If you’re among the 35+ million men or 21+ million women in the United States who experience hair falling out faster than it grows in, you know how hard it is to slow thinning or balding, let alone regain natural hair growth. Creams, pills, and surgical treatments are often touted as solutions. These often come with side effects, however, causing many people to seek natural, safe, and non-invasive solutions. Red light therapy for hair loss shows great promise as a long-term answer — some studies have even shown it can reverse balding and restore natural hair growth.
Below we’ll review a few of those studies and clinical trials, show you how red light therapy (RLT) works for male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness, and show you how to use red light therapy at home for best results.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work to Regrow Hair?
Hair loss takes a tremendous emotional toll on both men and women. Although some people rock the bald look, it’s not for every guy who suffers from male pattern baldness; and it’s rarely a desirable option for women who suffer from female pattern baldness.
If you’re having poor results or you’re dealing with side effects from common hair restoration treatments for baldness in both men and women, here’s why exploring red light could be a life-changing decision.
Red light therapy for hair loss is backed by scientific research. This completely natural and non-invasive treatment to restore a normal hair growth cycle has shown promise for reversing hair loss without disruptive side effects. Results indicate many benefits for human scalp hair including increased hair density and hair count.
What Is Red Light Therapy for Hair Growth?
Red light is part of the visible light spectrum that makes up part of natural sunlight. Scientists have isolated the effects of each wavelength of visible and invisible light. Of all of the wavelengths studied, red light is mostly widely shown to support positive biological functioning in the human body.
Red light therapy, which is also called low-level light therapy (LLLT), was discovered as a treatment for hair loss during the 1960s – and the discovery was accidental. A Hungarian scientist was conducting experiments with mice and had shaved the creatures’ backs.
After a series of sessions, the scientist was surprised to see fur growing around the shaved areas on the mice, and it was thicker than it had been before. That finding opened up exciting new scientific discoveries about the vast potential of the therapy.
Today, the science has moved forward significantly, and now RLT uses high-power light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to saturate the body with wavelengths of therapeutic light.
How does it work? In short, our bodies respond to the light in much the same way that plants respond to sunlight: by creating more energy at the cellular level. This sparks a snowball effect of other beneficial biological processes.
What Wavelengths Are Included in Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy includes both red and near- infrared light NIR, which are among the longest of all wavelengths. Red light ranges from 630 nanometers (nm) to 700nm, whereas near infrared light ranges from 700nm to 1100nm. Research has shown that light in the 630nm to 660nm range has the most powerful effects on treating hair loss.
Before starting this type of therapy, be sure to consult with your doctor. This is especially important if you have experienced sudden or dramatic hair falling out, which can signal a serious underlying condition that goes beyond normal male or female hair loss.
It’s also important to talk to your doctor if you are currently taking any photosensitizing medications.
Types of Hair Loss: When Red Light Therapy Is Effective and When It Isn’t
Red light therapy has innumerable benefits. It has been found to be especially effective at treating balding; specifically, male and female pattern hair loss due to genetics, which is a condition known as androgenetic or androgenic alopecia (AGA). Other main culprits that lead to hair loss include chronic stress, poor nutrition, chronic inflammation, hormonal fluctuations (including due to pregnancy), thyroid disease, lupus, ringworm, auto-immune diseases such as alopecia areata and lichen planus, and over-styling (hair can be irreversibly damaged by harsh chemicals).
If you’re balding because you are undergoing chemo treatment or you’re receiving treatment with other drugs that cause hair loss, you’ll need to wait until you’re off these drugs before you can expect to see results. Once you’ve stopped chemotherapy treatments, RLT can work to halt chemical-induced hair loss and stimulate hair re-growth by promoting healthy cell functioning.
How Red Light Therapy Works to Grow Hair
When you lose hair, the hair falls out but the hair follicles remain, although they stop producing hair at the same rate. Sometimes, production slows; other times, the hair follicles go dormant. You lose hair naturally (we typically lose 60–100 hairs per day out of hundreds of thousands). You notice that your hair follicles aren’t working when new hair is either slow to replace the lost hairs, the new hair is thin and weak, or growth stops altogether.
Therefore, the key is to get the hair follicles out of dormancy and support their health so they can grow hair again.
What we see as “hair” is mostly a protein called keratin that makes up the hair shaft. Growth actually occurs under the surface in the follicles. A hair follicle is a tube-like formation that anchors hair to the skin. At the base of each hair follicle is the hair bulb (the whole thing looks somewhat like a tall vase). At the bulbous part of the vase are the dermal papilla and the matrix; this is where hair begins to grow.
But, hair growth will slow down or stop completely if the specialized cells that control it aren’t functioning properly. Here's where red light therapy comes in, causing hair to grow and increase in thickness.
