If you’ve ever gotten up from bed with a glaring clump of hair to greet you on your pillow, or looked at your brush and felt like half of the hair that used to be on your head was now caught in between the bristles, then you most likely know the trauma and anxiety that comes with hair loss. When one starts to lose that thick, gleaming crown of hair, one’s confidence and self-esteem can suffer. It’s not surprising, then, that most folks would go to lengths to get back a head full of hair.
I’ve been on dozens of trips to many different dermatologists to get their advice on what to do with my hair loss. I’ve tried out the different products they’ve referred to me and after a severe lack of success stories, a dimming pot of enthusiasm and several hundred dollars short, I’ve found the two best topical hair loss treatments for women. (The drug Propecia has recently been granted FDA-approval to treat hair loss as well, but it’s only for men.)
Minoxidil is the active ingredient found in Rogaine, the only FDA-approved treatment for hair loss. Rogaine can be obtained without a prescription in the US and comes in three different dosages, Rogaine for Men (2% minoxidil), Rogaine for Men Extra Strength (5% minoxidil) and Rogaine for Women (2% minoxidil). Originally, minoxidil was taken orally as a treatment for high blood pressure, but soon doctors noticed that those under medication grew more hair after a while. A topical solution was then developed specifically for the treatment of hair loss. They believe that hair growth is a side effect of the increased blood flow that minoxidil induces where applied. The manufacturer claims that in studies involving mostly white females aged 18-45, 19% of the sample reported moderate hair regrowth, 40% reported minimal regrowth after application of 2% minoxidil for 8 months, compared with 7% who reported moderate hair regrowth after using a placebo during the same span.
The topical solution is applied on balding and thinning spots twice a day so depending on how big your area of application is, a regular 2 oz bottle would last from 1 to 1 Ã?Â½ months and would cost around US $18. Getting 3-bottle value packs would ease your savings, costing about US $45. Mind you, starting on Rogaine is a commitment, so before you start on it, you’d want to make sure you’re willing to shell out money for it because it costs quite a bit. Stopping Rogaine and resuming a few months later is not a good idea. From my experience, any new hair growth from Rogaine tends to fall out in as quick as a few days to one week after stopping application. This is because the new strands that grow are not as thick or tough as your original strands. What you grow from Rogaine is more of “peach fuzz”, very fine stands that easily come out with a light tug. But to its credit, Rogaine helps you keep what hair you have left on your head from falling out. So now you most probably get the hint that Rogaine is a lifetime commitment; once you start, you can’t stop or you’ll see all your progress-and money-go down the drain. Ensure that you can make time to allow for twice-daily applications.
Different people have unique responses to Rogaine, though. Some people respond more positively to it than others. It claims to work better in cases of moderate hair loss. In my experience, it took around 4 months of diligent application before any visible differences could be perceived. Don’t get too hyped up and expect Rogaine to take your head back to where it was when you still had all your hair. If it manages to stimulate enough growth to sufficiently cover your thinning spot, then that’s already quite a good response. Personally, though, Rogaine caused my scalp to dry up and I got a horrible fit of dandruff, the really flaky kind. I stopped using it to allow my scalp to clear up. After a few more months, I gave Rogaine another shot but got the same side effect so finally decided to stop my regime altogether. Frankly, I lost more hair from trying to get rid of the dandruff than Rogaine was helping me grow.
The manufacturer cautions against using the drug if you are pregnant, have a heart condition, are under 18 years of age, your scalp is irritated or inflamed, or are using other medications for your scalp. Rogaine may also not work if your hair loss condition is adverse or if your hair loss is the result of childbirth. At any rate, it’s best to consult a dermatologist before using it.
The second topical medication I found is Foltene, which is an Italian-manufactured hair loss treatment. It is not FDA-approved and can be found in alternative medicine and health stores. Its active ingredient is Tricosaccharide, which the manufacturer claims to stimulate the scalp and hair follicles.
One box contains 12 vials and comes with a generous bottle of Foltene Treatment Shampoo and costs about US $40. It’s more expensive than Rogaine, but unlike the latter, Foltene does not entail lifetime use so in the end, you end up spending so much more with Rogaine. One vial is applied once daily, until you finish up two boxes, totaling 24 vials. This saves you much more time compared to Rogaine’s twice-daily application regime. After you’ve used up your first 24 vials, you’re advised to take a 3-month resting period before going through another 24-vial treatment, applying one vial every 3 days. After this second treatment, you can freely choose to use Foltene again for maintenance every six months as you see fit, applying one vial every 3 days. If you don’t feel the need to use Foltene, then you don’t have to.
In my experience, Foltene works best in the initial stages of hair loss. The regrowth resembles the “peach fuzz” I got with Rogaine, but at least I was able to achieve this with less frequent applications; the Rogaine regime was more rigorous and time consuming. I felt the new strands from Foltene were also stronger than those I got from Rogaine and they didn’t fall out as easily. When you’re under stress or fatigue, the hair loss is considerably less than with Rogaine. Under normal circumstances, the amount of hair I was losing everyday also normalized (20-100 strands is considered normal). Using the Foltene Treatment Shampoo that came along with it also seemed to help. Even better, I did not experience any side effects from Foltene- none of that horrible dandruff that came along with Rogaine.
I would definitely recommend Foltene over Rogaine. It’s less time consuming when it comes to applying it and at the end of the day, you end up saving more money. While neither treatment can completely restore your head of hair, Foltene induces healthier regrowth. Of course, any recommendations I can give are relative because, as with any other drug, individual results vary.