Low-Level Light Therapy for Hair Loss: Does It Work?
Reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Laser devices made to address hair loss have recently gained popularity. These devices often look like a helmet that lights up on the inside.
Do a quick online search and you’ll turn up lots of options at varying prices.
These space-looking helmets use a technology called low-level light therapy (LLLT) to stimulate hair follicles and promote hair growth.
While the research behind just how effective these are is far from complete, there are some studies that support how well they work.
Read on to learn more about low-level light therapy for hair loss as well as other hair loss treatment options.
The Lowdown On Hair Loss
This condition is actually quite common—and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
In fact, it affects an estimated 50 million men in the United States.
Furthermore, according to the American Hair Loss Association, about 85 percent of men will be affected by thinning hair by the time they turn fifty.
Male pattern baldness is most commonly caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that interferes with the growth cycle of hair, and shrinks hair follicles to cause thinning and hair loss.
Aside from male pattern baldness, hair loss in men can also be caused by illness or stress. This is usually temporary and is called telogen effluvium.
This type of hair loss tends to be all over, rather than focused in one spot.
Certain prescription medications can also lead to telogen effluvium. Some of the meds that may result in this include beta-blockers, anticoagulants and retinoids.
Finally, some hairstyles can cause hair loss—particularly tight ponytails or buns, dreadlocks and braids.
Low-Level Light Therapy for Hair Loss
The goal of low-level light therapy (also called laser hair growth treatment) is to treat hair loss and improve regrowth by improving circulation and stimulating new growth.
Research shows that near-infrared (or red laser light) can promote tissue repair and regeneration. This is why it’s often used to treat wounds and scar healing.
These devices work by giving off a light that penetrates the scalp. Many believe this light enhances blood flow to stimulate hair growth.
So, does low-level light therapy for hair loss actually work? There isn’t enough solid research to give a definitive answer on whether or not these hair growth devices can be relied on.
That said, the initial research that has been done is positive. A review of scientific research found that laser treatments for hair loss can improve male pattern baldness.
A separate review of several high-quality studies found LLLT to be safe and effective for people with male pattern baldness.
And yet another study found that 10 out of 11 studies of laser treatment devices showed solid improvements.
Most recently, a review published last year found laser hair therapy to be effective—but also pointed out some research was associated with the laser device industry.
The Cost of Low-Level Light Therapy Devices
Interested in trying a laser light cap? You should know that you may have to shell out a bit of money.
On average, these devices start at just under $1,000 but can go for double or triple that price.
Capillus® is a popular brand of hair growth caps (also called “laser therapy caps”). This brand features built-in, low-level lasers with a total power output of between 410 and 1,360 milliwatts.
The lower-powered options go for $999, while the higher-powered option is $2,400.
In addition to caps, there are LLLT bands and combs—both of which tend to retail for less than the cap. Combs can be found for around $100, while bands cost about $700.
Like with caps, there isn’t a body of high-quality research to support the effectiveness of these low-level light therapy devices for hair loss.
Science-Backed Ways to Treat Hair Loss
If LLLT isn’t for you, there are other approaches you can take when it comes to dealing with hair loss. Check them out below.
This prescription medication is often used to treat male pattern baldness. It works by preventing your body from converting testosterone into DHT, which is what causes you to lose hair.
Finasteride comes in tablet form and must be taken on a daily basis. Hims offers finasteride online after a consultation with a medical professional.
The best part? It works. A study with 522 participants found that 99.1 percent of the men who took finasteride over a ten year period stopped their hair loss from worsening.
Of those men, 91.5 percent noticed some regrowth.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment that comes in liquid and foam formulas, in either a 2% or 5% strength.
This FDA-approved medication doesn’t require a prescription. It’s believed to work by stimulating hair follicles to enter the anagen (growth) phase.
Minoxidil also increases blood flow to your scalp, which can stimulate hair growth.
A 2019 review of topical minoxidil found that it improved hair growth in both men and women who suffer from pattern hair loss.
Hims has helped thousands of men regrow their hair
Finasteride and Minoxidil Together
The two medications above are great on their own, but they can be even more effective when used together.
This is compared to 80.5 percent who saw an improvement using just finasteride and 50 percent who saw an improvement using only minoxidil.
If this sounds good to you, consider this Hair Power Pack, which contains both treatment options.
Hair Loss Shampoo
Some shampoos are specifically made to thicken hair and stimulate hair growth. This thickening shampoo is made with saw palmetto—a natural ingredient thought to reduce hair loss.
One study compared finasteride and saw palmetto in conjunction with encouraging hair regrowth.
While finasteride was found to be most effective, saw palmetto also seemed to help.
This B vitamin has become quite buzzy because of the way it encourages healthy hair and growth.
One study even found that taking biotin produces faster hair growth in people dealing with thinning hair.
Biotin is naturally found in certain foods—like eggs, milk and bananas. Or, you can take a supplement.
A natural way to improve hair health is to make some changes to your lifestyle. Some tips you may want to consider, to give your hair a boost:
Loosen your hairstyle: If you wear a tight ponytail or have dreadlocks or braids, it could be causing traction hair loss. Change your style immediately to something that doesn’t pull at your scalp.
Eat healthfully: Studies have shown that a lack of iron and zinc in your diet can be bad for the health of your hair. The same study found that people who increased these nutrients in their diet saw an improvement in hair growth. Good sources of zinc include crab, pork chops, cashews and oatmeal. Spinach, meat and seafood are good for iron.
Stop smoking: Beyond the toll it can take on your lungs, puffing up can hurt your hair, too. Researchers have even found a link between smoking and hair loss. Smoke is actually a pollutant that can damage your hair., and cigarettes have also been found to damage the DNA of your hair follicles.
Shop by treatment options
No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere. Early action is the best hair loss prevention.
Is Low-Level Light Therapy for Hair Loss Right for You?
There have been limited clinical trials on low-level light therapy as it pertains to helping hair loss. But what has been researched shows positive results.
If you’re dealing with male pattern baldness and looking for potential hair loss treatments, LLLT could be a good option for you.
But it’s also worth looking into medications (which have a ton of science-backed research to support them) or lifestyle tweaks.
To figure out what’s best for you, talk to a healthcare professional.