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Low-level laser therapies have been gaining popularity in the field of trichology. Despite its novelty, this therapy is among the commonly used treatment methods that complement conventional therapies.
Consequently, your dermatologist will probably recommend one of the LLLT devices to increase the efficacy of treatment.
This article focuses on the use of laser treatment for hair loss and examines its abilities to slow down, stop or even partially reverse your hair loss, as well as how to choose the best laser device for hair loss treatment.
Summary of the 5 best LLLT devices:
What is low-level laser therapy?
Low-level laser therapy, usually abbreviated as LLLT, is a non-invasive medical procedure. It is also known as low light therapy, cold laser, red light therapy, or photobiomodulation.
LLLT was accidentally discovered by Hungarian physician Endre Mester in 1967 when he found that mice irradiated with the light of low-level lasers grew hair. Since then, meticulous research has revealed that LLLT increases blood circulation to the skin and enhances cell regeneration.
In the early 2000s, Lexington International, LLC under the brand name of HairMax, started to manufacture LLLT combs for hair loss treatment in the comfort of your home. Seven years later in January 2007, The HairMax LaserComb® was the first-ever medical low-level laser therapy device cleared by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for treatment of male-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia).
Four years later in 2011, FDA clearance for treatment of female-pattern baldness followed. Currently, with the exception of oral finasteride and topical minoxidil, it is one of the few FDA-approved treatment methods for hair loss.
Effectiveness of low-level laser therapy
As a result of increasing laser technology adoption in hair loss treatment during the last decade, many scientific papers exploring the benefits of low-level laser therapy have been published.
One study sought to confirm the hypothesis that LLLT can stimulate hair growth. The review summarized the results of 21 related studies to prove the benefits of low-level laser therapy as a hair loss treatment process.
The table below summarizes the results of more recent clinical studies evaluating the effectiveness of LLLT in patients with androgenetic alopecia.
Summary of clinical trials on low-level laser therapy for hair loss treatment
|Author (-s), year||Research details||Results|
|M. Leavitt et al., 2009.|
|Subjects: 110 males.|
Device: laser comb, 9 units laser diodes, 655 nm.
Regimen: 15 min 3x/week for 26 weeks.
|Increase in mean terminal hair density of +19.8 hairs/cm2.|
Photo from the trial.
|H. Kim et al., 2013.|
|Subjects: 26 males, 14 females.|
Device: Laser helmet, 24 units 630 nm LEDs + 18 units 660 nm LEDs + 27 units 650 nm laser diodes.
Regimen: 18 min once a day for 24 weeks.
|Increase in mean hair density of +17.2 hairs/cm2.|
Mean hair thickness increase of +0.0126 mm.
|J. J. Jimenez et al., 2014.|
|Subjects: 141 females, 128 males.|
Device: laser comb with 6, 9, or 12 units laser diodes, 635-655 nm.
Regimen: 15, 11, or 8 mins 3x week for 26 weeks.
|Increase in mean terminal hair density of +18.4 to +25.7 hairs/cm2.|
Photo from the trial.
|S. Friedman and P. Schnoor, 2017.|
|Subjects: 44 females|
Device: laser cap, 272 laser diodes, 650 nm.
Regimen: 30 mins every other day for 17 weeks.
|Increase in mean hair density of +89.9 hairs per 2.85 cm2 (+31.54 hairs/cm2)|
Photo from the trial.
|P. Suchonwanit et al., 2019|
|Subjects: 20 males, 20 females|
Device: laser cap, 224 laser diodes, 650 nm.
Regimen: 20 min 3x a week for 24 weeks.
|Increase in mean hair density of +10.21 hairs/cm2.|
Mean hair thickness increase of +0.0061 mm.
Photo from the trial.
It is evident that all five reviewed studies have shown positive results with laser treatment, based on various assessment parameters.
The study also found that all devices that are cleared by the FDA for LLLT hair loss treatment are both safe and effective for male and female pattern hair loss.
In one study, nearly all subjects in the sample of 122 females and 102 males experienced an increase in hair count during a 26-week trial.
The study was based on thrice-weekly treatment for 8-15 mins using the HairMax laser comb. The illustration below shows the successful results of a couple of patients in the study.
A study in 2017 confirmed that low-level laser therapy was effective in improving the tensile strength and thickness of hair in up to 50 percent of the test subjects. The researchers concluded that LLLT could lead to an overall improvement in hair growth, sustain an appropriate hair thickness, and ensure patient satisfaction.
However, some studies have insisted that the maintenance treatment and possible long-term consequences of LLLT have not been well clarified.
Despite that, from the above evidence, it is clear that studies support that low-level laser therapy for hair loss is not only safe but also effective in managing hair loss in both men and women.
How does LLLT work?
