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Level Laser Therapy & Hair Loss: My Experience
When I was diagnosed with male pattern hair loss, I immediately picked up some Rogaine and signed up for something called low-level laser therapy.
It was 2007, and at the time, many doctors were parading low-level laser therapy as a hair loss savior – a treatment that would not only stimulate hair regrowth, but also prevent future hair loss even after stopping the therapy. The cost for eight sessions? $2,000. Expensive, but given the hype, I had to try it.
After eight laser therapy sessions, what were my results?
I’ll save you the suspense: Rogaine + low-level laser therapy did not regrow my hair.
With that said, I can’t dismiss low-level laser therapy as an effective hair loss treatment. In fact, under the right circumstances, low-level laser therapy may be a very effective hair regrowth tool. This article uncovers why.
After reading, you will know:
- How the same treatment (laser therapy) can achieve hair removal AND hair regrowth
- FIVE ways low-level laser therapy encourages hair thickening and regrowth
- The best way to find a hair loss-laser therapy product or provider and not blow thousands of dollars
What Is Low-Level Laser Therapy?
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is “therapeutic” exposure to red or near-infrared radiation.
For hair loss sufferers, this involves placing the scalp under infrared-emitting laser diodes. A typical laser therapy session lasts from 20-60 minutes. You can complete them at a doctor’s office, with a take-home laser helmet, or even with a laser brush.
While the treatment looks ridiculous, it helps to think about laser therapy in this context:
Laser diodes for hair loss emit red light at wavelengths of 630-670 nanometers. The sun emits wavelengths from from 250 to 2,500 nanometers.
Low-level laser therapy is simply exposure to one part of the sun’s spectrum for a controlled period of time. And it turns out that some wavelengths show serious benefits to human physiology – from wound healing to inflammation resolution to even hair recovery.
Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) Benefits: Health & Hair
Scientists discovered laser technology in 1960. Soon after, researchers began testing its effects on health. What they found? While some wavelengths can blind you, other wavelengths can…
- Accelerate the regeneration of crushed nerves
- Help repair non-healing stomach ulcers
- Encourage faster wound healing
Then researchers discovered laser therapy’s effects on hair health. The results were promising and paradoxical…
On the one hand, laser therapy can permanently remove body hair. On the other, it can accelerate hair growth rates in mice and even increase hair follicle proliferation in humans. The question was… Why?
How can laser treatments both encourage faster hair growth or permanently remove hair? How can it accelerate wound healing or permanently blind us?
How Can Lasers Trigger Hair Growth And Hair Removal?
It all depends on a laser’s wavelength, pulse rate, session duration, and frequency of exposure.
For example: a laser operating at wavelengths of 630-670 nanometers can encourage hair follicle proliferation (hair regrowth). But at wavelengths of 690-1100 nanometers, a laser can overheat a hair shaft, damage soft tissues around a follicle, and destroy the hair. There’s a very fine balance between two opposing effects.
And while we know that low-level laser therapy (LLLT) helps stop or reverse hair loss or hair thinning, no one yet knows the optimal…
- …session duration (minutes of use)
- …number of sessions per week
- …infrared or near-red wavelength
- …number of laser diodes to use per brush or helmet
- …beam diameter
This is even well-acknowledged in the literature:
“Although LLLT is now used to treat a wide variety of ailments… a large number of parameters such as the wavelength, fluence, power density, pulse structure, and timing of the applied light must be chosen for each treatment. A less than optimal choice of parameters can result in reduced effectiveness of the treatment, or even a negative therapeutic outcome. As a result, many of the published results on LLLT include negative results simply because of an inappropriate choice of light source and dosage.”
This is why I don’t consider my results from low-level laser therapy (LLLT) to represent the treatment’s potential.
No, I didn’t regrow any hair while trying LLLT. No, my rate of hair thinning didn’t slow or stop. But remember: I tried LLLT in 2007 – ten years ago. Yes, I did it at a doctor’s office and under physician supervision. But maybe eight sessions wasn’t long enough. Maybe the specified wavelength wasn’t right. Maybe the diode diameter wasn’t wide enough. I’ll never know. But a lot can change in ten years – including LLLT’s best-practices for hair recovery…
Except here’s one thing that hasn’t:
We still don’t know exactly how low-level laser therapy regrows hair.
How Does Low Level Laser Treatment Encourage Hair Regrowth?
No one knows. But there are plenty of theories.
In fact, there are so many proposed mechanisms of how low-level laser therapy regrows hair that entire papers have been published just to summarize them. Here are five worth mentioning:
1. The laser’s heat activates heat shock proteins
Some of these heat shock proteins – specifically HSP27 – are utilized for cell proliferation and division. And in the scalp, increasing these proteins also increases follicular stem proliferation. In other words, it encourages hair regrowth.
