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Regaine (Minoxidil) Side Effects - What Are They & Are They Common

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 25 Sep 2023

Treatments like Regaine (Minoxidil) have become a beacon of hope for many men and women experiencing thinning hair or pattern baldness. With any medication, potential side effects are a major concern when deciding whether to use it.

While side effects do occur with Regaine for some users, they are generally mild and reversible when the treatment is stopped. By understanding the likelihood and severity of any side effects, you can make an informed decision about using Regaine for treating your hair loss. We know that every individual's experience with hair loss is unique, which is why it's so important to consult your doctor to tailor a treatment that's right for you.

Regaine For Women
Regaine For Women
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What Is Regaine (Minoxidil)?

Regaine contains the active ingredient Minoxidil, which was originally developed as a treatment for high blood pressure. It was approved by the FDA in 1988 as a topical treatment for hair loss in both men and women after patients using it serendipitously noticed it stimulated hair growth. Researchers found that by widening blood vessels and increasing blood flow, Minoxidil revitalises shrunken hair follicles to regrow hair.

Today, Regaine is one of the most widely used and successful medications for stimulating hair regrowth and slowing further hair loss. It comes in easy-to-use foam and liquid solutions that are applied directly to the scalp twice per day. However, you can also get Minoxidil hair loss treatment. Regaine is available over-the-counter in lower concentrations and via prescription in higher concentrations from your doctor.

Types of Regaine (Minoxidil) Products

Regaine is available in two main formats - foam and liquid solutions. The foam adheres well to the scalp and dries quickly after application. However, some find it can leave residue in the hair.

The liquid solution can be messy and take longer to dry but allows for precise application to target areas. It may irritate the scalp more than the foam for some users. Both formats come in varying concentrations.

Over-the-counter Regaine contains 2% or 5% Minoxidil. The 2% solutions generally cause fewer side effects and are suitable for initial use. The 5% extra strength solutions are more commonly used for difficult hair loss cases but also have a greater risk of side effects.

Prescription Regaine contains up to 12% Minoxidil and is prescribed by doctors for more stubborn hair loss that hasn't responded sufficiently to lower concentrations. It's usually recommended to start with the lowest concentration before increasing strength to balance efficacy with minimising side effects.

For all products, consistent usage as directed is important. Using more or more often than recommended will not improve results and can worsen side effects. Regaine is typically applied to dry hair and scalp twice per day, at least 8 hours apart.

Common Side Effects of Regaine (Minoxidil)

We recognize that the idea of side effects can be unsettling. While most people tolerate Regaine well, it's good to be prepared for some common side effects. Itching and skin irritation at the application site are the most frequently reported. Redness, flaking, dryness, and mild burning or stinging can happen as the solution dries. This is due to the alcohol base and tends to improve with continued use. Proper scalp cleansing and moisturising can provide relief.

Unwanted hair growth is another potential side effect. This occurs if the solution drips onto other areas like the forehead or temples, where new hair follicles can be stimulated. Careful application and prompt washing of hands after use help prevent excess body hair growth.

Some users report dizziness or faintness when first starting Regaine, likely due to the original blood pressure-lowering action. This tends to be mild and temporary. Applying at night and using a lower concentration can minimise the effects.

Slight weight gain is also possible due to fluid retention, a side effect of Minoxidil's vasodilating properties. This effect is uncommon, but over weeks of continued use, an increase in body weight by a few pounds may be noticed. This reverses after stopping treatment.

Less Common Side Effects of Minoxidil

In addition to the more common side effects, some less frequent side effects may also occasionally occur with Regaine use.

Chest pain and rapid heartbeat is an uncommon side effect that warrants medical attention. Minoxidil can cause fluid retention around the heart or exacerbate existing heart conditions. Discontinue use and seek emergency care if chest pain develops.

Swelling of the hands, feet, or ankles can happen in some users due to Regaine's fluid retention effects. Reducing application frequency, taking diuretics, and limiting sodium intake can relieve symptoms. See a doctor if the swelling is severe.

Allergic reactions are rare but possible. Signs include skin rash, allergic contact dermatitis, itching, trouble breathing, and facial swelling. Discontinue use and seek immediate medical care if an allergic reaction develops.

While less common than other side effects, these rarer side effects, such as increased heart rate, should not be ignored if they occur. Alert your doctor promptly for proper evaluation and treatment. Often, discontinuing Regaine reverses the effects, but medical intervention may be needed in some cases.

Are Regaine Side Effects Common?

