Minoxidil, known commonly by the brand name Rogaine®, is one of the most common non-surgical methods of hair loss treatment. In 2010, the product grossed more than $160 million worldwide (i). With 26 clinical trials supporting the topical foam’s ability to stop hair loss, it’s easy to see why men and women from around the globe embrace the highly effective treatment. Unfortunately, many customers might not be getting the most bang for their buck.
According to a new study published by the University of British Columbia, patients who take aspirin along with Rogaine® might significantly reduce the functionality of the popular hair loss product. Most at risk are individuals who take daily doses of aspirin to treat symptoms of pain, or as a preventative measure against heart disease.
To better understand this interesting phenomenon, it’s vital to first learn how Rogaine® acts as a hair loss treatment. Though it is still unclear exactly how the topical foam works, researchers believe the effectiveness of Rogaine® is derived from its ability to stimulate the production of an important enzyme: Cyclooxygenase1, or COX-1.
Studies have shown that levels of COX-1 correlate with high levels of an essential lipid called prostaglandin E2, or simply PGE2 for short. Given this well documented relationship, researchers believe that Rogaine® causes a chain reaction that stimulates COX-1 production and, as a result, increased levels of PGE2. In turn, PGE2 helps to nourish the hair follicles, keeping them healthy and capable of sustaining a natural hair growth cycle. By the same token, low levels of PGE2 are associated with general dysfunction among hair follicles. Hair follicles appear to lose their ability to sustain natural hair growth as PGE2 levels fall, causing pattern baldness in men and women.
To summarize, men and women who suffer with hair loss have relatively low levels of the enzyme COX-1. Rogaine® appears to stimulate COX-1, however, which corresponds with higher PGE2 levels, healthier hair follicles, and natural hair growth. Unfortunately, researchers have found that the popular anti-inflammatory medicine, aspirin, might undermine this delicate and complex relationship.
In a study published by the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science at the University of British Columbia, scientists note that aspirin seems to inhibit the production of the COX-1 enzyme (ii). In turn, PGE2 levels fall and individuals become susceptible to hair follicle miniaturization and pattern baldness.
In this way, patients who take daily doses of both aspirin and Rogaine® might actually be taking one step forward and one step backward, ending right where they started. As Rogaine® seeks to stimulate COX-1 production to reduce hair loss, aspirin disables COX-1 in virtue of being an anti-inflammatory medicine.
In the wake of this new study, scientists and hair loss professionals recommend that patients who take both Rogaine® and aspirin consider making a change to their regimen or lifestyle. Those who take aspirin every day to reduce the chances of developing heart disease, for example, are encouraged to stop taking aspirin and engage in at least 60 minutes of cumulative cardiovascular exercise each day, along with a healthy diet. Alternatively, individuals may choose to continue taking daily doses of aspiring but discontinue the use of Rogaine®, opting instead for a surgical procedure to permanently restore natural hair to areas of balding scalp.
(i) “Rogaine/Regaine.” Evaluate Group. URL: http://www.evaluategroup.com/Universal/View.aspx?type=Entity&entityType=Product&id=13522&lType=modData&componentID=1002
(ii) A Monselise, G Leung, K Fraser, J Shapiro & KJ McElwee. “Aspirin inhibits minoxidil-induced proliferation of human keratinocytes.” Dermatology and Skin Science, University of British Columbia.
(iii) “Take Rogaine® or Aspirin, Never Both.” Hair Transplant Institute Miami. Published 24 June 2013. URL: http://blog.miamihair.com/hair-loss-research/take-rogaine-or-aspirin-never-both.html