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The Comprehensive Guide to Low-Level Laser Therapy


In the evolving arena of hair loss treatments, an innovative, drug-free solution is gaining attention: Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). Gone are the days when laser technology was solely associated with intricate medical procedures or futuristic movies. This ground-breaking presents the potential for a non-invasive, pain-free, and effective approach to restoring hair growth.


By harnessing the power of low-level lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), LLLT can stimulate the scalp and boost the health of your hair follicles. In this complete guide, we shed light on Low-Level Laser Therapy, explaining the science behind it, explaining the differences between laser diodes and LED combinations, and providing practical advice on how to utilize these devices.


For those navigating the often-confusing journey of hair loss treatments, this guide aims to illuminate a new path. Whether you’re a hair loss veteran or newly stepping into the world of hair growth remedies, read on to discover if LLLT could guide you toward improved hair health.

What is Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)?

Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is quite literally, space-age technology. LLLT was discovered in the 1960s and was first used by NASA to accelerate wound healing in space1. It has since been used to reduce pain, inflammation and to treat skin conditions. Laser therapy was approved by the FDA to treat hair loss due to male androgenetic alopecia (AGA) in 2007 and female AGA in 2011.2, 3


LLLT, also known as cold laser therapy, works using low-level red or near-infrared light. The “low level” refers to the laser’s energy output of 600-1400nm, which is not enough to produce heat, thus providing a non-thermal, non-invasive, and painless treatment for hair loss.4


It’s worth noting that LLLT is not a quick-fix solution. Instead, it is a treatment that requires consistency and patience. Positive results are usually observed after several weeks or months of regular use. LLLT is generally safe with minimal side effects, making it an attractive option for individuals looking for a non-invasive and low-risk solution to hair loss.

How does Low-Level Laser Therapy work for hair loss?

The complete science behind how LLLT promotes hair growth is still being explored but experts have a few theories. The basic underlying principle of LLLT is that infrared light, when absorbed by the cells, can stimulate cellular activity. It’s thought LLLT promotes blood flow to the hair follicles, boosts metabolism, and stimulates the hair growth cycle. This is done by the laser targeting the weakened hair follicles with specific wavelengths of light, believed to charge the cells in a way that enhances their function and promotes hair growth.2


For a more in-depth explanation of how scientists think this treatment works, read on.


Inside the cells of our body, we have mitochondria which are responsible for producing energy for them to function. It is thought that LLLT might work by stimulating mitochondria to produce more energy. In our hair follicles, this energy boost could help cells in our follicles work better which in turn promotes hair growth.


Another part of this process involves nitric oxide (NO). It is understood that NO can slow down the energy production in mitochondria. It’s hypothesized that LLLT leads to the removal of nitric oxide from mitochondria, allowing them to produce more energy again, aiding in improving hair follicle function.


It’s known that NO can widen (or dilate) blood vessels, increasing blood flow. So, when LLLT removes nitric oxide from the mitochondria and cells, it’s released into the body which could lead to improved blood flow. Improved blood flow means more nutrients and oxygen reach them, which could support healthier hair growth.2


The Science Behind Low-Level Laser Therapy for Hair Loss

The rise in the popularity of Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) isn’t just due to anecdotal evidence or marketing. It’s supported by clinical research that suggests it can be a viable option for hair loss treatment. Studies support the safety and effectiveness of Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) in treating Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA). Most of these studies have demonstrated improvements in hair regrowth, as indicated by an increase in hair count, enhanced hair density and strength, and prevention of further hair loss among the study participants. In this section, we’ll explore some of the notable studies.


In a 2007 study, 24 men with AGA used a special light device for 10 minutes every day. They applied it to specific parts of the scalp where hair loss was most apparent. After 14 weeks, these men had more hair on both the top and back of their heads. Researchers noted more hairs in the growth phase compared to the resting phase. Most importantly, 83% of the men were happy with their results from the light treatment.5


A 2003 study of a device called the HairMax LaserComb found it led to more and stronger hair. 28 men and 7 women with pattern hair loss were given a specific laser comb to use for 5-10 minutes every other day over a period of 6 months. The results showed that hair got stronger in the top area of the head for men and the side area for women. Both groups noticed a significant increase in hair count. Women saw an increase of 55% in the side area and 65% on top. Men saw an even bigger jump with 74% more hair on the sides and 120% more on top.6