The exact mechanism of LLLT’s action in the treatment of hair loss is unclear. According to dermatologist Dr. Suneil Gandhi, the possible mechanisms by which hair growth is improved are:
All these mechanisms lead to the following results on hair follicles:
Though the safety and effectiveness of low-level laser therapy for hair loss is quite clear, one question remains:
How to use LLLT for hair loss treatment?
Usually, the amount of time it takes before you see results depends on the device you use.
Noticeable results should occur on average within 2 to 6 months after the initiation of treatment. However, combining LLLT with other treatment options may provide quicker and more significant results.
As we can see from this, the results from LLLT are not instantaneous. Some things must come into play before you can achieve results. What is more, these determinants are dependent primarily on you – the user.
Stick to your schedule
Stick to the schedule you find in the manual which should come with your LLLT device. Recommendations by different manufacturers for different devices may differ because of properties such as the number of lasers in the device and its type – combs, band, or cap.
The common treatment regimen used in previous studies is 10-20 minutes on alternate days.
If you fail to follow the procedures as indicated in the guidelines, then you should not expect significant results. LLLT for hair loss is not a short-term treatment plan, but rather a long-term remedy that requires dedication and commitment. The hair follicles need to be kept constantly stimulated as instructed by the guidelines.
Do not purchase unauthorized devices
Earlier in this article, we indicated that all the devices for low-level laser treatment for hair loss that have been cleared by the FDA are safe and effective. The same cannot be said for unauthorized devices.
Since LLLT has become a very popular home treatment, unlicensed retailers have seen an opportunity to exploit vulnerable patients by providing unauthorized devices at lower prices. To be safe, only go for brands that have been cleared by the FDA.
Purchase devices that use medical-grade lasers
Low-level laser light and LED light mainly differ with consistency. LLLT devices produce a laser light that is of a consistent frequency and phase while light produced by LEDs is inconsistent – waves and photon light do not have the same phase and frequency.
What that means is LED light, unlike lasers, is spread more widely and cannot penetrate the deeper levels of the skin. Laser light is more focused. There is no doubt that LEDs have some beneficial characteristics but all the successful studies which we’ve reviewed in this article were based on LLLT treatment, not LEDs.
Types of low-level laser therapy devices
Since laser treatment for hair loss has gained more attention, it is no wonder that we can now choose from several different types of LLLT devices. Currently, there are three of them:
Laser combs combine complex laser technology and a simple comb. Laser combs generally come with two rows of comb teeth, with a row of laser diodes between them. The original concept of laser combs by HairMax had 6 laser diodes. The latest model, Ultima 12, is equipped with 12 laser diodes.
Compared with other types of laser devices, combs have few laser diodes. However, they have an undeniable advantage – the comb’s teeth separate the hair so it doesn’t block the laser light from reaching the scalp, thereby increasing the laser’s effectiveness.
Like laser combs, laser helmets, or caps use the same technology of photostimulation.
One of the differences is in the design. You have to put the device on your head and keep it there for approximately 30 minutes; no hand movement is needed.
Moreover, laser caps and helmets contain considerably more laser diodes compared to combs – up to 272. That enables these devices to cover nearly the entire scalp at once.
Unfortunately, if you have a lot of thick or long hair, the laser light may be blocked and hardly reach the scalp, reducing the therapy’s overall effectiveness.
Laser bands are manufactured by HairMax and in terms of device type, they fill the gap between the laser combs and laser caps.
Bands have many more laser diodes than combs, however, you still have to manually move the band through your hair as it doesn’t cover the entire scalp in one go. Laser bands have teeth that assist in parting the hair so the laser light can reach the scalp. This results in lower application time when compared to other laser methods.
Fun fact – HairMax LaserBand 82 and Ultima 12 Laser Combs were designed by Pininfarina – an Italian car designer who worked for Ferrari and Maserati, to name but two prestigious companies.
Review of the 5 best laser devices for hair loss treatment
In recent years, the number of LLLT device manufacturers has grown significantly. Currently, there are 71 FDA-cleared laser devices in the market. However, only a handful of them can boast about their clinical trials.
Thus, to ensure we assist you in selecting the most effective laser device we only reviewed the products of manufacturers that have published their original clinical trials and scientific studies.
Here follows a detailed review of the devices for low-level laser therapy. By the end of this laser comb, band, and caps review, you will be able to make an informed choice regarding the best device for your needs.
HairMax Laser 272 PowerFlex Cap – The Most Powerful Device on the List
This is a laser cap by design and is somewhat reminiscent of the structure of the previously mentioned Capillus 82 cap. The PowerFlex laser cap was developed by HairMax, the pioneering company in laser treatment devices for hair loss.
The PowerFlex 272 laser cap is one of the latest devices by HairMax and was FDA-cleared in 2018.
