Side effects from Minoxidil For Women (the generic version of Rogaine) are common, but luckily most of the side effects of this hair regrowth treatment are mild. Ironically, one of the listed side effects of Minoxidil Topical Solution 2% is hair growth! Unfortunately another possible side effect is hair loss, so consider the pros and cons carefully before using topical minoxidil. It’s also best to talk with your doctor before beginning the treatment.
• Minoxidil for women
Minoxidil is for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia (genetic, hereditery hair loss). The 2% version of minoxidil is the one that’s FDA approved for women to use, and it only comes in a liquid form (not a foam option). The makers of Rogaine/minoxidil say the 2% version is just as effective for women as the 5% men’s version, and it comes with less risk of side effects. However, a lot of doctors feel the 5% version works better and they suggest that for women. Other doctors say to start out with 2% and you can always switch to 5% later. It’s a tough choice because you want to see the maximum amount of hair growth, but you need to be cautious of possible side effects. You are supposed to apply minoxidil to your scalp twice a day. Results aren’t expected to be visible until after four months (or longer) of use! Your results should be the same, whether you use the name brand Rogaine, or the generic minoxidil. Pregnant or nursing women should not use Rogaine/minoxidil.
• Potential minoxidil side effects for women using the topical solution 2%
Minoxidil has a long list of possible side effects, although most people only experience one or two of the more mild and common ones. If you have any of the systemic side effects, it’s best to speak with your doctor immediately to discuss whether or not you should continue using minoxidil. There may be even more potential side effects than the ones I have listed below.
• Common side effects in women include:
• Dry, flaky, itchy scalp (contact dermatitis)
• Unwanted facial hair growth
• Increased hair loss (!)
• Burning, stinging, or redness of the scalp
• Signs of systemic absorption (which is supposedly rare):
• Fast or irregular heartbeat
• Fainting, lightheadedness
• Chest pain
• Water and sodium retention – swelling of hands, feet, or lower legs, or rapid weight gain
• Difficulty breathing, especially while lying down
• Headache, flushing
• Neuritis – numbness or tingling of hands, feet, or face
• Sexual dysfunction – decrease in desire or sexual ability
• Visual disturbances – blurred vision, decreased visual acuity, other vision changes
• Serious allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention (this is rare, and it could be a reaction to minoxidil or propylene glycol) – rash, swelling of face, tongue, throat, severe dizziness, trouble breathing
• The side effects I’ve personally experienced from minoxidil
As I’ve said before on hairlosshell.com, several years ago I used 2% Rogaine For Women for about eight months and at that time I didn’t experience any obvious side effects. I didn’t experience increased hair shedding, or other issues. After eight months I also didn’t notice any results. I gave up on Rogaine and luckily I also didn’t notice an increase in shedding a few months after stopping Rogaine. After you stop the treatment, all of the hair that you gained while on the medication will go right back down the drain. So if Rogaine is working for you, you’ll need to use it indefinitely. I may have had increased shedding, but at the time I had more hair, so it would have been less noticeable.
Last year I decided to go with 5% minoxidil and I chose a product called Spectral DNC, which contains 5% minoxidil in a liquid solution, plus a few extra ingredients (Aminexil, Retinol & Copper Peptides) that are supposed to make the minoxidil even more effective. My theory was “go big or go home” so I wanted to try the men’s strength of minoxidil to see if it would work better than the girly 2%. Spectral DNC also doesn’t contain alcohol, so it makes the dry, flaky scalp problem less likely. If you’ve been dealing with scalp issues from minoxidil, you may want to try Spectral DNC (assuming you want the 5% strength). Unfortunately I immediately got headaches from Spectral DNC, and it wasn’t until I stopped it two months later that the headaches went away. So while headaches are supposedly a rare side effect of the medication, I guess I was unlucky. I then bought the 5% generic minoxidil (the kind you can find at Target or Wal-mart) but I got headaches from that as well, so the culprit was definitely the 5% strength of minoxidil.