A later, larger study of the HairMax comb found similarly positive results. In this case-control study of 110 men with AGA, participants were assigned a laser device or a fake device. They used the device for 15 minutes, three times a week, over six months. Compared to the group using a fake device, the group using the real laser comb showed a significantly greater increase in the number of thick hairs. The laser comb group also reported subjective feelings of increased hair growth, slowing of hair loss, thicker hair, healthier scalp, and shinier hair.7


Other studies have looked at using a combination of Laser and LED light in devices. In a study of 44 men with AGA, participants were given a helmet device that emitted low-level laser and LED light. After using the device every other day for 16 weeks, researchers noted significantly improved hair count with an average increase of 35% versus the placebo device group.8


All these studies used devices with an output of approximately 650nm. Previous research has indicated that this is the optimum range for stimulating hair growth.9 The most effective results were seen for men with mild to moderate hair loss (classified as Hamilton-Norwood stages III and IV) and women with light to moderate thinning (classified as Ludwig stages I and II).  This is thought to be because LLLT needs some existing hair for it to stimulate to work effectively. On the other hand, too much hair can block the laser light from reaching the scalp which reduces the effectiveness.10

Low-Level Laser Light therapy vs minoxidil

Some researchers have drawn parallels between LLLT and minoxidil, a commonly used hair growth product, work. Though it’s not fully understood how minoxidil boosts hair growth, it is thought that it relates to nitric oxide (NO). Just like the lasers in LLLT, this might be one of the ways minoxidil helps to stimulate hair growth. So how does LLLT compare to minoxidil?


In a study of 45 female patients with AGA, published in 2017, researchers investigated the effectiveness and safety of low-level light therapy (LLLT) compared to topical minoxidil 5%, and a combination of both. In a direct comparison of LLLT and topical minoxidil, clinical and microscopic findings were comparable.11

Low-Level Laser Light therapy vs other hair loss treatments

In 2018, a comprehensive review of various studies was conducted to compare the effectiveness of different treatments for hair loss, including finasteride, minoxidil (2% and 5%), LLLT, and platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP). The review concluded that LLLT was the most effective in terms of increasing hair count.12


However, it’s worth pointing out two important things. First, the authors found that the quality of studies examining LLLT was lower compared to other hair loss treatments. This was because there were significant variations in the methods and execution of the LLLT studies, which the authors assessed as affecting the reliability of the results.  Second, the studies included in the review on LLLT had some form of financial connection with the device manufacturers, either through direct funding or author affiliations. Despite this potential conflict of interest, the structure of these studies was sound enough to be included in the review.


To sum up, LLLT shows promising results as an effective treatment for hair loss, but the quality of evidence needs to be higher before it can be definitively judged to be superior to other established hair loss treatments.

Can I use Low-Level Laser Light therapy with other hair loss treatments?

Research suggests that LLLT in combination with minoxidil is more effective than other treatments alone and can lead to faster regrowth of hair. In the 2017 study comparing minoxidil and LLT, researchers found that combination therapy provided better results in terms of hair regrowth and patient satisfaction than minoxidil or LLLT use alone.11 While all treatments led to a significant increase in the number of growing hair follicles by the end of the study, only the combination group showed this increase at the 2-month mark.

This was backed up by a 2021 study of 90 women with moderate to severe hair loss. The study found that all treatment methods led to significant improvements in hair density and thickness, as well as reduced scalp oil production. However, the most effective treatment was a combination of LLT and minoxidil, which showed even superior results for improving hair thickness and density.13


A 2023 review of randomized clinical trials examined the effectiveness of combining low-level light therapy with topical minoxidil for treating AGA. These trials compared LLLT with minoxidil (either 2% or 5%) to minoxidil or LLLT alone. Combining LLLT and minoxidil was found to be at least as effective as minoxidil alone and in some studies, improved hair density more than either treatment on its own.14


Overall, the evidence suggests that combining LLLT with minoxidil can either enhance or at least match the effectiveness of using minoxidil alone for AGA.


The cost and convenience of LLLT vs other hair loss treatments

When comparing low-level laser therapy (LLLT) to other hair loss treatments, several factors come into play: cost, convenience, and the long-term commitment required for each treatment. Each person is different, and these factors can determine whether


In terms of cost, LLLT requires a greater upfront investment, with the purchase of a device, ranging in price from several hundred to over a thousand dollars depending on the type and brand. However, it’s a one-time expense, and the device can be used for several years, potentially making it more cost-effective in the long run.