2. The laser’s light increases tissue oxygenation
When the infrared light hits a tissue cell, that light separates nitric oxide from an enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase (CCO). When nitric oxide binds to the enzyme CCO, it displaces oxygen in the cell and decreases cellular respiration. LLLT dissociates nitric oxide from CCO and, in doing so, increases cellular respiration and tissue oxygenation.
Lower tissue oxygen levels are observed in balding regions of the scalp. Anything that improves scalp tissue oxygen levels should also encourage hair regrowth. (Note: for more information, read this).
3. The laser’s light increases blood flow
Where there’s low oxygen, there’s low blood flow. This is because blood carries oxygen to the cells – so it’s no surprise balding regions have lower amounts of both.
This is where infrared light comes up. Just as infrared light dissociates nitric oxide from skin tissue cells, it also separates nitric oxide in the cells that make up our blood vessels. Nitric oxide behaves differently depending on where it is in the body. In the blood, nitric oxide actually encourages vasodilation (widening of vessels), and so here, more nitric oxide increases blood flow. In the capillary networks, LLLT’s separation of nitric oxide is a good thing, but for completely different reasons.
4. The laser’s light generates acute tissue inflammation
Because LLLT increases cellular respiration and tissue oxygenation, it also increases the activity of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the scalp tissue. You might’ve heard of these reactive oxygen species (ROS) from anti-aging fanatics. Too many ROS can increase oxidative stress and thereby accelerate aging.
But in acute doses, ROS are actually necessary for cell proliferation, inflammatory responses, and even immune function. LLLT increases ROS to a therapeutic (read: not detrimental) level in scalp tissues. The ROS activate protective genes which encourage cell proliferation, along with specific growth factors associated with hair regrowth.
5. The laser’s light can inhibit 5-alpha reductase
5-alpha reductase is the enzyme that converts free testosterone into tissue DHT (dihydrotestosterone). The more 5-alpha reductase, the more DHT collects in our scalps.
On the plus-side, the evidence for DHT’s role in hair loss is strong: 1) DHT is elevated in balding scalp tissues, 2) men who are castrated before puberty (and can’t produce much DHT) never go bald, and 3) men who lack the 5-alpha reductase enzyme don’t lose their hair later in life. This is why drugs like Finasteride and Dutasteride were made. They’re 5-alpha reductase inhibitors. They reduce the amount of DHT that collects in balding scalp tissues.
With that said, DHT’s role in pattern hair loss is still debated! We aren’t yet sure if elevated scalp tissue DHT is the cause of male pattern hair loss… Or rather a symptom of chronic inflammation.
But reducing scalp tissue DHT may help slow hair loss, stop it, or even recover a bit of hair. So if LLLT inhibits 5-alpha reductase might just be one (of many ways low-level laser therapy that means that anything that inhibits 5-alpha reductase in the scalp might also help halt hair loss.
This all sounds good. LLLT might be a viable hair recovery treatment. But before you go out and drop thousands of dollars on laser therapy, here’s what you need to know.
What You Need To Know Before Trying Low-Level Laser Therapy For Hair Loss
Problem #1: LLLT Products Vary In Hair Regrowth Efficacy
There are three different kinds of laser therapy treatments:
- Laser Combs. Hair combs with laser diodes built between the bristles. Use: any time, any place.
- Personal Laser Helmets. Take-home laser diode helmets. Use: probably just your home.
- In-Office Laser Helmets. In-house laser diode helmets. Use: only at a doctor’s office.
While these all use the same technology, I have significant reservations about laser combs.
The biggest problem is that there’s no easy way to track how long each part of your scalp has been exposed to the laser diode. Why? Because you’re combing your hair and moving the diodes the entire time. There’s no way to know if each part of your scalp is getting enough exposure for a theraputic effect.
The laser combs are also uncomfortable to use. And I’m speaking from personal experience. I bought a $300 laser comb back in 2009 and never liked using it. I feared damaging my eyes each time a laser diode flashed into my retina. After a few months (and no results), I put the comb in my closet and forgot about it.
So if you’re going to try laser therapy, I recommend that you should opt for a helmet over a comb. Doing so might cost more, but it’ll help you track scalp coverage and avoid eye injuries.
Problem #2: There Are No Laser Therapy-Hair Regrowth “Best Practices”
Of all the doctors that offer in-house laser treatments, none of them seem to agree on which settings are best for hair recovery.
I’m talking about session duration, session frequency, laser diode size, and wavelength (among others). Many doctors have different setups, and very few doctors share which settings work for their patients, and which settings don’t.
