Laser Hair Growth Treatments: A Complete Guide
Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you’re losing your hair and want to do something about it, a variety of treatment options are available for you.
Then there are personal care products such as shampoos, which aim to slow down hair loss and stimulate the growth of new hair.
More recently, a variety of laser hair growth treatments have come onto the market. Many of these use medical-grade lasers to stimulate hair follicles, with claims suggesting that regular use of laser therapy can improve the supply of blood and nutrients to your hair.
Laser treatments are supported by some science, although the research that’s available right now is far from comprehensive.
Below, we’ve dug into the science behind laser hair growth treatments to learn how effective they really are. We’ve also looked at the specific treatments that are available now, including popular laser-based medical treatments and products like laser hair growth caps.
Finally, we’ve listed the other science-based treatment options that are available if you want to treat your hair loss, including FDA-approved medications and surgical procedures.
Laser Treatment for Hair Loss: The Basics
Laser treatments for hair loss are designed to increase blood circulation and stimulate the growth of new hairs.
Numerous laser products are available to treat hair loss, including hand-held devices, laser caps and larger devices used in salons and clinics.
Unlike hair loss medications such as finasteride, laser treatments don’t lower your DHT levels or affect your hormones in any way.
Currently, the scientific research on laser treatments for hair loss is limited but largely positive. Many studies have shown positive results, although laser treatments haven’t been tested as thoroughly as hair loss medications.
Pricing for laser treatments for hair loss can vary based on your location and the number of sessions you need. At-home laser devices can range in price from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars for high-end devices.
What Is Laser Treatment for Hair Loss?
Laser treatment for hair loss, or low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is a modern treatment option for several different types of hair loss.
The idea of using a laser to treat hair loss first appeared in the 1960s. During experiments using a solid-state laser, Hungarian physician Endre Mester found that exposure to low-power laser light stimulated hair growth in mice.
Although laser technology has improved by a significant amount since the 1960s, experts aren’t yet fully aware of exactly why lasers cause hair growth.
Currently, evidence suggests that low-level laser therapy may work by triggering vasodilation (a widening of blood vessels) and stimulating the flow of blood to specific areas of your skin, such as your hair follicles.
Researchers believe that this may cause your hair to enter into the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle.
This mechanism of action is similar to minoxidil, one of two medications approved by the FDA to treat hair loss.
Several different laser devices are available to treat hair loss. Large laser hair growth machines, which typically have a hood that fits over your scalp, are commonly used in hair loss clinics and hair salons.
Smaller devices, such as red light therapy laser hair growth combs, hats and helmets, are designed using similar technology for use at home.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Laser Treatments for Hair Loss
Like other treatment options for hair loss, low-level laser therapy has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Advantages of this type of hair loss treatment include:
It’s painless and noninvasive. Compared to procedures like hair transplant surgery, laser treatment for hair loss is noninvasive, painless and has a much shorter recovery time.
It doesn’t appear to cause side effects. Research into low-level laser therapy shows that it’s generally a safe method for stimulating hair growth that doesn’t cause the side effects associated with some hair loss medications.
It appears to be effective. Although the amount of research is limited, most studies of low-level laser therapy show that it can stimulate hair growth. We’ve talked more about the scientific research into laser treatment for hair loss in the section below.
Disadvantages of this type of hair loss treatment include:
It can be expensive. Since laser hair growth treatments need to be performed regularly, the costs can add up to thousands of dollars over time. At-home laser hair caps, helmets and other devices are also expensive to purchase.
It’s time-consuming and inconvenient. Compared to taking a daily pill or undergoing a one-off hair transplant surgery, using a laser hair growth device several times each week can require a significant amount of your time.
Although research is generally positive, it isn’t very extensive. Right now, there are significantly fewer studies of laser treatment than there are of hair loss medications such as minoxidil and finasteride.
It can cause issues when used with certain medications. Laser treatments shouldn’t be used alongside medications or treatments that cause photosensitivity.
How Do Laser Hair Growth Treatments Work?
Laser hair growth treatments, or low-level laser therapy (LLLT), aim to improve hair growth and treat hair loss by improving circulation and stimulating new hair growth.
Near-infrared or red laser light can promote the repair and regeneration of tissue. Because of this, laser therapy is often used for wound healing and several cosmetic skin treatments.
Most laser hair growth therapy devices work by emitting a light that penetrates the scalp. Although the scientific research is limited, proponents of laser therapy believe that this may enhance blood flow and stimulate hair restoration.
Do Laser Hair Growth Treatments Actually Work?