Increased Cellular Energy
Red light penetrates the skin to the base of each hair follicle in the treatment area. When the photons absorb into the skin and reach individual cells, they interact with light-sensitive receptors in the mitochondria, which are energy-producing organelles inside the cells. This interaction stimulates the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary cellular fuel.
Optimally fueled, healthy cells function better. Healthy cells do their jobs, replicate more successfully, and defend themselves against oxidative stress and any environmental pathogens.
Red light therapy is known for reducing inflammation which could be interfering with normal cellular energy production and functioning. It may also inhibit cell death. A longer programmed cell death means more time for healthy cells to do their jobs. Healthy, long-lived cells directly affect their neighboring cells and the system or organ as a whole.
As the cells in the entire hair follicle become more functional again, the papillae will create more keratin, which results in the ability to grow new hair.
Increased Collagen Production
Low-level light therapy also increases the production of collagen, another type of protein found in the body. Collagen isn’t present in hair, but according to this 2014 study by Chinese researchers, it acts as an antioxidant to fight damage caused by free radicals. These are harmful compounds that develop in the body during stress, or due to factors such as environmental pollutants, chemotherapy-induced alopecia, or malnutrition.
Free radicals damage cells in the follicles, which contributes to their inability to grow hair. Increased collagen means less oxidative damage, which can support normal hair follicle functioning.
Increased Microcirculation to the Scalp
Red light treatment has been shown to increase the creation of new capillaries, which improves blood flow to the scalp and brings oxygen and nutrients to cells.
Increased blood flow also brings white blood cells to the area, which is important if you’re suffering from disease-related hair loss or you’re suffering from an abnormal inflammatory response which could inhibit normal hair follicle functioning. But it’s not just blood flow that improves; capillaries are also present in the lymphatic system, which removes waste that can lead to hair follicle damage.
A Massachusetts General Hospital study linked improved blood flow to the growth of thicker, healthier hair. Barbers and hairstylists have long encouraged men and women to massage their scalps as a way to increase blood flow. You could combine scalp massage with low-level light therapy to stimulate circulation in the scalp and “wake up” dormant hair follicles as well as improve cellular energy.
Are There Any Side Effects?
In the many studies on red light therapy, virtually no side effects have been noted. Some people with sensitive skin may experience temporary redness or tightness. However, this is not a symptom of burns that you would get from overexposure to UV light. Red light does not cause burns. Redness and tightness is likely due to increased blood flow to the treated area and should subside within a few minutes after treatment.
Some hair restoration medication may cause unwanted hair growth, but that’s not the case with low-level light therapy. Because it stimulates your body’s natural growth processes, hair only grows back where it normally would and only in the treated areas.
In the next section, we discuss clinical trials on red light as a treatment for permanent hair loss (not temporary hair loss associated with cancer treatment) with RLT, specifically low-level laser therapy delivered via low-powered visible red light laser treatment devices.
Laser therapy is typically administered in clinical settings; the few laser treatment devices available for consumer use are small, meaning that it would take an extremely long time to treat your entire scalp.
However, LED devices that emit red light are just as effective in stimulating new hair growth as visible red light laser treatment devices. LED devices ensure a safe and effective at-home treatment.
Red light therapy has been widely studied as relief for permanent hair loss sufferers. Clinical trial after clinical trial supports RLT as a safe, painless, and effective treatment to promote proper hair growth. Here are a few of them:
Hair Growth Increases 37%
One study, conducted in 2014, involved 42 women aged 18 to 60 with androgenetic alopecia. The treatment group received 25-minute LED red light treatments daily for 60 days. The control group received a sham treatment. At the completion of the study, the treatment group experienced a 37 percent increase in hair growth over the control group, and none of the participants experienced any adverse side effects.
Hair Growth Increases 51%
Even more impressive results were achieved during a 2017 clinical trial on women with androgenetic alopecia. A group of women aged 18 to 60 received red light treatments every other day for 17 weeks, while the control group received a sham treatment. Treated participants experienced a 51 percent increase in hair counts compared with sham-treated control participants.
Thicker Hair Regrowth
A 2017 meta-analysis analyzed 11 studies on red light as a treatment for hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia. These combined studies had 680 participants (444 men and 236 women). Nine out of the 11 studies found statistically significant improvements in hair count, hair strength, and hair density (thickness) in both men and women after receiving RLT.
Better than Other Treatments with No Side Effects
A 2018 meta-analysis reviewed 22 studies on androgenetic alopecia that compared red light therapy to other common treatments for hair loss, including top non-surgical treatments. Researchers concluded that RLT had a significantly greater effect at treating balding with no adverse effects.
Safe and Effective
The trial enrolled 100 men with androgenetic alopecia. Participants received three 30-minute low-level laser treatments per week for 24 weeks on one side of the head and a sham treatment on the other side of the head. The treated areas showed significantly greater hair density and hair count over the non-treated side, and no adverse side effects were observed.
