Hair loss is a very common problem that affects over 50% of all adults. Unfortunately, the only permanent solution is hair transplant surgery. There are, however, ways to maintain healthy hair regrowth.
We typically think of aesthetic lasers as a technique to remove unwanted features such as lines, scars, tattoos, body hair, hostile space invaders,, and even spider veins. But what the laser takes away, it may also give back. While hair removal is one of the most well-known and lucrative cosmetic laser procedures, employing lasers for hair growth is also a possibility.
The First Thing To Realize Is That Not All Lasers Are Made Equal.
Hair removal lasers are extremely focused pulses of light that enter hair follicles. When the pigment in your hair absorbs light, it turns it to heat, which destroys the follicle and inhibits future hair development.
If you want to encourage hair growth, this type of laser would be too harsh. It’s more of a scorched-earth laser than a tool for improving soil fertility.
Cold, low-level lasers, on the other hand, are used to encourage hair growth. These therapies, as opposed to laser hair removal. They depend on the chemical effects of light to increase blood flow to the outer dermis, hence speeding growth.
Though employing lasers for hair growth isn’t a novel idea, it sparked our curiosity recently when we watched the newest season of Queer Eye and saw grooming guru Jonathan Van Ness offer a laser hat to a woman suffering from hair loss. Her hair was back and looked better than ever when the Fab Five paid her a visit a year later.
We felt we needed additional information and turned to the professionals.
We’ll go over everything you need to know about laser hair regrowth treatments, from how they work to what to expect.
Met The Experts
- Arash Akhavan, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of New York City’s The Dermatology and Laser Group.
- Amy Perlmutter, MD, of New York Dermatology Group in New York City, is a board-certified dermatologist.
- Robin Blum, MD, FAAD, of Central Park South Dermatology in New York City, is a board-certified dermatologist.
How Lasers Can Promote Hair Growth
“Lasers that encourage hair growth are known as low-level lasers,” explains Dr. Arash Akhavan, a dermatologist in New York. “Low-level laser treatments (LLLT) emit infrared light into the scalp.”
The TL;DR of why these procedures work is that hair growth begins at the scalp. “This light improves circulation and increases blood flow and oxygen to the hair follicles, promoting stem cells to rebuild the follicle and boost hair regeneration,” explains Akhavan. This increased blood flow also means that more oxygen and nutrients reach the follicles, resulting in the finest possible circumstances for hair growth.
A little-known fact: We employ lasers for hair growth by mistake. In the 1960s, a Hungarian scientist was investigating whether lasers might induce cancer in laboratory mice (which had to be shaved for the protocol). The laser not only did not induce cancer, but it also boosted hair development in mice.
Other recent outcomes have also been encouraging.
A new study found that low-level laser therapy (LLLT) was beneficial in treating pattern hair loss with little adverse effects, with patients of all genders seeing dramatically enhanced volume, regeneration, thicknesses, and even dimension.
Another research found that the therapy was beneficial in people with alopecia.
Top Laser Hair Regrowth Advantages
If you’re discovering lasers for hair regeneration for the first time and think they’ll change the game, you could be correct. If this therapy is a good fit for your needs and expenditure, you can expect a very simple encounter with high prospects of triggering the development you desire. The following are some of the primary advantages:
- Encourages hair growth
- Safe and non-invasive
- There are few side effects.
We understand: If you’re experiencing hair loss, you’ve probably already tried over-the-counter shampoo and conditioner, thickening treatments, vitamins, and treatments like Minoxidil. Why would you add laser therapy to the mix?
While there are several ways to encourage hair growth, laser treatment, according to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Robin Blum, may be a great complement to a hair care program that already includes therapies such as Propecia, Rogaine, Spironolactone, or PRP therapy.
Plus, if you’ve exhausted all other hair loss treatments, there’s not much to lose by giving it a go. “There are very few adverse effects,” Blum claims. “It’s also painless, simple, and can be done at home.”
Of course, there are certain drawbacks to consider. “It takes time,” Blum admits. “It has to be done many times a week, generally for 30 minutes.” And you’ll never be completely completed in the usual sense. “Hair loss never totally stops, therefore maintenance treatments are essential to continue to see hair growth,” says Dr. Amy Perlmutter, a dermatologist in New York.
Furthermore, while first studies have yielded encouraging results, there is no actual agreement on the ideal parameters (wavelength, pulse duration, or fluence) for outcomes.
The clinic or Home Treatment
“There are several portable gadgets that may be purchased to use at home,” Akhavan explains. Helmets, caps, and combs with medical-grade laser diodes are perhaps the ones you’re most familiar with.
FDA-approved LLLT devices, such as the CapillusOne Laser Cap for Hair Regrowth or the Hairmax Ultima 12 LaserComb, are easily accessible (although costly), making the many weekly sessions more practical if you discover this sort of help appears to work for you.
What Should You Expect During a Laser Hair Growth Treatment?
There is no “beauty is pain” here—LLLT treatments are simple and should cause little discomfort. All you need to do is make sure your hair is clean (and free of styling chemicals) and locate a comfy position to sit for five to 30 minutes, based on the technology.
Some, such as the Capillus Laser Cap, even clock your sessions and turn them off immediately when you’re finished. “Patients should anticipate seeing a brilliant red light but not sense anything,” Akhavan explains.
Of course, you’ll have to be patient as well. Not only is maintenance difficult, but effects aren’t noticeable until three to six months following treatment time for the improved blood flow to create healthy new hair growth.
And, like with so many other procedures, you may not look precisely like the before and after photographs you see on the internet. “The outcomes differ from person to person and are not permanent. Some people may get tremendous results, while others may not,” Akhavan warns. “The procedures must be continued in order to sustain the outcomes and stimulate the cells.”
Possible Side Effects
One of the great advantages of laser treatments for hair growth is that the side effects are low. However, there are a few things to be aware of. Blum explains that if you have sensitive skin, any quantity of light might produce irritation or pain, although this is uncommon.
Those suffering from scarring alopecia should consult a dermatologist before attempting any at-home light treatment. Blum also suggests researching any drugs you may be taking before beginning the therapy since some might induce photosensitivity.
The cost of at-home LLLT devices ranges from $400 to $2000, depending on the wavelength strength and technology used. Treatments in the office start at $75 per session.
LLLT laser treatments are relatively low-maintenance, and most patients may proceed with everyday routine with little to no downtime. Perlmutter normally advises preventing hair shampooing, extended sunlight exposure, and activity for 24 hours following your session.
The Bottom Line
Laser treatments are an excellent alternative—or addition—to more well-known hair growth therapies like Minoxidil, Rogaine, or PRP. And if you’re not experiencing significant hair loss but wish to increase your thickness, these devices may be of relevance.
“They can be useful even for those who aren’t suffering hair loss since they help strengthen the hair and stimulate healthy development,” Akhavan says.
What is the most appealing feature? Unlike lasers for removal (again, hair, tattoos, aliens), LLLT is non-invasive and should be harmless. Any therapy that we can do at home in our sweatpants with little risk is a rarity, and while it may take time to see results—and tenacity to maintain them—laser treatments for hair growth appear to be worthwhile.