This makes it hard to find the “best” in-house LLLT provider.
How To Find A Laser Treatment With A Record Of Hair Regrowth
You can’t just walk into any doctor’s office offering LLLT and expect hair regrowth. There’s just too much variation in settings and a lack of information-sharing across in-office laser therapy providers.
So, you need to do your homework. Here are two ways to find a hair loss laser treatment that actually works:
1. Find a study on LLLT that achieved significant hair regrowth on humans (not mice)…
…Then buy the exact same laser. Replicate that study’s methodology on yourself – the session duration, session frequency, wavelength, and everything in between. Don’t be afraid to email authors of hair loss-laser therapy studies. They take forever to get back to you, but they do reply.
There are also a few laser therapy providers who do this work for you – building custom laser helmets based on study findings.
2. Find someone who achieved significant hair regrowth while trying low-level laser therapy
These people exist in real life and on hair loss forums. Track them down, and then make sure they’re not connected to any LLLT affiliate programs. If they have before-after photos, that’s even better. Then find out their exact routine – session duration, session frequency, helmet used, doctor visited, etc. Match their exact methodology and routine.
If you deviate from either option, you could find yourself in scammy territory. Low-level laser therapy products are thousands of dollars. You don’t want to make a purchase mistake with that much money on-the-line.
Final Thoughts On Low-Level Laser Therapy And Hair Regrowth
The evidence is clear: low-level laser therapy (LLLT) shows promise in slowing, stopping, or even reversing hair loss. With that said, researchers still haven’t uncovered…
- LLLT’s exact mechanisms of action
- The best wavelength, diode width, session duration, or session frequency for hair regrowth
Low-level laser therapy is also expensive, and if you’re going to spend thousands of dollars, do your homework so you avoid scammy laser products. Either 1) replicate the methodology of human hair regrowth-LLLT studies, or 2) track down someone who’s seen success with LLLT, and then replicate their methodology.
In order to advance low-level laser therapy and its effectiveness for hair recovery, LLLT providers should start sharing their “best practices” with physicians. Doing so will get us closer to uncovering the mechanisms and optimum settings for hair recovery.
One last note: I have no recommendations for (nor am I affiliated with) any LLLT products.
Rob English is a researcher, medical editor, and the founder of perfecthairhealth.com. He acts as a peer reviewer for scholarly journals and has published five peer-reviewed papers on androgenic alopecia. He writes regularly about the science behind hair loss (and hair growth). Feel free to browse his long-form articles and publications throughout this site.
51 thoughts on “Low-Level Laser Therapy: Does It Help With Hair Loss?”
Great article Rob.
Interesting stuff , however ive also come across websites which sell the helment, and offer money back if the treatment does not work. I absolutly agree with result variations and lack of understanding of mechanisms at work. (Reading from user comments)
However why spend thousands on LLLT , when you can spend that amount on a possible transplant ? which is more likely to produce results. Maybe a thousand dollars more depending on who its with.
Could it be that LLLT breaks down scalp tissue calcification ? , does it attack Tissue DHT ?
What seems more and more apparant with all these treatments , Dermaroller, LLLT, massage . Is that they somehow have an effect on blood supply and scalp environment. Looking at the theories of LLLT, its seems much more apparant that MPB is a blood related , calcium and oxygen related symptom.
I recently read an article on Heart disease , and its connection with MPB. Linking it very strongly. (Japanese researchers )
Could it be that our genetics determine > veins/arteries and blood supply > calcium deposits , which can block arteries leading to heart issues. And storage of calcium deposits in the scalp ?
There was evidence in this particular article of hair regrowth, where people improved their heart health. Through diet , excersize and lifestlye.
Good questions. LLLT is generally less expensive than a hair transplant. The difference is that a hair transplant is really just hair rearrangement – taking hairs from the back of the head and moving them to thinning areas. There’s no regrowth involved in a hair transplant and the density changes are purely cosmetic. Whereas LLLT’s mechanisms actually encourage hair thickening and hair regrowth. So choosing which treatment is better depends on your goals – cosmetic hair rearrangement versus actual hair regrowth. Couple that with the variability of hair transplant success and LLLT success, and you have an even harder decision to make!
It’s possible that LLLT might help breakdown some fibrosis via its mechanisms that promote acute inflammation generation, increased tissue oxygenation, and improved blood flow. It’s impossible to say for sure since there aren’t any papers confirming it – but my guess is that it helps to a degree. Again, all likely depends on treatment settings (wavelength, pulse rate, etc.).
I agree – pattern hair loss is so closely connected to lower tissue oxygen levels, low blood flow, inflammatory markers, etc. Those therapies all tend to help resolve these underlying (and causative) issues.