This 2018 study by researchers from Taiwan concluded that red light therapy appears to be an effective and safe treatment for male pattern baldness.
Enhanced Dermal Papilla Cell Function
A 2019 study examined men with androgenetic alopecia and found that RLT delivered via low level laser therapy, enhanced dermal papilla cell function. The participants were treated with 25-minute red light sessions every other day for 24 weeks.
At the study’s completion, the researchers compared biopsied scalp tissue of patients with androgenetic alopecia before and after treatment with low level laser therapy.
Their analysis showed a statistically significant increase in proteins that indicate enhanced dermal papilla cell function; as a result, the researchers support the benefits of RLT for treating androgenetic alopecia.
Using Red Light Therapy at Home to Treat Hair Loss
You can treat male and female pattern baldness and promote healing of various other conditions using red light therapy in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Yes ... this means you could enjoy significantly greater hair coverage while treating various aches and pains, enhancing muscle growth, and turning back the clock on aging.
How To Get the Best Results
Success with RLT involves using the right device. Not all light treatment devices are the same. Here’s what to look for, and how to use them for maximum effect in achieving the desired hair density and hair count.
A Powerful LED Panel
The key is to use a quality, high light energy output LED light therapy device. This in-depth guide can help you choose the best LED sources that will deliver the most therapeutic wavelengths with maximum power.
Laser therapy for hair loss is done at a hair loss clinic, and that can be costly. You could get the same results by using an LED red light therapy panel in less time since a panel allows you to treat a larger area at one time, and you’ll enjoy DIY hair regrowth treatments in the convenience of your own home.
Red light therapy treatment caps specifically made for treating hair loss can be effective. But since there are so many other benefits to red light, you'll get the most out of your investment by choosing a powerful LED light therapy device with the versatility to treat other parts of your body besides your scalp.
Does red light therapy work on other physical problems? Absolutely! We’ve mentioned a few benefits.
To discover more about the power and versatility of RLT, check out the Learn page to find articles on a wide range of topics including:
- wound healing
- joint pain from osteoarthritis
- improved skin complexion
- brain health
- eye health,
and weight loss, among many others.
The BIO and BIOMAX red light and red/near infrared light combo devices from PlatinumLED are the highest quality medical grade red light therapy panels available today. When you look at the spec sheet, it becomes clear that panels win over smaller devices.
You’ll get the most value from a high-powered device that emits both red and near infrared light. The BIOMAX series delivers the highest power output and most advanced red/near infrared spectrum of any product on the market, which in turn gives you the best results from at-home light therapy for hair restoration as well as a host of other conditions.
A Combination of Red and Near Infrared Light
This combination offers superior treatment for hair restoration since near-infrared light amplifies the effects of red light. Red light (630–660nm) stimulates hair growth, while near-infrared light (810–850nm) adds another dimension by helping treat any underlying conditions that could be causing hair loss such as chronic inflammation or hormonal imbalances.
Near-infrared light photons penetrate deep into the body, even through bone, where they stimulate the production of white blood cells, stem cells, and blood cells.
For example, one of the possible causes of hair loss is hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid disease), a condition in which someone’s thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain crucial hormones.
Between 2006 and 2009, researchers from the University of Sao Paulo Medical School treated a group of hypothyroidism patients with low-level laser therapy using 830nm near-infrared light, and found that their thyroid function improved. During a 2014 follow-up study with the same group, the researchers assessed the long-term safety of red light therapy. They concluded that red light therapy is safe to use long-term to maintain or improve the original results.
If you’re treating other conditions while using red light to stimulate growth of new hair, near-infrared light can be used for sore muscles, neuropathy, joint pain, and low back pain. If you’re suffering from inflammatory skin disorders such as rosacea, near-infrared light can help reduce the inflammation.
The Right Distance from the Light Source
LED sources are important – and so is how you use them.
The ideal distance for the most effective treatment with red light therapy is 4” to 6” from the device. At this distance, the full power of the light will be absorbed by your hair follicles. Keep in mind that hair will disperse the light; because of that, you’ll want to get as close as possible during the treatment so the maximum amount of light will reach and stimulate hair formation in follicles that come out of dormancy.
Since most hair loss occurs at the top of the head, you could relax in a comfortable recliner with the light propped vertically behind you. Try to get as much hair out of the way as you can conveniently, but don’t worry if a few strands get between you and the light waves. If you're using a powerful enough device, your scalp should still get enough exposure.
Consistency of treatment is key.
You’ll get the best results with sessions of 10 to 20 minutes each, three to five times per week, for a minimum of three months. After this initial treatment period, you can maintain your results with an ongoing maintenance program of a 20-minute session one to four times per week.
