Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) in hair restoration utilizes cool lasers to stimulate hair growth and reduce hair loss. LLLT is based on the scientific principle of photo-biotherapy. Photo-biotherapy occurs when laser light is absorbed by cells and stimulates cell metabolism and protein synthesis. Although the exact mechanism by which laser light promotes hair growth is still unknown, it appears to stimulate the follicles on the scalp by increasing energy production and by reversing miniaturization (the process leading to thicker hair shafts and a fuller look).
Laser light is in the visible red light spectrum and is generated in a laser diode. The energy level is far below that of laser beams that cut or burn tissue. The low-level red laser light has a very low absorption rate in human tissue making it safe for use in the treatment of hair loss.
Low energy lasers have been used for over thirty years to accelerate healing after wounds or burns and to reduce pain. In 1992, Pontinen published the first paper discussing its possible use in promoting hair growth. Since then there has been much progress is defining the exact parameters necessary to accomplish this, In 2007, the FDA cleared for marketing the use of low-level lasers for the treatment of androgenetic hair loss in men. This clearance was based on the device’s safety, and not on its effectiveness in treating hair loss.
Recent studies have shown that Low Level Light Laser Therapy (LLT) appears about equal to the benefits of hair loss medications used over the short term in both men and women, although the long-term benefits are less clear. The use of LLLT should be of particular interest to women in whom medical treatment and surgical options may be limited.
Laser Therapy Devices
The LaserCap is an hermetically sealed, dome shaped membrane that contains 224 individual 650nm 5mW lasers. The main advantages of this laser are the large number of diodes and the fact that it is portable, allowing the person to do normal activities during treatment. The user can perform most routine daily activities when using this device. The LaserCap fits inside most hats and is powered by a small belt-clip battery pack, making it easily portable. The user can perform almost any activity during use of the device. »
The HairMax LaserComb, cleared by the FDA as a Class II medical device in January 2007, is a compact version of the larger laser therapy units used by hair clinics in other countries to stimulate hair to increase in thickness and make the hair appear fuller. This home product has teeth that part the hair to potentially enable the laser light to reach the scalp in areas of existing hair. »
X5 Hair Laser
The X5 Hair Laser is a proprietary hand-held laser used for hair regrowth and designed for home use. It is manufactured by Spencer Forrest, the makers of Toppik and other cosmetic camouflage products. The X5 Hair Laser uses 15 points of laser light to irradiate the scalp. Each pass over the scalp covers an area of over 9 square inches (23cm). The laser output of this system is 30-34mW. »
Revage Laser System
The Revage Laser System, from Apira Science, utilizes Rotational PhotoTherapy (RPT). The Revage 670 is a Class IIIA diode laser approved by the FDA for cosmetic use. It is a low-level laser system that contains 30 laser diodes that rotate 180 degrees around the scalp. This dynamic process increases the contact of the laser energy with the hair follicles and is potentially more effective than a static system in delivering the laser energy to the scalp. It also eliminates human error and variability in self administration. A potential limitation is the fact that existing hair may interfere with the laser beam effectively reaching the scalp. »
Efficacy & Safety
Low-Level Laser Therapy is useful for hair loss in men and in women where the thinning tends to be diffuse. LLLT can be used safely in conjunction with other medications including Propecia and Rogaine and there are no contraindications which would interfere with hair transplant surgery.
These low-level laser devices appear to be safe and have been FDA approved for the treatment of androgenetic hair loss. Although their short-term usefulness has been validated in multiple studies, their long-term effectiveness has yet to be determined.
- Jimenez JJ, Wikramanayake TC, Bergfeld W, Hordinsky M, Hickman JG, Hamblin MR, Schachner LA. Efficacy and Safety of a Low-level Laser Device in the Treatment of Male and Female Pattern Hair Loss: A Multicenter, Randomized, Sham Device-controlled, Double-blind Study. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2014 Apr;15(2):115-27.
- Avci P., Gupta G.K., Clark J., Wikonkal N., and Hamblin M.R. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) for treatment of hair loss. Lasers Surg Med. 2014 Feb; 46(2):144-51.
- Gupta A.K., and Daigle D. The use of low-level light therapy in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia and female pattern hair loss. J Dermatolog Treat 2014; 25, 162-3.
- Lanzafame RJ, Blanche RR, Bodian AB, Chiacchierini RP, Fernandez-Obregon A, Kazmirek ER. The growth of human scalp hair mediated by visible red light laser and LED sources in males. Lasers Surg Med. 2013 Oct; 45(8):487-95.
- Kim H, Choi JW, Kim JY, Shin JW, Lee SJ, Huh CH. Low-level light therapy for androgenetic alopecia: a 24-week, randomized, double-blind, sham device-controlled multicenter trial. Dermatol Surg. 2013 Aug; 39(8):1177-83.
- Leavitt M, Charles G, Heyman E, Michaels D. HairMax LaserComb laser phototherapy device in the treatment of male androgenetic alopecia: A randomized, double-blind, sham device-controlled, multicentre trial. Clin Drug Investig. 2009; 29(5):283-92.