It’s also completely possible that our genes or gene expression where we store soft tissue calcification. I talked about this a little in the comments section of this article. There’s still so much we don’t know!
i worry that possibly look at the laser lites at some point in time even it is for a second or two, when putting it on or off head by accident if it is stillest. can this harm vision ?
I would try to avoid looking at the laser lights directly! I also had this concern when doing in-clinic LLLT treatments, as it was impossible to not catch some of the light reflected off the magazines you were given to read during the 30-minute sessions.
I purchased and read through your e-book and videos today. The arguments you make on root causes, the references, and treatments are compelling. My thinning is entirely in the front hairline, only started in the last two years (I’m over 55), and it is fortunately noticeable only to me (for now). I plan to use your method throughout 2017 to see if this reverses the thinning and will write back as my treatment progresses.
In the meantime, on the subject of LLLT, I have used this over the last two years without success. After reading your ebook and watching the videos however, I was left wondering if I was using the laser comb correctly. I have concentrated the laser exclusively in the region of my hair thinning! By the same arguments for your DT treatment where the entire head is massaged (both in and outside of the hair thinning region)… I expect the laser treatment should also be applied to the entire head. Does this make sense to you? Do you think there would be an issue with using both LLLT and DT?
Finally, I am impressed with your analytical reasoning, problem solving acumen, and clear communication style. If not too personal, I would be interested in learning about your bio and educational background. Great job on the book and video!
Thank you for your support to keep the site running. I’m looking forward to your progress this year! To answer your questions…
1) It’s possible that LLLT is more effective if focused all over the scalp (both thinning and thick hair regions) versus thinning regions only. While the evidence isn’t yet there to say with 100% certainty, we know that 1) the healing of damaged tissues is influenced by the uninjured tissue which surrounds it; and 2) growth factors and wounding-healing proteins can migrate across damage sites. Both of these points are in favor of your theory.
On a related note – many readers also use a dermaroller as part of their mechanical stimulation routines. The dermaroller users who are reporting the most success are the ones rolling their entire scalps (and not just thinning regions).
I wish I could comment more about the mechanisms as to why. As new studies emerge, I’ll keep you updated. There’s still so much we don’t know.
2) Based on the data, I think it’s fine to do LLLT with the massages. There are a few readers doing this currently, and none have reported recession / thinning which leads me to believe that LLLT’s most powerful regrowth mechanism probably has less to do with inflammation generation, and more to do with something else.
3) I’ll email you more personal details of my bio. I don’t write much about it on this site, since I work a full-time job and try to keep the hair stuff and my real job separate.
Please keep me posted with your progress! And if you have any more questions – I’m happy to help.
I bought a 128 diode laser helmet on ebay a while back for around $150. I’ve been using it about 6 mo. The vertex is a bit less fibrous now and the fibrous area that was on the back of the scalp has diminished. The top of the scalp is still fibrous but it seems like the fibrous area is receding. Jack you said yourself you are using a laser comb, of coarse is isn’t going to work. Like what Rob said what you want to do is try to regenerate the scalp. The problem isn’t the balding area, its that there is no bloodflow to that area and the layer of fat has become a thin hardened layer of skin. If you step on a hose no water comes out the end but the problem isn’t the end its back where you stepped on it. The problem could actually be the back of the scalp tightening up and restriction blood flow we don’t know. You should go up to as many diodes as you can afford and only then can you get the expect result which is about 50% chance of success. verdict: inexpensive way to maintain hair not realistic to regrow
Thank you for your response.
Regarding the subject of cellular inflammation, I have long followed the work of Dr. Barry Sears (Enter The Zone and The Inflammation Zone).. along with following the Zone diet (albeit, not perfectly). Cellular inflammation has been found to be the silent culprit behind a surprising number of diseases… including a malfunctioning thyroid. Therefore, it came as no surprise to me when you made the connection in your book to hair loss. Dr. Sears developed a blood test to measure one’s state of cellular inflammation. It’s called the AA/EPA ratio http://www.zonediet.com/shop/omega-3-fish-oil/cellular-inflammation/. His prescription to reducing this ratio to normal (disease free) levels is to follow a Zone like diet (close to what you disclosed in your book) along with a daily large dose of high quality (low contaminant) Omega 3 fish oil. My inflammation ratio is in a very good range.. about 3. Hence I don’t believe my diet requires further modification in addressing my frontal hair thinning problem.
If you are familiar with his work, I’d be interested in your thoughts on the AA/EPA ratio as a means to determine one’s degree of cellular inflammation.. and if this would be a good way for someone to decide whether or not they need to modify their diet as part of their hair repair/regrowth program. If you are not familiar with it, I think you would find it well researched and compelling.
