Hair loss is also known as alopecia. It is the common term for describing a net loss of hair from the scalp or body.
Normally, hair is constantly being lost and replaced in a cycle that ensures no changes in the amount of hair covering the body. However, when hair loss occurs, there are more hairs being lost than new ones replacing them.
It is estimated that we lose about 100 hairs every day and these are soon replaced. However, when daily hair loss exceeds this number, it can be difficult for the body to replace them.
Losing more than 100 hairs daily is a definitive sign of alopecia.
There are different causes of hair loss but the most common cause is an increased production of androgens. Androgens are male sex hormones but they are also released in females. The two most important androgens contributing to hair loss are testosterone and one of its metabolites, DHT (dihydrotestosterone).
Androgens attack hair follicle cells and kill them off. When this happens on the scalp, it can turn whole areas of the scalp hairless as the cells producing hair strands die off.
Hair loss due to androgens is often a hereditary condition that runs in some families. It can affect both men and women. However, the pattern of hair loss differs between men and women.
Male-pattern hair loss begins from temples. The hair thins from the sides before the other areas of the scalp. On the other hand, female-pattern hair loss starts with hair thinning from the front of the scalp.
Of the drugs used for treating alopecia, minoxidil is the most commonly prescribed and it is effective for both male-pattern and female-pattern hair loss.
What is Rogaine?
Rogaine is a popular brand of hair loss products. It comes in two different formulations: one for men and the other for women.
Rogaine contains minoxidil, the first compound approved for treating alopecia by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Although there are now other brands of minoxidil, Rogaine was the first hair loss product formulated with this compound.
Rogaine for women is a different product than Rogaine for men. It contains 2% minoxidil instead of the 5% minoxidil found in the men’s formulation. The inactive ingredients of Rogaine are purified water, propylene glycol and alcohol.
Rogaine should only be applied to the scalp and it should not be used to treat hair loss in other parts of the body. If it comes in contact with the eyes or other mucosal surfaces, it should be washed off thoroughly with water.
Once applied to the scalp, some of Rogaine is absorbed into the blood. Although only a little of the active ingredient is absorbed, Rogaine can still cause systemic effect. For example, it should only be used with caution by women with heart disease.
Rogaine for women does not work for everyone. However, it is particularly effective for those with hereditary alopecia caused by high levels of androgens such as testosterone.
This hair treatment product should not be used by those experiencing sudden and quick hair loss, those with a family history of alopecia and those experiencing hair loss after childbirth. Rogaine should not be applied on infected, inflamed or reddened scalp and it should not be mixed with other topical medicines while applied on the scalp.
For safety reasons, Rogaine should not be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as anyone younger than 18 years.
Although it is well-tolerated, Rogaine does have some side effects. The manufacturer recommends the withdrawal of the product for any of the following reasons:
- The occurrence of cardiovascular symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness and fainting spells
- The sudden onset of hypersensitivity reactions including difficulty breathing, facial swelling, hives, rash and itching
- The appearance of undesired facial hair outside of the area of application. The common presentation of this side effect in women is hair growth on the forehead and cheeks
- Swelling of the limbs
- Sudden weight gain
- Irritation and dryness of the scalp due to the alcohol and propylene glycol found in the product
Rogaine does not work for everyone and it should be abandoned if there is no sign of hair regrowth after 4 months. Most users who find Rogaine effective report the first signs of hair regrowth as early as the first month of use.
However, it should be noted that Rogaine actually causes hair loss initially before stimulating hair growth. Therefore, the increased shedding of hair experienced in the first weeks following the use of Rogaine is a good sign. It happens because the new hair growing out pushes the old ones out of the skin pores.