help finding it. The line of people (remember I said this was a busy Walmart) was about two people deep. That gave me lots of time to look around while standing in line bored.
And lo! I spotted it. So it turns out that at this Walmart (and maybe at yours too?) Rogaine was behind the register. That’s probably because it’s a super expensive product where I am and they don’t want sticky fingers lifting it off the unguarded shelf.
To be exact, the Rogaine I purchase is $120 for three bottles of foam. Contrast that with Target that I visited in Buffalo, New York, where it was only $47 for the exact same package. What!?
So that was one lesson that I wish I knew when I started using brand-name Rogaine: to comparison shop (but buy from a trusted source). Also, don’t be afraid to buy when you’re on vacation (in the US, if you’re a Canadian) after you get started using Rogaine, or if you see it on sale.
I try now to stock up whenever I am travelling in the US (as I’m writing this, Coronavirus quarantining has put an end to cross-border shopping.) Within reason. I’m not one of those coupon-hoarder people, not that there is anything wrong with that, as they say on Seinfeld.
Here’s the next lesson: I learned to get over myself
Let’s go back to Walmart.
“Hi, can I purchase the Rogaine foam?” I said, sotto voce, glancing around furtively, hoping no one around me was looking at this sad specimen of a woman (me) buying Rogaine (medicine for bald dudes).
The pharmacy assistant reached up and pulled down Rogaine Foam for Women and plonked it in front of me. Behind me in line was a tired-looking mom with rings of red around her nostrils and stringy hair piled in a messy topknot with her pigtailed toddler sitting in the shopping cart, alternating between crying and coughing. The toddler was coughing too. Just kidding.
They were both coughing! Of course. Being sick as a dog and yet still out running errands is pretty standard when you’re a mom, especially when toddlers sneeze and cough into your open mouth and you’re pretty much always sick.
Anyhoo, this mom-kid coughing tag team was coughing in the Before Times when you could cough openly. And as I said when people are sick (especially moms), they still drag themselves to Walmart. Point being: I needed to move fast so customers with real contagious illnesses could buy their Robitussin.
“Um,” I stammered. A bead of sweat was now forming on my upper lip.
“Actually, I would like to purchase the Rogaine Foam for Men.”
The pharmacy assistant didn’t even lift an eyebrow (I mean, what was I expecting?) and she switched the women’s for the men’s.
I dug out my credit card, paid over $120 for it (and a bag of Ricola cough candies, just in case that woman-and-toddler’s bugs got me), and I swiftly left.
Sweet victory was mine, I did the damn thing, and to celebrate I ate souvlaki from Jimmy the Greek at the food court while my back-sweat dried and my adrenaline levels settled back to normal.
Helen, what is the point of this insane story? The point, my friends, is this. No one gives a dog’s rip about your Rogaine. Not the flu-ridden lady in line, not the pharmacy assistant, no one. Just you.
You’re the one worried about the stigma. No one else cares, cause they’re too busy worrying about their own problems. Trust and believe.
Nor will they judge you if you buy men’s Rogaine. They simply don’t care. Luckily this was one lesson I didn’t have to learn. I started buying men’s instead of women’s right from the start.
I’ve made a video on this on my YouTube channel where I unpick all the differences between them. You can watch it here: Women’s Vs Men’s Rogaine.
What’s in Men’s Rogaine versus what’s in Women’s Rogaine
Let’s look at what Rogaine’s website says about Women’s Rogaine Foam versus Rogaine Foam:
“Women’s ROGAINE® 5% Minoxidil Foam is a once-daily hair re-growth treatment indicated and labeled specifically for women and FDA approval of the product was based on the safety and effectiveness profile demonstrated in clinical studies of once-daily use in women experiencing for Female Pattern Hair Loss. In contrast, Men’s ROGAINE® Foam is a twice-daily hair re-growth treatment indicated and labeled specifically for men and FDA approval of the product was based on the safety and effectiveness profile demonstrated in clinical testing of twice daily use in men experiencing Male Pattern Hair Loss. As always, we recommend following the labeled dosage when using any ROGAINE® Minoxidil product.”