Thanks again for all you do.
Thanks for sending this over. The concept between balancing your AA:EPA ratio is very similar to the balancing of an omega 6:3 ratio mentioned in the book (since arachidonic acid is from omega 6 and eicosapentaenoic acid is from omega 3). But Dr. Sears and I differ on opinions about supplementation. I think that eating a diet naturally low in omega 6 (via avoidance of vegetable oils, most nuts/seeds, and processed foods) and naturally high in omega 3 (via fish) is a more effective way to minimize cellular inflammation than by boosting the ratio with omega 3 supplementation.
The evidence on omega 3 supplementation is hotly debated – with some studies suggesting that omega 3 reduces inflammation, and others suggesting that it in fact contributes to heart disease. I think the dividing point is in oxidation. EPA is highly susceptible to oxidation via heat and oxygen, and most leading fish oil supplements are (unfortunately) oxidized. The pathways and benefits of omega 3 differ greatly when we control for oxidation.
Chris Kresser wrote a great summary article on the latest research. If you have a few minutes, it’s worth checking out:
All my best,
Haven’t read the entire article so sorry if you happened to mention it, but all LLLT studies I’ve read to date were funded by the companies that sell these products. Hence one should take their results with a grain of salt..
It’s a great point Hercules! And while it’s briefly covered in the article, it’s worth reinforcing in the comments: we absolutely need to weight any study’s findings with the potential bias of its authors. If those authors aren’t independent but rather hired directly by low level laser manufacturers, then there’s a higher potential for bias.
What do you think about the use of high frequency for treating hairloss. I assume it would help with the fibrosis
Hey David — I apologize for missing your comment earlier. Are you referring to high frequency pulsing therapies (beyond light therapies), or specifically, low-level laser therapies using pulsing lights?
In either case, it really depends on the wavelength, pulse frequency, duration, and exposure time. In light therapies, there is a very fine line between hair follicle destruction and hair growth encouragement — and so I’d exercise caution before moving forward with anything outside of a doctor’s supervision.
Is this treatment effective for female pattern baldness?
Hey MKH — it’s one of the few FDA-approved treatments for female pattern hair loss, but LLLT’s efficacy is generally limited to halting hair loss with some slight increases in hair count (depending on the individual, and the treatment regimen).
Hi Rob, I am confused and want to clarify. LLLT does not help regrow hair? I thought I saw you mention that it does under the right conditions.
Great article and rationale behind. I’m about to buy a LLLT helmet after all my reading and homework and I still have one question. They all offer the same wavelength and power but different set up of diodes (80, 128, 200, 272). I’d like to know which one would you recommend? The higher number the better?
Thanks for the kind words. It’s hard to say which number of diodes are best, but in general, I’d assume the more diodes, the better due to better coverage potential for the scalp. John Christian — who regularly designs custom LLLT helmets for people — might be a good resource for you — and he could better answer this question. You can email him at omg@ [at] overmachogrande.com.
Thank you very much!
So I browsed the Over Macho Grande website and it was not very professional or well designed compared to other LLLT helmet companies. It was also very wordy and confusing. Have you known anyone to purchase a helmet from him? Did they have a good experience? Were they satisfied and are they seeing results? Thanks!
Thanks for following up and letting me know. I’ve heard good reviews from readers who’ve worked with the Over Macho Grande website. At the same time, there are a lot of effective LLLT treatments / helmets nowadays. So above all else, I’d recommend making an investment in something in which you trust and feel confident. If that means trying an LLLT device that has been clinically studied — like the iRestore — then that’s okay too. In any case, please keep in touch about your results. I’d love to hear your experience, whichever you decide.
Hi Rob, great post!
On the topic of replicating the methodology of a study…
I was looking at this study for Tophat 655 (aka iGrow Laser), which yields impressive results. However, there’s this: “A transition zone scalp site was selected; hairs were trimmed to 3 mm height”. (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24078483)
In other words, the hair is shaved so that the laser/LED light actually hits the scalp. My hair is thinning but I’m far from bald, so I’m concerned that my scalp won’t get anywhere near the amount of light/radiation as in the study.
Thanks for reading! And great question.
Theoretically, low-level laser therapy wavelengths should be able to penetrate through hair and reach the scalp. For instance, at just slightly higher wavelengths, we’ve seen lasers penetrate through several layers of skin to remove the hair follicles of ingrown hairs. There are even some clinics in the Netherlands that use lasers as an alternative, less invasive, and potentially more effective treatment for pilonidal cysts — which are caused from several backwards-growing hairs forming near the base of the tailbone.
