Saturday, September 19, 2015

Four Years with Rogaine: My Tale of Sorrow

Women (and men) are full of secrets, especially when it comes to their looks. We wear padded bras, spanx, we dye our hair and apply fake nails...a myriad of things, really. And there are a billion reasons for it. The only one that really matters, to me, is "does it make you happy?" If there is something you don't like, and you can change it safely, then go for it! Over the last few years, one of the things that has really bugged me is my hair...so I sought to change it. On the recommendation of my doctor, I turned to Rogaine. This is a recount of my personal experience with the product over the last four years.

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This post is going to deal with subjects such as body image, childbirth, and cancer. Reader discretion is advised.

To start this story, we have to start with a wee bit of backstory:

Five years ago, I gave birth to a delightfully wild little girl. Because of unlucky hips and giant noggins, I had a scheduled c-section that was to include a tubal ligation (no more babies!) I was nearly 30 years old, and two kids was exactly the right amount...I didn't want any surprises later on in life. During previous ultrasounds, a small cyst had been discovered...but we all assumed it was a Corpus Luteum cyst. The ever-growing parasite fetus soon obscured it and it was forgotten.  During my surgery it was rediscovered and removed. Tl;dr it wasn't what we thought it was. (if you like medical oddities, I will gladly share this part with you elsewhere!) It turned out to be ovarian cancer, and six weeks after the birth of my child, I had a complete and total hysterectomy. Good times, ya'll. Thankfully, the sort of cancer I had was caught ridiculously early, and it was not prone to spreading. I was lucky. But being 30 and having no ovaries presents a host of troubles that I could not deal with on my own. I was placed on a hormone therapy regimen to replace all my missing testosterone and estrogen. Shortly there-after my hair started to fall out. I was pretty upset, and turned to what appeared to be my only hope: Rogaine.

I'm not going to talk about how Rogaine or Minoxidil works. Feel free to read the wikipedia article though. I'll wait right here.

My Experience
So I applied it. It made my hair greasy and my scalp itchy. But I used it. And after a few months, I noticed my hair loss had slowed. (It was about this time that I started going for wild colors...because really, if I'm going bald, at least let me enjoy the ride.) But it was really hard on my skin. Some people do react to minoxidil that way, and I figured that was my lot in life. I soldiered on.

One month turned to three, and then six, and then a few years went by...and I was still seeing more scalp up top. Then the Rogaine foam came out for ladies, and I switched to that. If anything, I liked it less. It was harder to get it on my scalp than the liquid, and it left my hair looking like I borrowed a sea-hag's wig. Fuckyeah, just what I always wanted! If you have thin hair anyway, something that causes your hair to clump together limply is exactly the opposite of what you are looking for in a hair product...FYI. 

I started to notice things about hair in different parts of my body...things that were new and terrifying. I'm half Portuguese, so I was fully prepared to be waxing my mustache one day...that was no biggie. And my arms and legs have always been hairy, so that was also no surprise. But about a year in I noticed that the hair in my sideburn area was getting darker and thicker...uh-oh. I was able to ignore it for a while, but then a depilatory started to become a requirement. I also noticed the hair on the tops of my thighs, which was always fine and pale, start to become darker and more obnoxious. I blamed my HRT for a long time, but eventually I began to blame the Rogaine. It does say that it might increase the thickness of hair in other places due to accidental transference and/or absorption through the scalp. Ugh. Shaving, waxing, and burning...oh my.

I also noticed other things...things that bothered me more. My skin, which is...temperamental at best, started to really have an attitude. Especially in the last eight months or so. Products that previously worked well suddenly worked like feeding paperclips to worms. (that means not good) I noticed more lines on my face, a dullness in areas that had previously been problem free, random acne in odd neighborhoods...and an overall just blah look to my skin. I was recently reading a bunch of forum posts from women who have used minoxidil and Rogaine, and they started to complain of the same things! I had always attributed any skin irritation to my cigarette habit, but I've been quit a year now and I expected a modicum of improvement...instead its gotten worse. I don't expect to look like I'm 25, but I don't expect to be doing all of the aging all at once either.

And thus, after nearly five years of continuous use, I have decided to quit. If my hair goes...fuck it, I'll shave my head. I can be punk and PTA...right? My skin cannot handle the abuse, and if I have to choose between an itchy, thinning scalp with a hairy face or a less hairy face and no hair but happy scalp...well, yeah. For me, the choice is plain. I just hope I haven't permanently done any damage. In the last year I have made some changes to improve my health, and I continue to strive to make the best choices...but carbs, man. Fucking carbs.