At this point in time, there isn’t enough high quality scientific research to confidently state that laser hair growth treatments are or aren’t effective.
The first scientific research into laser treatments for hair loss was performed by chance in the 1960s, when scientists studying mice noticed that they began to grow hair after exposure to a low fluence red laser.
In the decades since, various studies have aimed to determine whether or not lasers actually help to stimulate hair growth and treat male pattern baldness.
Overall, the results are mixed but largely positive. For example, a review of scientific research published in the journal, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine concluded that laser treatments for hair loss seems to improve certain types of non-scarring hair loss, including hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
Another evidence-based review published in the journal, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, found that several moderate to high-quality studies showed that laser therapy devices were safe and effective in people with male pattern baldness.
A more recent scientific review published in 2018 in the journal, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine found that 10 out of 11 studies of laser hair treatment devices showed significant improvements, with one study indicating improvements but not reaching statistical significance.
Finally, a scientific review published in 2020 in the journal, Skin Appendage Disorders, concluded that laser hair therapy appears to be effective, with a good safety profile and minor side effects. However, it also noted that some research appears to be associated with the laser hair device industry.
Types of Laser Hair Growth Treatments & Devices
A variety of different laser hair growth devices are available today, including caps, helmets and combs that use laser technology to thicken hair. We’ve listed some of the most common devices below, along with information on how each works and its effectiveness on thinning hair.
Capillus® and Other Laser Hair Regrowth Caps
Capillus is a popular brand of hair regrowth caps. Marketed as “laser therapy caps,” the caps sold by Capillus feature built-in low-level lasers with a total power output ranging from 410 to 1,560 milliwatts.
The products sold by Capillus are cleared by the FDA and marketed as being “recommended” by physicians. They’re also backed up by a small scientific study in which patients achieved a 51 percent increase in hair count over the course of 17 weeks.
Capillus products are a little on the pricier side of the spectrum, with the company’s cheapest hair loss cap selling for more than $900 retail.
Does Capillus work? Despite the one study, there’s also mixed evidence as to how effective they are as treatments for male pattern baldness. The company’s study was carried out on women with hair loss and featured no male participants, making it difficult to draw any definitive conclusions.
The study was also supported by the company’s head of quality assurance and governmental affairs, which means that there may be a level of bias in the study’s results.
Beyond this study, Capillus has attracted some attention from the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau for its somewhat aggressive marketing practices.
Since reliable information on the products sold by Capillus is hard to come by, it’s difficult to say whether or not they’re truly effective at stopping and reversing hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
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Laser Bands, Combs, Helmets and Other Products
A variety of bands, combs, helmets and other products containing lasers are often marketed as hair regrowth treatments for home use. Many of these products claim to produce superior results to other hair loss treatments in a convenient, easy-to-use form.
In general, the scientific evidence to support the marketing claims made about these products is mixed.
Some, such as the HairMax Lasercomb®, are supported by scientific evidence, such as a 2014 study published in the journal, American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, that found a modest but statistically significant difference in terminal hair density between people who used the Lasercomb and people who used a sham device.
Others aren’t backed up by much in the way of scientific research and largely rely on marketing claims and customer testimonials.
Like other laser hair growth devices, bands, combs and helmets generally aren’t cheap. Prices can range from a few hundred dollars for some devices to thousands of dollars for others, with many devices bundled with shampoos and other personal care products.
How Much Does Laser Treatment for Hair Loss Cost?
Laser treatment for hair loss can vary in price based on your location, the severity of your hair loss and the type of laser device used during treatment.
When performed in a clinic, laser therapy will likely cost somewhere in the hundred dollar range — give or take — per session.
At-home laser treatment devices such as hats, helmets and combs can range in price from just a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
Laser Hair Growth Treatments: A Final Thought
Some scientific research has found that low-level laser therapy may offer certain benefits for hair growth.
However, the research that’s currently available isn’t particularly comprehensive, with many of the studies of laser hair growth products small in scale and focused on general hair loss rather than male pattern baldness specifically.
If you’re affected by male pattern baldness, a laser device might help promote growth and restore some of your hair.
However, a better approach is to talk to a licensed healthcare provider about your options for treating hair loss, including FDA-approved medications that can prevent further loss and help you regrow hair in affected areas of your scalp and hairline.
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No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
Learn More About Treating Hair Loss
Hair loss often creeps up on you over time, gradually wearing away at your hairline and crown until you catch a glimpse in a mirror or photo.
Our guide to the early signs of hair loss lists the key signs that you should pay attention to, as well as your treatment options for stopping male pattern baldness and maintaining a thick, full and healthy hairline throughout your life.