Definition: Minoxidil is the main ingredient of the brand name drug Rogaine, a topical lotion that was the first drug to be approved by the FDA for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia (genetic hair loss). Now available in varying degrees of strength from 2 to 5 percent, minoxidil requires twice a day applications. The rate of effectiveness varies between the 2 percent formula and 5 percent formula. For women, the 2 percent version can improve hair regrowth in 6 out of 10 women.

Recently, a 5% Foam version has become available to women both under the trade name Rogaine and the generic Minoxidil.  According to a “6-month placebo-controlled clinical study, this formula has been proven to help regrow hair in over 80% of women.”  The foam version requires once a day application, unlike the twice daily seen with the solution formula.

Minoxidil for Women 

Rogaine for Women (minoxidil) is the only FDA approved topical medication for hereditary hair loss in women. According to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgeons, Rogaine might actually be more effective for women, than it is for men. Clinical studies report that 6 in 10 women saw minimal to moderate hair regrowth with the 2 percent version.

In clinical studies of mostly white women aged 18-45 years with mild to moderate degrees of hair loss, the following response to 2% minoxidil topical solution was reported: 19% of women reported moderate hair regrowth after using 2% minoxidil topical solution for 8 months (19% had moderate regrowth; 40% had minimal regrowth). This compares with 7% of women reporting moderate hair regrowth after using the placebo, the liquid without minoxidil in it, for 8 months (7% had moderate regrowth; 33% had minimal regrowth). (National Institute of Health).

In women with permanent, genetic hair loss, family history can be an indicator of whether or not a woman will suffer from some degree of genetic hair loss. Women with older mothers, aunts and grandmothers with thinning hair are more likely themselves to have female pattern hair loss.

“The cause of the failure to grow new hair in female pattern baldness is not well understood, but it is associated with genetic predisposition, aging (tied to menopause/changes in hormone levels) and levels of endocrine hormones (particulary androgens, the male sex hormones).” —MedlinePlus. “Changes in the levels of the androgens (a male hormone) can affect hair production. For example, after the hormonal changes of menopause, many women find that the hair on the head is thinned, while facial hair is coarser.”

The good news for women is that Rogaine for Women® “… helps to reverse the progression of hereditary hair loss,” according to Pfizer.

For men, the only FDA approved medication options for hair loss are Rogaine, and Finasteride (Propecia) a hormone based treatment. Women are prohibited from using Finasteride since birth defects are a major side effect.

Since hormonal based treatments are not an option for women, Rogaine for Women® has proven to be a successful product in a market with 30 million women who suffer from genetic hair loss and thinning hair.

“At week 48, the 5% topical minoxidil group demonstrated statistical superiority over the 2% topical minoxidil group in the patient assessment of treatment benefit. Both concentrations of topical minoxidil were well tolerated by the women in this trial without evidence of systemic adverse effects,” the 2004 report stated.

It’s worth noting that the report also cautioned against the rise in “herbal treatments” masquerading as treatments for women’s hair loss.

“With the introduction of numerous herbal remedies for hair loss, of which most have not been tested in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, it is important to describe well-controlled trials that demonstrate the efficacy and safety of topical drugs.”