After that I went back to the 2% women’s minoxidil and I’ve been using that on the top of my head ever since. I no longer get headaches or any other obvious side effects. And for some reason I can still tolerate 5% minoxidil if I use it sparingly just on my temples and receding hairline. Weird. However, while I’ve been writing this article I’m slightly freaked to learn that blurry vision is a side effect of minoxidil. I have blurry vision that comes and goes and doctors can’t figure it out (my eye doctor thinks it’s just dry eyes). I’m pretty sure the blurry vision preceded my use of minoxidil, though. The other minor side effect I have is increased peach fuzz on the sides of my forehead. It’s kind of annoying, but it’s not that big of a deal. A lot of women are afraid of increased facial hair, but I haven’t experienced this, and if I did, I’d just wax or use a Nair facial product. Or if you have dark facial hair and lighter skin, you could be a candidate for laser hair removal, and Vaniqa cream is another option.
• Side effects you need to know about!
Okay here’s another horrible potential side effect that you won’t see written on any package insert of minoxidil, but I think it may be true – minoxidil and Rogaine can cause wrinkles! That link takes you to an article I wrote about this issue on my skin care blog. Many people on the internet report increased facial wrinkles, and dark circles under their eyes after using Rogaine/minoxidil. I’ve also noticed dark circles under my eyes lately, which I never noticed before, and my wrinkles are getting worse. Am I just getting old, or is minoxidil prematurely aging me??? And if I go off minoxidil, will the wrinkles, dark circles, and rough skin texture get better? I don’t know.
Finally, the makers of Rogaine gloss over this issue, but tons of women report increased hair shedding after beginning the medication. On the official package insert, it says, “don’t worry—this is a good sign. It means that the new growth cycle is beginning and the older hairs you would have lost are making way for the new healthy ones. If this hair loss continues after 2 weeks on ROGAINE, talk to your doctor.” On hair loss internet websites, tons of women say you need to stick it out for up to three months before the increased shedding subsides. Three months is a really long time if your hair is falling out more than ever! My hair falls out too much every day, and this last year when I started minoxidil it continued to fall out a ton every day (and maybe more). I’ve been on the 2% minoxidil for at least six months now and my hair continues to shed like crazy – the shedding has never ended. It’s really hard to tell if the minoxidil is working, not working, or making things worse. It definitely has not been a wonder drug yet for me because I know I have less hair than I did six months ago, but that could just be because my hair loss is progressively getting worse on its own anyway.
The bottom line is that A LOT of women report increased shedding after starting minoxidil, and the shedding lasts way longer than the initial two weeks that the Rogaine makers says is normal. I haven’t read about a lot of women that have had excellent results with minoxidil, but there are some women that are delighted with the results. You also hear numerous horror stories about women that lose way more hair after starting minoxidil, and the hair never comes back. It’s hard to know for sure if the cause was minoxidil, or if their hair loss was on that path anyway. My suggestion is to start out slow and just use minoxidil on a small area of your head before you commit to your entire head. Give that small area a few months before going further. That way the worst that will happen is you’ll have a small area that is worse, rather than your whole head. I first did that, then I did the whole left side of my head every day, and now I do the whole top of my head. It was a long process, but I can’t say I noticed a difference on my left or right side, so minoxidil didn’t cause me to lose enough hair to discern which side was treated, and which wasn’t.
• Bottom Line
There are many potential side effects of minoxidil for women. Make sure to read up on them, weigh the pros and cons, and talk to your doctor before starting the medication to treat androgenetic alopecia. Aside from the possible scary health issues, many women report an increase in hair loss initially from minoxidil, so you need to be warned of this. I’ve said it a million times – hair loss sucks, and there is no magic bullet treatment for everyone. Have you used minoxidil or Rogaine – for women, or the men’s version? What side effects have you experienced?