So if the logic holds for slightly lower wavelengths, your hair length shouldn’t interfere with LLLT’s effectiveness. With that said, it probably wouldn’t hurt to shave your head during treatment (just to be extra sure).
All my best,
Hello Rob, With an office LLL hood at 650 nm, 4.9 mwatt, and 160 diode exposing the scalp for 45 minute session twice a week, could this potentially damage the hair follicles permanently? I am female, did these treatments for six months and lost a lot of hair during treatments and afterward….I’ve lost about two/thirds of my hair; (before tx I just had thinning in the temporal regions). That was three years ago. The loss has somewhat stabilized, but has not grown back. Any thoughts or suggestions? Also, all blood work and hormone levels normal. I do take Finasteride, not sure if I really need to. Thank you!
It’s hard for me to say without a little more information. Was this treatment under the supervision of a doctor? If so, the guidelines for duration / frequency / wavelength are often set by the laser device’s medical manufacturer, who tested different variations within a study.
However, it’s also possible that your doctor might’ve adapted his or her own recommendations into your treatment. In this case, sometimes there’s potential for harm — though in general, I don’t think your thinning is likely from the LLLT.
Have you looked into testing for any of the following?
Typically, I’ve found these are almost always compounded with female pattern hair loss — and may explain part of what’s going on.
Hi Rob, Thank you for your response. I have been tested for thyroid, etc. what is SIBO? I’ve had several rounds of blood work over past couple years, and would like to check for this specific condition. Thanks again, Nancy
SIBO is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth — and it’s a condition that is often compounded with PCOS, thyroid issues, and nutrient deficiencies for women (and some men). Most doctors don’t know anything about it. I wrote an article about SIBO here that can give you more details:
8 sessions ? And somehow your a expert? It took me a year to actually see it does work. I have pictures. Put it this way if your programmed to be a Norwood 6or 7 than nothing probably will help you.
I don’t claim to be an expert — I’m just sharing my experience alongside an overview of the science backing LLLT and its purported mechanisms for hair regrowth. I even state within the article that eight sessions was likely not enough time to see any success (though at that time, according to the device’s manufacturer, the treatment recommendations started at eight sessions — which was considered the minimum threshold for results).
RE: Norwood 6 or 7–
It’s certainly significantly harder to see regrowth at later stages, but we need to remind ourselves of that infamous case study — the 78-year old man who was bald for 30 years, hit his head on a fire place, and over the next six months, accidentally regrew his entire juvenile hairline. It’s all a matter of discovering the mechanisms that allowed this type of regrowth to happen, and then devising treatments to target those mechanisms. We’re not there yet, but we’re closing in.
Can you share more of your experience as far as details go? How many diodes? what kind of device? level of hairloss? age? Etc.
I’ve seen some Paleo and Keto bloggers raving about two products using infra red light therapy, specifically Sauna Space and Joovv. Improved hair and skin are just some of the health claims. Have you heard anything about these products?
What’s interesting about infra red light therapies — sauna or otherwise — is that the wavelength of infrared light used is pretty narrow, but that these wavelengths are also part of the natural spectrum of sunlight. So if you’re getting sunlight every day — especially in the summer time — I don’t see the benefits of investing in infrared therapy. After all, the benefits of natural sunlight extend beyond just infrared light exposure and to vitamin D production, which can benefit hair for those who are deficient. Here’s an article and a case study:
In any case, I don’t think it’ll hurt to try infrared light therapies. There’s certainly potential for hair benefits through infrared’s effects on heat shock proteins. And while — at a theoretical level — I’m not convinced that infrared is any better than sunlight, I’m just one person! If you do try it, please let us know about your results — skin, hair, and otherwise.
I’ve received consultation from a clinic that does LLLT but also sells Anagen Therapy shampoo, conditioner, treatmemt spray, supplement pill, and oral pill (same drug as Rogaine). These expensive compliments “optimize the positive impact of LLLT.”
Needless to say, it sounded pretty buzz word marketing heavy, and I can buy many of the exact same products on Amazon for much cheaper. Any advice about these add ons for someone looking for modest regrowth / stopping further hairloss? I suspect that these products may make hair look for more full temporarily, but fail to last once one stops taking them.
Also, great summary and pooling together of the relevant facts. I really appreciate this after digging through several pages of Google results praising LLLT but not mentioning the unknown aspects.
It’s a great question. Firstly, it’s true that most treatments are synergistic with LLLT, so if you decide to start using the Anagen shampoos, conditioners, sprays, topicals, and supplements — it’s likely your results will be better than with just LLLT alone.
