A confusing selection of consumer products allude to promises of a full head of thick, healthy hair. Rogaine is the only nonprescription treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent hair loss and encourage hair regrowth for those suffering from hereditary pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia). The medicine, which also goes by the name topical minoxidil, was in fact the first drug the FDA approved for male- and female-pattern baldness, the American Association for Hair Loss says. While it's a logical choice for many seeking nonprescription treatment, Rogaine has some cons that may ultimately outweigh its benefits.
Rogaine involves taking time from your busy schedule to apply it at least twice a day--if you want to get the best results, that is. Mayo Clinic experts state that proper use of Rogaine foam or solution entails applying it to a clean, dry scalp in the exact dosage the manufacturer specifies. It's important to remember all the "don'ts" when applying Rogaine daily to make sure it works for you. For example, you cannot wash your hair for four hours after applying Rogaine. Women using Rogaine must keep in mind that it cannot be used 24 hours before or after chemical hair processing, such as dying, perming or relaxing the hair. Finally, it takes awhile for Rogaine to dry--according to the Mayo Clinic, it can take from two to four hours. Before this time, Rogaine can stain caps, hats, scarves and even bedding.
Rogaine works only as long as it's used diligently and routinely, so if you choose this method to tackle hair loss, there's no falling down on the job. It also takes about 12 weeks (four months) before you notice any results. If you stop using Rogaine, hair growth ceases. According to a report published in the April 1999 edition of American Family Physician, a study of men who stopped using Rogaine indicated that they exhibited rapid loss of new hair growth; within three months, the number of hairs still growing in these men were either at or below baseline counts.
According to the American Family Physician report, early studies conducted on Rogaine indicate that it works best on "ideal candidates"--and that might not be you. Those who get the best results using Rogaine were identified as men who had suffered from androgenic alopecia for less than five years and whose bald spot was less than 4 inches in diameter. Additionally, Rogaine works effectively when applied to the vertex, the circular region between the top and back of the head where the skull slopes. Rogaine gave nominal or no results when used to treat frontal thinning and receding hairlines.
The biggest risk to using Rogaine is that your expectations may exceed its ability to deliver. Results of a comparative study of Rogaine with 5 percent and 2 percent minoxidil concentrations indicate that after five months of use, 55 percent of participants using the 5 percent solution noted an increase in hair mass compared with the 25 percent who noticed increased hair growth using the 2 percent solution. A little less than half of study participants did not get good results with the strongest concentration of minoxidil, however, suggesting that investing time and money in Rogaine may end in disappointment. Two years after treatment in those studies, the 5 percent group had dropped to 25 percent growth over baseline; the 2 percent group was 15 percent over baseline. The AHLA states that while women with pattern baldness tend to receive better benefits from Rogaine than do men, medical professionals consider it to be "marginally effective" in reducing hair loss and regrowing hair.