red light therapy hair loss

Laser Treatment for Hair Loss

Laser energy is now widely used in many hair loss treatment devices such as laserbands and lasercombs.

These days, increasing number of people are more receptive to using ‘laser energy treatment devices’ to combat hair loss. We are no exception.

Of course, we were apprehensive at first and went back and forth, contemplating on our first purchase of the hair loss treatment device. But we quickly realized that our apprehension was unfounded as the use of low level light therapy or LLLT (derived from lasers) in such treatment devices has been FDA-approved, although it is hard to say which brand gets the first approval for its device.

 

Low Level Laser Therapy in
Hair Loss and Regrowth

Low level laser therapy (LLLT) is synonymous with terms such as low level light therapy, red light therapy, cold laser, soft laser, photobiomodulation and biostimulation.

One of the main reasons why LLLT hair loss treatment devices are becoming more popular is that they are painless.

Besides being non-invasive, LLLT, administered at the right wavelength and power, does not cause undesirable side effects, unlike Minoxidil or Finasteride. For instance, Minoxidil, can cause scalp inflammation, itchiness, dandruff and increased heart rate. As Minoxidil is found to be most effective on users who have enough of the sulfotransferase enzymes, those who lack this enzyme, might not see any benefit in using it.

Finasteride, which comes in tablet form, is also known to cause side effects such as dizziness, insomnia and impotence.

 

How Does LLLT Work?

Before getting your hopes up too high about the effectiveness of LLLT on your hair loss woes, let’s be clear that LLLT does not work for all types of hair loss.

Generally, LLLT is most effective for androgenetic alopecia, one of the most common types of hair loss in both men and women. This is a condition where the person possesses genes that make them sensitive to the hormones Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which tend to build up in the inner roots of the hair follicles. Sensitivity towards the DHT hormones would lead to the hair follicles getting smaller and eventually dormant, causing hair growth to slow or stop completely.

To understand how LLLT can help or potentially reverse this situation, it is important to firstly understand the three phases of hair growth :

  • Anagen Phase – This is the hair growth stage
  • Catagen Phase – This is also known as the transitional phase where hair starts to shrink
  • Telogen Phase – This is the resting phase where hair stops growing

The use of LLLT can push the hair follicles to the anagen (growth) phase. Light energy from the LLLT is absorbed by the molecules of the hair follicles. This, in turn, stimulates the epidermal cell metabolic rate, subsequently increasing blood flow that helps to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the hair follicles. (As we age, it is a fact that blood circulation is not as ‘smooth’ as when we were younger, causing issues such as joint pain and yes, hair loss). The ultimate result is stimulated hair follicles that can lead to reduction in hair loss and increase in hair growth.

In this respect however, it must be noted that LLLT does not work to grow hair follicles which are already dead. For LLLT to work, hair follicles need to exist in the first place, even if they are small or weak. LLLT can help with dormant hair follicles, meaning that people with thinning hair can potentially see their hair growing back.

Just to reiterate, LLLT might not work on completely bald areas as this could mean that the follicles are already dead.

Most importantly, be realistic that the use of LLLT does not give overnight success, although consistency of application over a period of three months or more would generally yield desired results.

 

Red Light Therapy For
Hair Loss and Hair Growth

We often read about the virtues of red light therapy, not only in the treatment of hair loss but also in skin problems such as wrinkles, scars as well as in wound healing.

But what is red light therapy? How is it related to LLLT?

Well, firstly, red light therapy is LLLT. It accounts for a small part of the visible light in the electromagnetic spectrum, with wavelength ranging from 620 nm to 750 nm (nanometers) – diagram below :

 

red light therapy hair loss

Source – http://www.uh.edu

 

Red light can be sourced from lasers that gives out light in the red light spectrum (or NIR – near infrared) or through light emitting diodes (LEDs).

While both lasers and LEDs can produce red light therapy, the light generated from each differ in power, wavelength and characteristics.

Lasers produce monochromatic (single colour), coherent and collimated light, at specific wavelength. Light from lasers generally have higher power, are more focused and can reach deeper into the targeted surface (for instance, human skin).

LEDs, on the other hand, do not deliver a single wavelength light but typically produces light in small band of wavelength (approximately 20 nm wide). It is incoherent and non-collimated, which means that the light it produces spreads across a wider area. The power generated by LEDs are also lower in comparison to that emitted by lasers.

 

Are Lasers More Superior Than LEDs?

Since lasers have higher power than LEDs and said to penetrate deeper into the targeted surface, does that mean that they are more effective, particularly in their application in hair loss treatment devices?

Not necessarily.

Although lasers produce greater power and are coherent, these properties of light are not manifested when the beam interacts with a tissue on the molecular level.  What that means is … although theoretically, laser light can penetrate deeper into the skin, the reality is that the light dissipates as it reaches about 0.1mm of skin.

Additionally, our cells cannot tell the difference where the light is coming from – whether from lasers or LEDs. If the right wavelength of red light (with the right power) is delivered, it would suffice for the cells to be stimulated and hair follicles to be thrust to the anagen (growth) phase, leading to desired hair regrowth.

The use of lasers has received much more clout than LEDs although the effectiveness of LEDs in red light therapy is gaining much interest in the research field.

Researchers from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), tested the use of ultra-thin array of micro-light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on the back of shaved mice. The ‘device’ is tiny at only 20 µm (micrometre) thick and made up of 900 red micro LEDs on a chip slightly smaller than a postage stamp.

The results from this study was promising. Mice in the study which were treated with the micro LED patch for 15 minutes a day for 20 days displayed significantly faster hair growth than those given Minoxidil injections or untreated mice.

It is also interesting to note that the device in the Korean study uses almost 1,000 times less power per unit area than a conventional phototherapeutic laser.

 

Laser vs LEDs
(in Helmets, Laserbands and Lasercombs For Hair Loss)

Hair loss treatment devices that make use of solely laser technology seem to be more popular as compared to those combining lasers and LEDs or employing LEDs alone. This is despite the fact that lasers are more expensive than LEDs.

Our research on users’ reviews (of such treatment devices) reveals that the results stemming from devices that make use of lasers only (such as Hairmax or Capillus) as compared to those using combination of lasers and LEDs (as in iRestore) are quite similar, with users reporting success of reduction in hair loss and increase in hair growth after at least two months’ of use.

The success reports are from those with androgenetic alopecia.This corresponds with statements made by the companies that claim their devices can treat this condition.

Despite naysayers declaring the inferior outcome to be expected from LEDs, real users have proven that similar success in treating hair loss can be achieved with devices that make use of LEDs.

As lasers deliver higher power, laser-induced devices require lesser treatment times to use than LED devices. For instance, iRestore laser hair growth system requires 25 minutes of use per session, three times a week compared to Hairmax Laserband 82 which requires 90 seconds per session, thrice a week.

Although there are statements claiming the superiority of laser-based devices to treat hair loss, results have shown that equal benefits, if not more, can be gained from using devices combining both lasers and LEDs.

Ultimately, we are inclined to say that results would depend on the user’s diligence in using the devices as well as the stage at which he/she begins using that device.

 

References:
Economic Times
Redlightman.com

Alexfergus.com

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