Secondly, most of those products are likely way overpriced. With that said, it’s not always the best idea to jump straight to Amazon for a product. When it comes to supplement quality, sourcing matters. For instance — some vitamin D “supplements” are just one unit of synthetic vitamin D mixed in a carrier oil. Another example is saw palmetto — where depending on the sourcing and purity, each serving might net you just a fraction of the amount actually listed.
That’s not to say Anagen has better sources, either. The reality is that most companies don’t disclose their sources, so unless we third-party test, we really don’t know what we’re buying. The FDA is in the process of trying to navigate quality control in the supplement sphere, and it’s just a very hard thing to do.
One brand I do trust is Thorne. But they might not have all of the ingredients you’re looking for. But if you’re going to go with minoxidil — it’s likely that standard Rogaine will do just as good of a job as the Anagen product.
It’s also worth mentioning that all of these products will likely only work so long as you take them (just like finasteride) — meaning if you decide to transition off of them, you might end up back where you started.
You talk about wavelengths of light between 690 and 1100nm actually being damaging to the scalp – I’m just wondering the source of your information on this so I can research it further. How do we know it’s damaging? As a corollary, I purchased a red light/infrared light combo bulb from http://www.redlightman.com that covers 620 / 670 / 760 / 830nm using 12 diodes on the surface of one bulb. I’ve used it a few times for 20 minutes on the front of my hairline but am now worried – is this kind of red/infrared light damaging to the scalp in your opinion or is it helpful and can be used on a thinning hairline? Should I buy a bulb that is only 650-670nm?
Very grateful for any ideas you have on this!
Thanks for reaching out. Here’s one source (of a few):
With that said, we can’t just look at the wavelength and assume that all LLLT devices using that wavelength will damage our hair. As the article mentions, there are a lot of other factors (like pulse rate, duration, diode size, etc.) that may be just as important for LLLT.
In general, I would avoid repurposing any red light device to the hair that isn’t specifically designed for improving hair loss outcomes. LLLT manufacturers (at least the good ones) are very careful about putting out a product that, when used the way the manufacturer recommends, at a minimum shouldn’t hurt your hair. So I’d maybe consider looking into a device specifically for hair loss.
Hi Rob and thanks for the great article!
I have a question for you. I see that in your article you talk about wavelength in nm. I was wondering why the power of each laser diode often lacks in product reviews. For instance HairMax has about 3,5 mw per diode whereas Theradome has 5 mw. Is it because that does not make any difference or does it make any difference? What is more important, the wavelength or diode power? I ask because I am comparing two laser helmets now, the first has 660 nm and 10 mw per diode, and the second one is 678 nm and 5 mw per diode and I cannot find proper information about the impact of waves and diode power in the treatment. Fingers crossed you can help me and my hair on this one!
Thank you so much for the help in advance,
This is a great question, and it highlights the high variability in the quality and efficacy of LLLT devices targeting hair loss. Unfortunately, the only way to get a clear answer is to email both manufacturers and ask for the rationale behind their LLLT settings. The best device settings should be based on clinical studies (read: human studies) on hair regrowth, with the laser settings matching up with whatever was tested during those studies. If a manufacturer can’t provide that information to you, chances are they’re not basing their LLLT settings off anything substantive — which is a bad sign.
My feeling is that both manufacturers will be able to point you in the direction of studies supporting their low-level laser settings. So keep us all posted! And thanks for reaching out.
I have ordered 200 5 mW 650 nm laser diodes and plan to design my own laser helmet. It’s not rocket science to put one together. I believe that I can deliver the same energy to my scalp as with the expensive helmets. Physics is physics. From what I’ve seen it appears many of the laser helmets available for purchase flash their laser diodes. I intend to have constant on diodes with perhaps 20 minute sessions every other day. Do you know if the flashing is beneficial in some way?
It’s a great question! And I’m not sure. There are virtually no studies comparing wavelengths and pulsation rates to androgenic alopecia outcomes in LLLT — mainly because each study is just focused on determining the efficacy of a manufacturer’s own helmet design.
From the studies I’ve read, pulsing light seems to be standard in the helmet design. Have you found any studies with constant light?
I responded to one of your comments above but wanted to share my story as well. I am a female in my late 20s and losing hair. My hair loss shows in the front. It is causing me much angst and depression. I have gone to holistic and nonholistic doctors. they did a blood test and all my results came out to be normal. The doctors say it is heredity. I have tried natural remedies like onion and primrose but still no results. Change my shampoo. Nope.
Looking into Laser Light Therapy. Great article by the way. And thank you for responding to all the comments because I have read them too. I am worried that I won’t get the results I want with the cost of it. Do you have any doctors you recommend? Anywhere in the world really at this point.
What are your thoughts on NeoGraft Fue?
