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.
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.
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.
The unit may prove to be useful for hair loss in women where the thinning tends to be diffuse or those experiencing telogen effluvium. 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.
While these low-level laser treatments have been approved for use, their long-term effectiveness has yet to be determined. A 12 month program can require treatments from 3x per week tapering to one treatment per month and the results and satisfaction from patients thus far have been inconsistent.