Now let’s look at the ingredients:
Women’s Rogaine Foam
Active: Minoxidil 5% w/w
Inactive: Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), cetyl alcohol, citric acid anhydrous, glycerol anhydrous, lactic acid, polysorbate 60, propellant Aeropin 70 (propane, butane, isobutane), purified water, SD alcohol 40-B, stearyl alcohol
Men’s Rogaine Foam
Active: Minoxidil 5% w/w
Inactive: Butylhydroxytolouene (BHT), cetyl alcohol, citric acid anhydrous, glycerol anhydrous, lactic acid, polysorbate 60, propellant Aeropin 70 (propane, butane, isobutane), purified water, SD Alcohol 40B, stearyl alcohol
Honey, I didn’t study chemistry (even in high school) but if you look at these ingredients, they are the same. The amount of times you apply them each day is different. One time for women. Two times per day for men. However, where I am, the womens’ costs more than the mens’. I was told to use whichever costs less.
Should you use men’s or women’s Rogaine?
Of course, I can’t tell you which to use nor would I (hello, I’m a YouTuber and writer who didn’t even take high school chemistry, I’m not a doctor or nurse) however I will leave this info for you to make your own decision about.
Rogaine’s manufacturer does not hide the fact that the ingredients in Rogaine for Men and Rogaine for Women are the same (at least as you’ll see in Canada and America), and if you don’t believe me, go ahead and contact them and let me know what you find out. But I’ll save you the time, the fact is, they are the same.
Another thing I wished I cottoned onto earlier is minoxidil, the generic. Three bottles of liquid (rather than foam) at Target from its Up and Up brand is under $20. I mean…what!
That’s less than some of the fancy shampoos I buy. And you can get Kirkland minoxidil foam from Costco as well (which is not available in Canada yet. I’m always looking out for you, my fellow Canuck ladies).
Minoxidil versus brand-name Rogaine has cut my hair regrowth bill significantly. I don’t like the oily liquid quite as much as the quick-absorbing feeling of the foam, but I can’t say that it works any less well, which is great! I’m not made of money.
Looking back, I did the right thing by buying Rogaine from an actual store with a return policy, in my opinion. First, I bought the brand name because it was a product I trusted because I was nervous to use it. Nothing wrong with that logic and I wouldn’t change a thing. Also, because it was a busy AF Walmart, the Rogaine was nice and fresh. No dusty boxes for me, please.
However, now that I am more of an advanced user, and I’ll be using it as long as I want these newly regrown hairs to stay in my head instead of sliding down the shower drain like water off a duck’s back, I can look for some bargains, and purchase minoxidil to alternate between them.
I mix it up with generic minoxidil liquid and Rogaine foam
And that’s something else I wish I knew. In my experience, I have had luck mixing it up between Rogaine foam and liquid generic minoxidil. I alternate days. Had I known this my first year, I would have saved lots of money.
When I first started using Rogaine, and then some months later when I added liquid generic minoxidil into the mix, I was always a bit stressed out about applying it.
One thing I’ve found out from trial and error is that I didn’t have to be quite so precise. Yes, I definitely have always kept it from running down my face so I don’t turn into a werewolf, and I rub it in very quickly so it doesn’t melt or start sliding down my scalp, but boy, I used to get all bent out of shape with the dropper for the liquid, and the amount of foam you’re supposed to use.
Note to my former self: Chill out, applying Rogaine and minoxidil is not brain surgery. Also, it gets easier the more you do it.
However, some days I’ve definitely applied a little more and some days a little less…and it’s all worked out ok for me. When I was getting used to the dropper I felt either there was too much in it or there wasn’t enough and I needed a bit more.
That was ok too. I gave myself a break, it’s hard to be so exactly precise, nor did I need it to be. (Let’s just say I don’t have a Devil May Care outlook on things, my natural energy is much more in the Tightly Wound camp.)
More things I wish I knew when I started:
-It’s WAY easier to travel with Rogaine or minoxidil foam as opposed to liquid. I learned this the hard way when travelling with liquid. I thought I had it locked up tight but nope! I lost a bunch of it when it somehow weaseled its way from its bottle all over my other shampoo and hair care bottles that it was nestled in a Ziploc bag with.
Then I had to wash them when I arrived at my friend’s house. That was the way I wanted to start my visit, for sure. Next time, I travelled with foam (it was ok to fly with in my checked luggage, I checked first) and no problem, no muss and no fuss and no messy Rogaine to clean off everything when I was already exhausted from a long plane trip.
-I’m not ever going to be the person who applies Rogaine or minoxidil at night. I tried. I failed. The YouTuber dermatologist Andrea Suarez, M.D., aka Dr. Dray (she is a wonderful resource, by the way) suggests putting it on at night and using a bonnet or head covering to really lock that medicine into the scalp.