What about Red/Green Laser Therapy? (There was a question about infrared. Don’t know if that is the same)
In general, LLLT helps improve hair loss outcomes for both men and women with pattern hair loss. However, I’d encourage you to do some more testing to see if you have any conditions that are often concomitantly present alongside pattern hair loss for females your age. I’d suggest testing for…
-Nutrient deficiencies / surpluses (specifically, vitamin A, D, B-12, zinc, copper, and iron)
Typically, testing for (and resolving) any of the above often helps arrest — and in some cases, reverse — female pattern hair loss.
I don’t have any opinions on FUE surgeons / procedures, or red/green laser therapy. Sometimes, getting in the sun is just as helpful!
Excellent article, thank you for all the information.
Quick question, I have a hair loss patch on my mustache, it’s been several months and it seems like hair just stopped growing there. I was wondering if light therapy or something like pulsed infrared diode can be effective in my case? A lot of the articles I come across are talking about scalp alopecia areata and not facial hair.
Thanks for reaching out. It’s hard to say what’s going on! It’s possible that the loss is more closely linked to autoimmune-related hair loss (i.e., alopecia areata or alopecia universalis). It’s unclear just how effective LLLT is in these situations. Have you been through any stressful periods recently? Any illnesses or antibiotic treatments? These typically precede patchy-related hair loss scenarios.
Don’t know where you live but if it’s in the Tampa Bay Area in Florida, there is a clinical trial going on for laser treatment.John Satino 800-883-4247. I just joined it. It’s 3 months and they give you the cap and products free. If you like the cap you can keep it at the end for much cheaper than any I saw on line.
Hi rob, I am really interested in buying your book BUT I am not able to make the purchase via the gumroad payment portal. How can I get the ebook package?
830 nm is more effective than the standard 660 nm
You HAVE TO watch your treatment times also. You can overdo very easy. Good thread here:
I can remember in the laser salon days when packages where so expensive that no one went that often which turned out to be to their advantage and were getting excellent results.
When the laser helmets(660 nm) came about and people use them 20 minutes-3x per week and results are basically non-existent.
I would suggest 1 treatment with the 830 maybe once a week or even once every two weeks.
Great advice, Mike. Thank you!
I commented earlier today on the wrong post (grey hairs), you can delete my previous comment (full of typos, written from my phone) !
First, I have to tell how grateful I am, and how much you deserve to be recognized as a hero in the world of hair loss.
I want to share my experience, then I’ll have a totally unrelated question.
So my experience: I started massages about 8 month ago. I’m 33, I’m seeing terminal hairs on areas of my scalp that were bald since I was 18. So much so than I’m quite convinced I’m on my way to recover the full head of hair from my childhood. 100% of my hair. I talked about that to my dermatologist and he insisted on the fact this was totally impossible under current assumptions about hairloss. He also told me that scalp tension was pretty much middle age science and was debunked decades ago. (Interestingly, yet totally unrelated, a French researcher: “Laurent Schwartz”, is in pretty much the same position on cancer. He cures people, with actual, publications, yet his approach relies on assumptions that are considered outdated. I guess that’s a pattern, interesting from an epistemological standpoint).
(I have ADHD, I get sidetracked easily).
So, to come back to my experience, until two months ago, my regimen was: massages, caffeine shampoo, castor oil.
I then introduced two things, in order: brushing (very hard, for 10 minutes every other days with a plastic brush), then two weeks later
LLLT (I bought a OMG helmet, which I completed with more diodes (340 total)).
The first one seemed very quickly to be a game changer. Dermatitis (that improved a lot with massages) simply disappeared with brushing.
LLLT right after brushing made my scalp (at least it seems so, I’m self reporting without control group) as loose as my facial skin. And new hairs are showing up at a crazy rate.
Now for my (totally unrelated) question: it appears that scalp tension theory is valid. Even if science needs several studies and meta-analysis to consider something true, at least it’s acquired among folks that tried your method.
Yet there is a bit I find perplexing: temple peaks: it’s subject to androgenic alopecia though it’s on loose skin. I’m curious if you had an explanation about that.
Hi*, ADHD, sorry 🙂
Some useful infos about LLLT, maybe it will be useful to some readers:
You can do it wrong ! Underexposure is pretty much guaranteed with comb (unless you spend half your time awake using it) it’s an overpriced scam (not sure if “scam with a fair price” is a thing).
But, also very important to know: Overexposure can be worse than not doing anything (According to OMG).
Still according to him, reports from numerous of his customers seems to point towards 5 days a week being optimal, with at least 24h between two sessions (each 20 minutes).
That said, (that would need to be checked) I’m pretty sure there is about 0 clinical data to back this claim. You’d be on the safe keeping 48h between each session.