Laser caps, combs, helmets, and bands; all kinds of products are flooding the hair loss market. They are almost reminiscent of the time of the industrial revolution when thermocaps and glass combs were marketed for treating hair loss. However, we have come a long way since. If you don’t provide some scientific evidence to support your claims, you will have trouble convincing people. Laser hair growth treatments have stirred up a commotion.
Companies selling these products claim that it is a safe, non-invasive procedure that can improve blood circulation in the scalp. This, in turn, promotes hair growth. There’s some research on the effectiveness of laser hair growth or low level laser therapy (LLLT). However, there’s not enough evidence to give a clear verdict. In this article, we’ll explore how laser therapy for hair loss actually works.
How Laser Therapy for Hair Loss Works?
Many pieces of research show that laser beams can stimulate the cell proliferation of lymphocytes and fibroblasts. The cell repairing and regenerating function of laser has made it popular in treating wounds in different areas of the body. A study published in the Photodermatology, Photoimmunology and Photomedicine journal in 2017 showed that near-infrared and red light therapy promotes wound healing, reduces pain and inflammation, and even restores functioning.
Apparently, the laser hair growth devices use “photochemical hair growth stimulation.” According to DermNet NZ, photons (small packets of light of a specific wavelength) are absorbed by an enzyme in the cells. This results in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (cell’s source of energy) in hair follicles.
This process also results in the release of gas from the cell, which helps with vascularization. This helps improve the metabolic rate and stimulates hair follicles to grow. Moreover, it helps with thinning hair by providing nutrients and oxygen to it. Many claim that lasers repair the damaged hair follicles (hair thinning) in the scalp and allow hair regrowth to take place. And it, allegedly, increases the supply of nutrients and oxygen to hair cells.
Keep in mind all these explanations of how laser therapy works in promoting hair growth are merely theoretical. We can’t say for sure if this is how laser hair growth takes place.
How Effective is Laser Therapy for Hair Loss?
One of the first studies that inadvertently discovered the hair-growing effect of laser took place back in the 1960s. The researchers were trying to find out if the laser beam caused cancer in mice. They had to shave the mice for this purpose. It did not cause cancer. Instead, it promoted hair growth in them.
Since then, researchers have developed this technology for hair growth. HairMax, a laser comb, received FDA’s approval for treating hair loss at home. The reason why it’s a comb is that it ensures more effective delivery of the laser to the scalp without the photons getting absorbed in the hair strands.
On the safety and efficacy of HairMax, a double-blind, sham-device controlled study was published in the Clinical Drug Investigation in 2009. All 110 participants had male androgenetic alopecia. All the participants who received LLLT showed an improvement in hair density and exhibited better hair growth. According to this study, the laser makes the hair follicles in the telogen phase enter the anagen phase, thus, effectively delaying their fall. However, it is mere speculation.
Are these Studies Trustworthy?
There are more random, sham-device controlled studies featuring Oaze, Capillus, iRestore, TopHat655, and Igrow laser devices, among others. Most of the studies report that laser hair therapy is safe and effective and can promote hair growth. However, the problem is that some studies may have research bias because of the direct association with the industry.
On low level laser therapy, the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) says that there’s “a lack of good support from large, well-designed double-blind studies.” Therefore, it takes no official stand on the effectiveness of this treatment to stimulate hair growth.
Moreover, some employ bogus sham devices to make results from laser hair growth even more statistically significant. In some cases, the sample and methodology are also somewhat deceptive. For instance, a study backing Capillus was done only on women suffering from female pattern baldness.
However, it was generalized so the product could also target male pattern baldness. This is why results from such studies have to be taken with a grain of salt. That is not to say all the studies aren’t legitimate. However, some of them clearly are.
Another problem with these studies is that the sample sizes are small. Moreover, many studies make use of animal models rather than humans to determine the hair growth effect of lasers. Still, some of the research about lasers that is unbiased shows promising results from this treatment.
What Are the Side Effects of Laser Hair Loss Treatments?
Not surprisingly, most of the research on laser hair growth reported that the participants did not experience any side effects. Of the reported, these are the following:
- Tenderness/Warm feeling
- Temporary hair loss
- Itchiness (pruritus)
- Dry skin
- Skin rash (erythema)
How Many Times Do You Need To Undergo Laser Treatment?
That depends on the device that you’re using. According to DermNet NZ, usually, you have to use the laser hair devices 2-3 times a week for 8-15 minutes. In terms of results, they depend on how frequently you use the product and which one you’re using.
If you buy a premium product that has more diodes and provides greater coverage, you might be promised “quicker” results. It usually takes 3-5 months for laser hair growth treatments to show results.
We can’t say for sure if users will have to keep using the laser product to maintain the results or if the hair loss will resume once they stop using it. One thing’s for sure, though, that you have to have multiple sessions of it to see any results, if at all.
Does Laser Hair Growth Treatment Work for Everyone?
According to the ISHRS, no. If the person’s hair follicles don’t absorb the photons or react to them in the desired manner, nothing will happen. They also state that this treatment is more effective when used with other hair loss treatments (minoxidil/finasteride).
Moreover, although the researches mentioned above states that it works well to replenish hair follicles or treat female/male pattern hair loss, chances are it won’t help much if the hair loss is extensive. One look at the Amazon reviews for these products, and you’ll find more than just a few disgruntled buyers. People who have experienced using it have a completely different story to tell.
Are Laser Hair Loss Devices Worth It?
Many companies claim that they have a “scientifically proven treatment” for male and female pattern loss. They will have new hair growth due to improved blood flow in the scalp. However, the truth is that the evidence isn’t enough. These devices can cost you a lot and you’ll be spending money buying something you’re not even sure will work or not.
The biggest selling point of these devices is that “what’s the harm in trying?” This is especially so when its touted benefits are that it’s painless, has no side effects, requires only a few minutes and can grow hair along your receding hairline and rest of the scalp.
Alternative Treatments to Laser Hair Growth
Before trying any treatment for your hair loss, you should get a diagnosis to determine the root cause. If laser hair growth treatment isn’t working for you, you can consider getting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections that also work by repairing cells and have a regenerative capacity. It can also improve blood circulation to the scalp. Many independent researches show promising results from the treatment.
If you’re suffering from androgenetic alopecia, hair transplant surgery can give you permanent results. Moreover, you don’t have to keep getting hair transplants in Turkey to maintain the results. Mostly, people need only one procedure to achieve the desired outcome. Taking time out every day, even for a few minutes, to use a laser hair growth device is inconvenient for many people.
Concluding the Discussion
A few studies have shown the effectiveness of low level laser therapy for hair growth. However, most of the studies have limitations because of their bias, methodology, and sample size. People who have used the device don’t report any significant hair growth either. You can try using the devices.
However, some of these are prohibitively expensive, costing hundreds to thousands of pounds. That coupled with the idea that the device might not actually deliver any results is, currently, a huge downside for many people. Low level laser therapy for hair growth is gaining popularity for treating hair loss. But more research is needed before we can make any definitive conclusions about its efficacy.