If you are considering minoxidil, there are some things I think you should know
  • This product will only work while you are using it. If you stop, you will lose any benefits you may have gained.
  • It might not work for you. Depending on the reasons behind your hair loss or the type you have, this might not make a damned lick of difference for you.
  • There is a slight chance that you may experience adverse reactions, similar to what I have observed. I am not a scientist (for realsies), but from what anecdotal evidence I've seen, it does happen.
  • This stuff is expensive. The regular liquid minoxidil is about $18 for a three-month supply. The name brand Rogaine is $18 for one month. I have used both the store brand and name and haven't noticed a lick of difference. As yet, there is no generic for the foam.
  • This stuff isn't designed for your brows, lashes, etc
  • Hair loss can often be indicative of an underlying medical condition. DO NOT SELF MEDICATE. Talk to a professional.
  • It takes time to work. You may not see any regrowth for six months, if you see any at all (I never did). And you may not even see a slow-down in hair loss for three. This is not a quick-fix.
So this was kind-of the hardest post to write, but I feel like it was important. People are really flippant on the internet to suggest products without really knowing what the possible outcomes can be and it really worries me to see healthy people gamble so recklessly. Your health is precious and you should treat it as such.

tl;dr I'm planning on being the most bad-ass bald bitch in the history or histories.






16 comments:

  1. The important thing is that you are healthy, and I'm so glad that you are. This must have been incredibly difficult for you, and you have dealt with it like a champ! And in regards to being the most badass bald bitch that ever walked the planet, I have no doubt that you would be. (And if it ever comes to it, unicorn/rainbow wigs...they exist. And they're awesomesauce.) Sending lots of positive thoughts your way! <3

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    1. thanks! Once you are on the other side of things, it is hard to not get lost in the tiny stuff. Yeah ok, so not everything is totally normal...but I have to remember that I am here to complain about it and that is the most important thing.

      I mean, come on. My poor husband and two little girls? Without help, those kids of mine would eat him alive.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this! It is super important to talk about this stuff because gauranteed, others are having this same struggle.
    And I've noticed my bangs are getting thinner. I'm seeing more scalp. Poor life choices and heredity (mom is thinning)...the check is in the mail. I'll join you in the shaved head punk rock club and we can go shopping for righteous wigs!

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    1. I am kind-of excited to be a punk-as-fuck old lady. I need to work on the "punk-as-fuck" part a bit, but I'm thinking a shaved head will help.

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  3. This is a great post. I am so sorry you had to deal with all that you have {hugs}. I started to experience severe hair thinning in my mid thirties and I tried Minoxidil as well. I had some of the same issues you did - it made my hair miserably greasy looking and lank at the root, plus it made my scalp extremely angry. My scalp skin became red, flaky and supersensitive, and I am still dealing with the sensitivity fifteen years later. I decided that I didn't want to be spending that much money every year for something that gave me those side effects and only minimal hair regrowth. My hair has continued to thin (my full braid looks like the accent braid for someone with average hair) and I honestly do anticipate that the day will come when I need a wig to leave the house and I am going to go for a bright blue bob. But Minoxidil was definitely not the answer for me.

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing this! This post is proof enough you're punk AF but of course we will love you hair or not! <3

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    1. 💜💜💜 I just feel like this is a serious thing, and products like rogaine/minoxidil shouldn't be peddled or pushed...especially not by beauty bloggers. It's irresponsible at best.

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  5. wow, thank you for sharing something so personal. You've gone through so much, and you persevered. I had a hysterectomy last year at age 30 due to extreme excessive blood loss. Luckily, I was able to keep my ovaries. I applaud your bravery in this post and wholeheartedly agree with your statement, people should not be recommending products that potent without regard to their audience.

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    1. Women our age don't talk enough publicly about reproductive issues. Hysterectomies are so much more common than the average person thinks...and yet the stigma around them makes every one of us feel so intensely isolated. It is a shame.

      And yeah...I wouldn't take nail care advice from my doctor so why should *anyone* take medical advice from a damned beauty blogger?

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  6. I read this with SO MUCH interest Nichole so thank you so much for sharing. I think I've shared with you a bit of my own hair loss issues so I've always been interested in products like Rogaine without ever really going for it. Thank you for sharing your story, I think I'll stay away from it for now but I do so appreciate your candor.

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    1. I think if it works for a person, then great. But it isn't a cure-all and shouldn't be treated as such. For cases like yours, I don't think it would make a difference anyway.

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  7. If you go bald, we'll get you some rad wigs. Mkay? I'll still love your snarky ass just as much.

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  8. There is a generic store brand form of the foam. Walgreens has one and so does target. It's still pretty expensive though

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    1. yeah...I just don't know if it is worth the side effects anymore.

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