Several months of daily exposure to red light will be necessary before you see significant results. This is due to the natural growth process that begins at the cellular level. Even though hair cells are fast-growing, the intent is to stimulate hair follicles that can number in the tens of thousands, so give each one time to “wake up” and start producing hair again.
The good news is that LED red light therapy treatments are pleasant and relaxing; many people combine them with a short meditation session that can reduce stress – which, by the way, is another potential cause of thinning hair.
It’s important not to compare your results with other people, since not everyone’s hair loss is caused by the same underlying conditions. There are plenty of other factors, such as chronic stress, vitamin D deficiency, and other nutritional deficiencies influencing how hair grows.
Combining Red Light Therapy with Other Hair Loss Treatments
Regardless of how hair is lost, the most important issue is how to get it back. Here’s a quick overview of common treatments:
- Topical over-the-counter and prescription creams (Minoxidil and Finasteride) have a significant therapeutic effect, but they can cause severe scalp irritation, rashes, and other adverse reactions in some individuals.
- Hair transplants take hair from an area with more hair (such as the back of the head) and transplant it to the thinning area. Hair transplant surgery is a common treatment but it’s very expensive, takes up to eight hours, and is often painful. And even though it’s touted as permanent, success hinges on the ability of the scalp to regrow hair naturally. Two to eight weeks after surgery, the transplanted hair will fall out; most people see 60 percent new growth after six to nine months. Side effects include nerve damage to the scalp and other surgical complications.
If you tolerate topical medications well, you could combine them with red light therapy. Be sure to put the cream on after the red light treatment to prevent the cream from blocking any light photons from absorbing into the skin.
A 2017 study examined the effects of red light therapy versus topical Minoxidil 5% ointment, a common treatment for female pattern hair loss. Forty-five participants were divided into three groups: one received red light only, one received topical Minoxidil only, and one received a combination of the two treatments. Researchers concluded that red light therapy treatments were effective and that a combination of red light and Minoxidil could hasten hair regrowth.
Red Light Therapy Before and After Hair Regrowth Pictures
Everyone’s hair grows at a different rate, and the possibility of hair regrowth depends on the factor influencing hair growth. For example, genetics contribute to male or female pattern baldness but hair loss can also be a result of hormonal imbalances or even chronic stress. So, be sure not to compare your results to anyone else’s. With that said, here are some hair growth results that clinical study participants experienced.
Photo credit: Raymond J. Lanzafame et al., “The growth of human scalp hair in females using visible red light laser and LED sources,” Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, October 2014. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4265291
Photo credit: Poonkiat Suchonwanit et al., “Low-level laser therapy for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in Thai men and women: a 24-week, randomized, double-blind, sham device-controlled trial,” Lasers in Medical Science, December 2018. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10103-018-02699-9
Reviews: the Effectiveness of Red Light Therapy on Hair Regrowth
You’ve seen the science. Now, let’s see what real users have to say about red light therapy for growing hair. Please keep in mind that results can vary widely.
P.S., verified buyer: “Amazing results in a short period of time! Received the Biomax 450 and 900 for full-body treatment and didn't expect to see any result for at least 3 weeks. But after 8-9 days of using the lights 10 minutes front and 10 minutes back, my hair feels noticeably nicer, softer, and more volume. I had been having problems with losing quite a bit of hair, hair thinning, and dry and frizzy hair. So what a nice surprise this is!”
M.C., verified buyer: “Benefits of Platinum Therapy Lights These lights are truly remarkable. They improve your appearance and functions by enhancing skin and hair also deep tissue. They are absolutely the best.”
C.B., verified buyer: “Such a well made product! I suffer from a TBI so this helped me heal very much thank you for this product it has helped me in so many different ways thank you. Also my hair it’s actually coming back, so that is a plus also. Thank you!”
P.M., verified buyer: “Already working! 9 days of using the combo red/infrared therapy lights and my skin is smoothing out and I even have more eyebrow hair growing where I have always had light eyebrow hair. My mood is up also. I have the time to use the full body light 2-3 times a day totaling 50-60 min.
A.M., verified buyer: “Love my lights. I have only used them for one week, but I notice the difference! My hair is smoother, my face is brighter and I sleep much better! So glad I ordered these! ❤️❤️❤️
Restoring a Healthy Head of Hair, the Red Light Way
As numerous studies have shown, red light therapy helps grow hair in both men and women who suffer from pattern hair loss. Time and time again, red light therapy has been shown to increase hair counts, improve hair thickness, and result in patient satisfaction.
If you are experiencing the emotional effects of male or female pattern baldness and are frustrated with your options, check out the industry’s most powerful red light therapy panels. Read more here on how to boost your health with red light therapy, and get your confidence back along with your hair.