Pharmaceutical treatments for hair loss, like minoxidil and finasteride, are cheaper initially as the cost per month is relatively low. But these treatments require continuous use to maintain results, and the cost can add up over time. Additionally, these medications can have potential side effects, which is another factor to consider.


Convenience is another personal factor to consider. Whereas pharmacological treatments can take seconds or minutes to take or apply and are discreet, LLLT devices need to be used daily or every other day for comparatively long periods. Whether this suits your lifestyle and needs is an important factor in choosing the right solution for your hair regrowth journey.


A guide to finding the right Low-Level Laser Therapy device.

When it comes to selecting the right low-level laser therapy (LLLT) device for your hair loss needs, there are several factors to consider. These range from technical aspects, like the number of diodes and type of light source, to practical considerations such as comfort, ease of use, and warranty.

  1. Number of Diodes: The number of diodes in a device is important as it determines the coverage your scalp will receive during treatment. A higher number of diodes usually means broader coverage, potentially leading to better results.
  2. FDA Clearance: Devices cleared by the FDA are generally a safe choice as they have been evaluated for safety and efficacy. FDA clearance doesn’t guarantee effectiveness but it’s an indication that the device is safe and may be effective based on the manufacturer’s data.
  3. Comfort and Ease of Use: Depending on your lifestyle, you might prefer a device that you can use hands-free (like a laser cap) or something more portable (like a handheld comb). Caps are generally more comfortable for longer sessions and allow for multitasking, whereas handheld devices can be more flexible to use but require active effort during treatment.
  4. Warranty: Given that LLLT devices are an investment, check for a good warranty. It not only protects your purchase but can indicate the manufacturer’s confidence in their product.
  5. Handheld Devices vs. Laser Caps/Combs: Handheld devices like combs or brushes are usually more affordable, but they require manual operation, which means you’ll need to actively move the device over your scalp for the duration of the treatment. On the other hand, laser caps or helmets offer a hands-free experience. They’re usually more expensive, but they may deliver a more consistent treatment as the lasers cover a wide scalp area uniformly.


LED and Laser vs. Laser Only Devices:

It’s important for you to know the difference between LEDs and Lasers as these can have cost and effectiveness implications. Some devices use a combination of LED and laser light, while others use only lasers. Both types of light can stimulate hair follicles, but lasers are more precise, delivering light directly to the follicles without much scattering. LEDs are cheaper and can cover a larger area but might be less effective due to the wider dispersion of light. Laser-only devices are usually more expensive, but they may be a better choice if you’re looking for a more targeted approach.


Most of the research on light-based therapies focuses on LLLT. At the time of writing this article, only one study has shown the effectiveness of using only LED light (without low-level laser therapy, or LLLT) to stimulate hair growth. This study wasn’t a clinical study but was on human hair follicle cells grown in a lab. The results did suggest that the LED light, specifically at a wavelength of 660 nm, could promote cell growth and signaling, which is a key step in hair growth.15


Devices featuring a mix of LED and laser may offer the best of both worlds. They balance the advanced technology and potentially greater effectiveness of LLLT with LEDs, which, though less studied, may be a viable and more budget-friendly option for some.


Shedding light on LLLT

Low-Level Laser Therapy is a promising technique in the ever-evolving field of hair loss treatment. Numerous scientific studies have backed its effectiveness in treating both male and female pattern baldness. Whether it’s used alone or in combination with other treatments like minoxidil, the results are compelling, even if more research is still needed.


With any treatment, we believe it’s important to make an informed decision based on your specific circumstances. Cost, lifestyle, and personal comfort should all be considered when choosing the right device or comparing it with other treatment options.


More research is needed, particularly to fully understand the mechanism behind LLLT and to compare its effectiveness with other treatments like LED light therapy, but the evidence so far paints a positive picture. We look forward to following the advancements in this field and keeping you informed of any new developments.


Remember, if you’re considering LLLT or any other form of hair loss treatment, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider or a specialist first. Every individual’s hair loss journey is unique, and what works best for one person may not be the best fit for another. Together with your healthcare provider, you can make the best decision for your hair health and overall well-being.








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