Thinning hair can be distressing for both men and women.
Laser cap manufacturers claim their devices help you regrow hair in as little as three months. But do laser hair growth caps work?
Read on to find out more about whether research actually backs this up or whether alternative solutions may be more suitable for the realistic prospect of hair regrowth.
What Are Laser Caps for Hair Loss?
Laser hair growth caps are cap-shaped devices that shine red light on the scalp to promote new hair growth.
Most use lasers, whereas and some use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to stimulate your scalp.
Users are supposed to wear the device several times a week, and according to manufacturers, they’ll start seeing hair regrowth within three months.
Do Laser Caps for Hair Loss Really Work?
Let’s explore the science behind hair restoration devices.
Low-level lasers, or “cold” lasers, are low-strength lasers that emit red light which has a stimulating effect on the human body. Unlike high-powered surgical lasers which heat tissue, low-level laser therapy (LLLT) does not cause tissue damage.
However, laser caps are so close to the skin that multiple wavelengths cannot mix for optimal treatment. Red light therapy panels can treat a much broader variety of ailments.
The stimulating effect of red light treatments on hair regrowth includes the following.
Increased Cellular Energy Production
Hair loss may be due to mitochondrial dysfunction, where the mitochondria in hair follicle cells don’t produce enough adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is the primary fuel that most human cells rely on to function properly.
Light photons emitted by a red light therapy device stimulate energy production in follicle cells.
Increased Blood Flow
Red light treatments increase blood flow to improve oxygen and nutrient transport to the cells.
Increased Collagen Production
Red light therapy stimulates collagen synthesis. Collagen is not present in hair, but it is the primary component of the dermis (the outer layer of skin) which contains hair follicles. Collagen also contains amino acids which are used to build another protein, keratin. Keratin is the primary component of hair.
Chronic inflammation is one of the main causes of mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondrial dysfunction can manifest on the skin as signs of aging, and on the scalp as hair loss.
Several studies suggest that low-level laser light therapy promotes hair regrowth in people with androgenetic alopecia (genetic male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness). This is achieved by extending the duration that the follicles remain in the anagen, or active hair growth phase, improving hair count and thickness.
Is a laser hair growth cap a long-term solution? Consistent use can slow hair loss in the early stages of androgenetic alopecia, but won't prevent it indefinitely. A laser hair growth cap also won't work on dead follicles.
Risks and Side Effects of Using Laser Hair Growth Caps
Low-level light therapy is considered safe and free from side effects when used as directed, including long-term use as a hair loss treatment.
The same applies to LED-based low-level light therapy caps for hair loss. Some people may experience temporary redness or tightness after treatment, which is likely due to increased blood flow to the scalp.
You'll need to commit to regular laser or LED treatment sessions, typically three times a week indefinitely to treat hair loss.
Consistency and perseverance are important with laser or LED therapy since the growth cycle of each follicle is approximately three months.
Once the treatment has stimulated dormant follicles into their anagen phase, many more follicles are entering the transitional and dormant phases so it's an ongoing process of continually targeting follicles as they cycle into the catagen or telogen phases, including those that are “stuck” and those just entering those phases.
Compatibility of Laser Caps with Other Hair Loss Treatments
Low level laser therapy (LLLT) treatment is non-invasive, safe and effective for female- and male pattern baldness. But, can it be used with other hair loss treatments?
According to some hair restoration experts, you will get the best results by combining a laser hair cap with topical minoxidil and other topical hair loss medications.
Keep in mind that some people develop allergies to hair regrowth medications. LLLT may be a viable hair restoration option for people with thinning hair and medication sensitivity.
Always get medical advice before starting any laser treatment for hair loss, especially if you aren't sure your thinning hair is due to genetics.
Limitations of Laser Caps for Hair Loss
In theory, it sounds great. However, be prepared for sticker shock. Quality low level laser therapy hair restoration caps cost anywhere from $600 to $3,000. That is a hefty price to pay for a laser device that only treats one thing.
Lower priced laser caps exist, but we recommend you avoid these because they are underpowered. Weak light output means that fewer light photons are absorbed into the skin.
This means the treatment may not be as effective as red light therapy panels and you’ll need to wait much longer for results.
When treating any condition with photobiomodulation, a important factor is having the ability to modulate and create the appropriate distance from the wavelengths in order to create the best therapeutic experience. PlatinumLED therapy lights allow you to completely customize your treatments.
Functional Medicine Doctor of Physical TherapyDr. Alayna Newton, PT, DPT, FAFS
Red Light Therapy Panels for Treating Hair Loss
It’s hard to beat the convenience of a hair loss treatment cap to stimulate hair growth. But, let’s go back to the ways that red light therapy supports your body:
- More energy production and better cellular metabolism
- Less inflammation
- More blood flow
- More collagen production
Red light therapy has many more applications than reversing hair thinning for men and women.
It’s also a powerful skin rejuvenation tool. It supports muscle recovery, eases low back pain and arthritis knee pain, reduces systemic inflammation, treats neuropathic pain, soothes chronic skin disorders, and much more.
Another limitation is power. Many laser caps, especially in the “affordable” range, don’t generate the light energy that large light therapy panels do to allow the maximum amount of light photons to reach the targeted follicle cells.
Finally, wearable laser hair loss devices (caps/helmets) do not feature near-infrared light.
NIR wavelengths absorb deeper into the body to address any underlying inflammation that could be causing damage to the follicles. Regular treatment will reduce the number of inflammation-damaged cells, which can stimulate the follicles to naturally enter the anagen phase.
NIR light also stimulates cells in the deeper layers of the skin and underlying tissue. NIR light is necessary for deep tissue treatments like joint pain and brain health. But, it also amplifies the effects of red light (which is most effective at treating skin concerns and hair loss).
The Most Advanced RLT Panels for Consumers
Given the multitude of benefits of red and NIR light, it makes sense to go with the most advanced red light therapy panel: the BIOMAX series from PlatinumLED Therapy Lights. For about the same investment as a quality laser cap for hair loss, you get:
- The versatility to treat any part of the body
- Superior light energy output for the deepest light absorption
- A patent-pending combination of five red and near-infrared wavelengths validated by a huge body of research for the most comprehensive benefits
- LED bulbs, which ensure maximum coverage
These FDA-approved medical-grade devices are the same as a dermatologist uses. They are ideal for home use, too, whether you want to target hair loss or boost your health more broadly.
For those with saunas, the SaunaMAX Pro is the only panel that offers in-sauna RLT treatment.