August 31, 2020

How effective is laser hair treatment in treating hair loss?

Laser hair treatment, or low level laser therapy, was first approved for hair loss on males in 2007 and females in 2011. Since then low level laser therapy (LLLT) has become an accepted treatment option for patients who have mild to moderate hair loss. The benefits are seen in both men and women who suffer from five main types of hair loss: male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), female pattern hair loss, alopecia areata, telogen effluvium and chemotherapy-induced alopecia.

What is low level laser therapy (LLLT)?

LLLT was first discovered in the 1960’s, when they demonstrated that low levels of light energy in the right wavelength could help in wound healing, joint pain and other medical applications. It was later discovered to stimulate hair growth as well.

LLLT uses low levels of light energy in the 655nm wavelength to treat hair loss. The light energy used is so low that there is generally no risk, no pain and very well tolerated as a result. Some describe a tingling sensation during and after treatment. The treatment is done on alternate days to prevent overstimulation.

We call this photobiostimulation. Studies have shown that exposing a balding area to the correct wavelength and intensity can have beneficial effect on hair growth. The thin hairs are stimulated to go from a resting or shedding phase into the growth phase. That results in an overall increase in the density of the treated area, increased shaft thickness of individual hair, increased ratio of growing hair to dormant (telogen) hair follicles and reduced shedding. In published studies, patients who received LLLT also reported high satisfaction rates, including the sensation that their hair is thicker and fuller.

Can everyone benefit from low level laser therapy (LLLT)?

LLLT is reserved for use on patients with mild to moderate hair loss, where there are still follicles present. In more advanced hair loss where there are no follicles visible in the treatment area, it is unlikely to be of any benefit. Consistency is key. One needs to be patient and diligent in using the hair laser.  There is almost no risk with using LLLT, although some reported an initial increased shedding for the first 1 to 2 months before new hair grew. This is because the hair cycle is accelerated from the dormant and shedding phase into the anagen or growth phase.

There are 2 main ways of administering this treatment: the in-clinic, more powerful Revage laser system. This takes about 25 minutes per session, followed by a scalp massage with hair growth serums for another 5 to 10 minutes. The Revage treatment can be combined with scalp treatment to address certain scalp conditions like oily scalp, sensitive scalp, dry scalp, etc.

For those who cannot commit to the weekly treatment in clinic, they can opt for the home device LLLT. We have 2 main versions: the hands-free iGrow laser helmet that takes about 25 minutes each time, done 3 times a week. The Hairmax laser hair band seems to be more popular because it takes only 1.5 to 3 minutes to use, 3 times a week. The Hairmax is compact and comes with patented teeth on the hairband to help spread the hair so that the laser energy gets down to the scalp where the light is needed most. Our patients find this is more convenient both at home and when they need to pack it for travel. We are often asked this, but there is no benefit to using the laser more often than prescribed.

Will low level laser therapy (LLLT) alone be enough?

LLLT can and should be combined with other treatment options for the best results, including finasteride, minoxidil, CG210, hair transplant etc. We find that there is synergy when the treatments are combined, and our patients can choose the treatments that they are most comfortable and likely to persist with.

It is great for maintaining hair volume as we get older, or to reverse pattern hair loss associated with androgenetic alopecia, alopecia areata or chemotherapy-induced alopecia. The results last as long as one continues to use the laser, especially for male and female pattern hair thinning. Beware of imitations, as the wavelength and dose of the light energy are critical to achieve the optimum results.

Think Hair, Think Dr. Harold