Hair loss is a condition that impacts both men and women and can be very upsetting and even embarrassing for many people. Although there are some prescription medications that can be effective in certain cases, a growing number of people are choosing alternative effective treatments such as red light therapy.
If you have been thinking about red light therapy to help to grow your hair back, then you may have a number of questions about what it entails and even whether or not it actually works. The following information is here to help you to inform yourself regarding this state of the art hair loss treatment method.
Frequently Asked Questions
“What is LLLT and how does it differ from red light therapy?”
LLLT stands for “low level light therapy” or “low level laser therapy”. It is a simply a medical term for the use of red and near infrared light therapy.
“Does the light have to be laser to be effective for the treatment of hair loss?”
“What are the wavelengths that have been found to be effective for preventing hair loss or re-growing hair?”
The most commonly used wavelengths for treating hair loss with red light therapy are in the range of 630 to 670 nanometers (nm).
Visible red light is capable of being absorbed by the molecules of the hair follicle and can stimulate the growth or re-growth of the hair following a natural biological reaction. The light must be absorbed for this reaction to occur.
From a more technical standpoint, the reason that red light is absorbed is because of a substance called cytochrome c, which is an intracellular enzyme. That enzyme can absorb the light within that range and is also responsible for stimulating the hair follicle by sending it certain signals. Those signals promote gene activity and lower apoptosis (cell death regulated by the genes), as well as other reactions.
This has been known since 1967 when it was accidentally discovered by a Hungarian scientist who noticed that exposed, shaved mice experience faster hair re-growth.
“What are the FDA approved LLLT wavelengths for hair loss therapy?
The first FDA approval of a hand-held LLLT device for the treatment of hair loss was in January 2007. This was specific to androgenetic alopecia (male pattern hair loss). This was a laser device at 635nm.
In 2009, the FDA first gave its approval to a similar device that could treat alopecia in both men and women. The device at that time was 655 nm.
“Are the FDA approved devices LED or laser?”
Today, both laser and LED devices have FDA approval for hair loss.
“Is the therapy good for one type of hair loss and not for others?”
No known therapy will work for all forms of hair loss. Moreover, the earlier a treatment is started, the better the chances of success through its use. Once a follicle has actually died, there isn’t anything that can be done to resurrect it. Therefore, it is typically recommended that when using any treatment for hair loss, beginning early will be critical to optimal success.
There are many different causes of hair loss. The primary target of LLLT and red light hair loss therapies are individuals who have temporarily lost their hair due to issues such as stress, surgery, medication side effects, or other conditions, such as male pattern baldness or menopause.
“Are there any side effects?”
Red light therapy using LED is a non-invasive treatment that has not been connected with any negative side effects or pain when the devices are used according to their directions.
“Will red light therapy cause hair to grow in other (unwanted) places?”
Red light therapy does not cause hair to grow in places where it has never existed. It can stimulate follicles that have stopped producing hair or that have been growing very small, thin hairs and encourage them to grow healthier hair once more. However, it will not lead to hair growth where no hair was previously present.
Setting Your Expectations
You didn’t lose your hair over night, it’s not going to grow back over night. What it might do over night is stop falling out, though, which is a great start. Allow two or three months to see significant results.
An Antioxidant Could Improve Results
Red light therapy produces oxygen as a byproduct of it’s process. If there is some type of daily topical antioxidant for the scalp, that would lend itself to faster, better results.
Basford, Jeffrey R., MD. “Low-energy laser therapy: Controversies and new research findings”. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, Volume 9, Issue 1, pages 1–5, 1989. Article first published online: 19 OCT 2005. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/lsm.1900090103/abstract
Ghanaat, Mahyar. “Low-level light therapy and hair loss”. Handbook of Hair in Health and Disease, Volume 1, pages 386-400, 2012. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.3920%2F978-90-8686-728-8_19?LI=true
Schraibman, I.G. Localized hirsuties. Postgrad Med J. 1967 Aug;43(502):545-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6074155?dopt=Abstract
Effect of laser on hair Growth of mice (in Hungarian). Mester, E. Szende, B. and Tota, J.G. (1967). Kiserl Orvostud 19. 628-631