Nope. That life is not for me. I toss and turn like a mofo, so I won’t be doing that anytime ever. Instead, I put it on in the morning as part of my hair styling routine, and I never forget or feel too tired to do it (both of which are way more possible for me at night).
-There is no point constantly hair-checking. What is hair-checking? It’s having that obsessive third, fourth, hell, fifteenth woeful glance in the mirror and in all sorts of lighting situations (hint: when you start, never look in the mirror in a bright place like a hospital or at the gym shower room unless you want your brain to self-destruct) to see if the medication is working.
Rogaine does not work like that. You’ll never notice it in the mirror if you’re checking it all the time. Try once a month. When I learned to limit myself to once a month scalp selfies (I mean, am I the only one who does this?), I got happier, I relaxed, and I actually started to notice regrowth.
-It takes months to work. Not one month. Not two months. Three months? Maybe. I did see some darkness (my hair is nearly black) start to come in around that mark. Four months. Yes. Four long months. One whole season.
I started in the fall. I passed a whole winter with my head covered in a beanie (fun fact: here in Canada we call that a toque, which rhymes with spook) as much as possible. Then when it was spring I finally saw a difference. I had to learn patience, and realistic expectations.
-I did a lot of YouTube research to check out the side effects of excess facial hair growth that I had heard could be a concern. As much as I didn’t want to have thinning and balding hair, I surely didn’t want topical minoxidil to turn me into a werewolf either.
Being on the spectrum of neither hairless or hairy, I’ve noticed that this hasn’t changed. I didn’t grow a beard, she-wolf hair or anything else of the sort. Yay! Which leads me to the next point…
-On the whole, I shouldn’t have spent time worrying about side effects. Because luckily I never had any. Hair shedding and scalp irritation are common. I didn’t notice either of these.
Which is not to take away from your experience. If you have any side effects that you aren’t expecting or that are worrying you, discuss them with your doctor, a pharmacist, and Rogaine has a hotline, listed on their website.
And on that note, read the actual pamphlet that comes with the medication. There is lots of good information on there. No seriously. Read the fine print.
-Rogaine and minoxidil have expiry dates, so this is something to keep in mind if you’re ordering online or buying it in person. I try to check them, especially sometimes as I am buying ahead if I see it on sale.
If it’s on the shelf, I will spend the extra 30 seconds to check the expiry dates, and sometimes reach to the back of the shelf to pull a fresher one. Why not? No one is stopping me and I’m entitled to buy one with a further-out expiry date if I want to.
If I were buying it from behind the pharmacy counter at Walmart, I wouldn’t have the cojones to ask the counter assistant to pull a few for me, I’d just take what I got. You did read that flu-lady Walmart anecdote above, right? Gotta keep it moving.
-The stigma I imagined around using Rogaine and minoxidil and believe it or not, even hair loss as a woman was mostly in my imagination. No one cares. Everyone’s got their own crap to battle with, they don’t give a toot about your hair issues and meds and shiny scalp, your extensions, your toppers, your wigs.
No. One. Cares. Except you. You care a lot. I’ve been putting myself out there on YouTube for two years now and no one has taken a shot at my specific hair loss patterns or the medications and products I use to treat it. (Not yet anyway, I’m sure some troll is sharpening his fangs to roast me. Hasn’t happened yet though!)
I mean, I have had some women finger-wagging and telling me I should be using onion juice or castor oil instead, but really, it’s been pretty much nothing but support and kindness and gratitude from other women.
On managing expectations
Another thing I wish I knew when I started using Rogaine and minoxidil for women’s hair loss is how to manage my expectations. For some reason, I imagined my hair returning to it’s formerly puffy, thick and unmanageable state. Hair so dense I could barely see a part line in it.
The unruly, wavy hair I had fought with my entire youth and adulthood right up the point where I lost it all to chemotherapy for breast cancer. Well, she was gone and in her place was meeker, thinner hair.
Approaching three years of my hair loss journey, that thinner hair is here to stay, it seems. Early menopause hasn’t helped either. So Rogaine and minoxidil did an admirable job in filling in the areas where previously I had visible scalp, in no way is my hair as full or thick as it used to be.
And you know, I’m actually ok with that but I grappled with it for a long time. I have hair that reflects me. The hair of a woman who has gone through some bad stuff, but survived.
If you enjoyed this article and you want to learn more about hair loss and regrowth, please subscribe to my channel on YouTube! It’s right here: youtube.com/shrimpymcgee