Although Regaine can cause adverse effects, research shows most are mild and infrequent for the majority of users. A study in the Dermatol Ther (Heidelb) journal found only 6.4% of men using 5% Minoxidil foam reported side effects, mainly irritant and allergic reactions.

Minoxidil side effects like irritation and unwanted hair growth appear to be less common with foam versus liquid solutions. Side effects also tend to diminish with continued use as the skin adjusts.

Compared to oral medications like finasteride for hair loss treatment, topical Regaine is associated with fewer systemic adverse reactions, like sexual side effects and erectile dysfunction. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that topical Minoxidil was better tolerated than oral drugs.

While negative effects can occur, studies demonstrate most users can tolerate Regaine well. Side effects are usually temporary and manageable by adjusting treatment. Talk to your dermatologist about your medical history to determine if Regaine may be appropriate for you.

How to Manage Side Effects

If you do experience side effects, it's completely understandable to feel concerned. The good news is, there are effective strategies to help you manage these symptoms:

  • Discontinue use if side effects are severe or persistent. Temporary discontinuation can allow symptoms to resolve before cautiously resuming treatment.
  • Use over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to relieve skin irritation and itching at the application site. Oral antihistamines may also help with allergic reactions.
  • Switch to once daily application and/or the 2% Minoxidil solution if using the 5% extra strength formulation.
  • Apply at night before bed to minimise absorption into the bloodstream and reduce systemic effects like dizziness.
  • See your doctor if side effects don't resolve promptly after discontinuing Regaine or adjusting treatment. Dermatologists can provide guidance tailored to your situation.

While frustrating, most side effects can be managed with simple measures, allowing continued treatment. However, consult a professional if symptoms concern you or don't improve.

Precautions and Warnings

We know that safety is a top priority for you. While Regaine is generally safe when used as directed, it's crucial to be aware of certain precautions and warnings:

  • It should be avoided in those with heart conditions, low blood pressure, or taking medications that lower blood pressure. Minoxidil can exacerbate these problems.
  • Inform your doctor of any medications you take, as Minoxidil can interact with other drugs and supplement absorption.
  • Store Regaine properly sealed and at room temperature away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight to avoid breakdown.
  • Discard any unused solution after 4 weeks to prevent ineffective treatment and increased infection risk from contamination.
  • Use carefully to avoid contact with eyes and other areas of the face and body. Rinse thoroughly with cool water if direct contact occurs.
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets, as ingestion can be toxic. Seek emergency care if swallowed.

While generally safe with proper use, it's important to be aware of precautions with Regaine. Check with your pharmacist or doctor if you have any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that you may have a lot of questions and concerns when considering a treatment like Regaine. You're not alone, and we're here to help answer some of those pressing questions.

Below, we address some of the key questions people like you often have about the potential side effects and risks of using Regaine for treating hair loss.

Who should not use Regaine?

Regaine should be avoided in those with heart conditions, low blood pressure, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children under 18 years old.

How risky is Regaine?

When used as directed, risks are low for most people. Side effects are usually mild and reverse with discontinuation. However, discuss your medical history with a doctor first.

Does Minoxidil age your face?

No evidence shows Minoxidil ages the face. Some temporary skin dryness or irritation can occur where applied. Use a moisturiser to minimise.

What should I avoid while using Minoxidil?

Avoid getting Regaine elsewhere on the face/body to prevent unwanted hair growth. Be cautious of drug interactions. Don't use if you have certain medical conditions.

Can Minoxidil regrow hair permanently?

No, Regaine must be continually used to maintain benefits. Hair loss will resume approximately 3-4 months after stopping treatment.

Conclusion

We know that the journey through hair loss treatment can be filled with ups and downs. While Regaine (Minoxidil) does have some side effects, it's comforting to know that most are mild and reversible. Common side effects include skin irritation, unwanted hair growth, dizziness, and fluid retention. Less common but serious effects like chest pain also may rarely occur.

Studies demonstrate that side effects frequently resolve with continued use or after adjusting the treatment regimen. However, discontinue Regaine and seek medical advice if symptoms concern you. With professional guidance, most individuals can experience the benefits of Regaine for treating hair loss while properly managing any side effects that may develop.

The key is consulting your healthcare provider to determine if Regaine is appropriate for your specific needs and medical history. While not risk-free, Regaine offers hope to many struggling with hair loss when used with proper precautions.

Sources:

Compliance to Topical Minoxidil and Reasons for Discontinuation among Patients with Androgenetic Alopecia - PMC (nih.gov)

Minoxidil 1 mg oral versus minoxidil 5% topical solution for the treatment of female-pattern hair loss: A randomized clinical trial - PubMed (nih.gov)

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