The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first approved Rogaine (topical minoxidil) for the treatment of male pattern baldness in 1988, extending approval for use in women in 1991. After Rogaine was made available for purchase without prescription in 1995, the manufacturer has extended its product line to include various formulations, the most recent being a foam preparation for men, which launched in 2006. From a treatment standpoint, Rogaine liquid or foam for men may give you the same results, since these topical products contain the same amount of minoxidil. The main differences between these preparations are in how they're measured and applied.
More About Rogaine
Rogaine has an unusual history; according to the American Hair Loss Association, its benefits as a hair loss treatment started when oral minoxidil was studied as a treatment for enlarged prostate glands. Results of clinical studies yielded surprising side effects, which included hair growth on the backs of the hands, cheeks and even on the forehead. Assuming that applying minoxidil directly to the scalp might be of benefit to those suffering from pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia), researchers developed a topical version of the drug: Rogaine. As of March 2010, products made by Rogaine include Rogaine Foam and Rogaine Extra Strength Solution for men, which contain 5 percent minoxidil; and Rogaine Topical Solution for women, which contains 2 percent minoxidil.
Using Liquid Rogaine
Liquid Rogaine for men and women is applied directly to a dry scalp and towel-dried hair using a dropper. According to the manufacturer, the dropper is filled to the 1 ml line and applied, using the dropper, to the areas of the scalp where hair is thinning. Mayo Clinic experts indicate that, typically, liquid Rogaine is applied to the crown of the head first and then other areas of the scalp. Rogaine is then massaged into the skin using the fingertips.
Foam Rogaine Use
Similarly, foam Rogaine is applied to a clean scalp and towel-dried hair. Rather than using an applicator, Rogaine foam is applied directly with the fingertips—around half the volume of the product's cap—and then massaged into the areas of the scalp where hair loss is noticed. When using either product, the manufacturer stresses washing your hands well after each application. As noted above, there is not a foam preparation made for women.
What's Your Preference?
When surveying the packages of Rogaine on your drugstore shelves, one method of application will more than likely seem more appealing than the other. Female consumers, who don't have the option of selecting a foam formulation, must make do with the liquid solution. As noted, the different products for men contain the same concentration of minoxidil and if used properly are presumed equally effective. One advantage to choosing Rogaine liquid is that it better allows you to measure out the medication in the precise recommended dosage (1 m), whereas using Rogaine foam requires you to eyeball the correct amount. The deciding factor may be if you feel more comfortable using an applicator or your fingertips to apply your hair loss treatment.
Results won't be noted right away if you use Rogaine; according to the FDA, it may take up to four months of daily use before hair loss stops or new hair growth emerges, and as noted by the FDA, Rogaine doesn't work for everyone with hair loss. The FDA also stresses that Rogaine shouldn't be used if you don't know the cause of your hair loss. The Mayo Clinic lists numerous reasons for hair loss other than pattern baldness, many of which have an underlying medical cause. If you've suddenly lost a large amount of hair or if hair loss is patchy, speak with your doctor.