PowerFlex has a rechargeable battery pack and is mobile. It takes 3-5 hours to charge the battery fully. The fully charged battery will hold enough charge for six to eight sessions of 30 minutes each. This translates into two charges per month.
According to the manufacturer, the device will last for 10 to 15 years, since the laser diodes that are incorporated in PowerFlex are made of premium materials.
In terms of appearance, the cap is similar in design to a baseball cap. The inner layer of the cap is lined with 272 evenly spaced high-quality lasers. The cap is lightweight and flexible, making it comfortable to wear.
The cap only comes in one size. It may be comfortable to wear at home but it is not designed for motion-intensive activities like exercising.
Another good thing about the Laser 272 PowerFlex Cap is that the laser lining is very versatile. It can be removed and fixed to your baseball cap, or any hat of your preference.
The manufacturer also states that its BioLight Comfort design makes use of linear laser openings, which help to ensure a smooth laser flow. Even if you have a full head of hair, the device’s effectiveness should not be compromised.
Out of the devices mentioned in this article, PowerFlex has the most medical-grade lasers – 272. This is more than three times the number of lasers in the Capillus82 cap and five times the number in the iRestore Essential.
The PowerFlex device also offers a longer warranty than its competitors. It comes with a 2-year warranty for laser diodes. But do not mistake this for a “satisfaction guarantee” term. The manufacturer’s warranty can be claimed only if the device is faulty or does not operate as purported.
If the device functions as advertised but does not suit your individual needs, then you are eligible for the “satisfaction guarantee” for 12 months from the date of purchase. In this case, you will have to pay a 25% restocking fee.
In other words, during the first twelve months, you can return the product without giving a reason and get back 75% of what you originally paid.
Warranty: 2-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty. 1-Year Money Back Guarantee with 25% restocking fee.
CapillusUltra Mobile Laser Therapy Cap – Best Mid-range Laser Cap
Capillus® is another established brand in the industry. The Capillus82 Laser Cap for Hair Regrowth is quite similar to other popular devices, such as the iRestore. Despite that, it offers significantly more laser diodes, although it is at a higher price point. Let us look at the specifications in more depth.
Capillus82 is gentle on the eye and looks much like a regular cap. However, it does not have the comfort of the iRestore inner cushions. The inside of the cap is hard plastic, which may become uncomfortable.
One of the notable advantages is that you don’t have to plug it into a power socket to use it. Capillus82 laser cap has a rechargeable battery, which grants you the freedom to move around while receiving your treatment.
While the battery is an advantage, there is no display of the battery life, which means that it may run out during your session. Additionally, once the battery is flat you cannot continue your treatment by plugging it in. The device must be turned off and put on the charger before you can complete your treatment.
Capillus82 is equipped with 82 medical-grade laser diodes. Due to the strength of the Capillus82 device, it has specific instructions for use that must be followed carefully.
The Capillus cap should be worn for 6 minutes every day. Once the cap is securely on your head, press the power button to commence the therapy. The diodes will light up automatically once the therapy starts. Failure to meet the stipulated 6-minute duration will not produce the desired results.
Capillus® LLLT devices are more costly than competing devices on the market. This is not due to revolutionary features, but merely to attractive design.
Capillus also has a complicated return policy. They state that all sales are final, with no refunds or exchanges with the exception of the Satisfaction Guarantee.
This guarantee states that if the device did not work for you, you may only return it within 365-400 days after the purchase, and it must be in pristine condition. Additionally, you must pay a 25% restocking fee and shipping costs.
Warranty: 1-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
iRestore Essential – Best Laser Helmet for a Low Budget
This is one of the more popular LLLT devices you will find on the market today. The iRestore Laser Hair Growth System was recently renamed iRestore Essential as the company has also released an enhanced model called iRestore Professional, equipped with more laser diodes.
Be that as it may, let us delve deeper into the specifications of this iRestore Essential device.
The highly recognizable iRestore dome is made of white-colored plastic. The inside part of the dome is kitted out with cushions and a band that keeps the dome fixed to your head during therapy sessions.
A handheld controller is also attached to the dome which helps you start and stop the therapy sessions at your convenience.
21 medical-grade lasers and 30 light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are located inside the dome. These are designed to emit light in the wavelength recommended for this therapy. On the controller, you will also notice a display that indicates the battery life and contains a timer.
According to the manual, the sessions should last for about 25 minutes as the light-emitting diodes illuminate your head. Conveniently, the controller will beep to alert you to the end of the 25-minute session. The LEDs and lasers will turn off automatically after which the helmet can be removed.
The device comes without a battery and must be plugged in for use. However, iRestore offers rechargeable battery packs for $79.99.
On a positive note, iRestore offers an industry-leading 12-month money-back guarantee. If the device simply does not work for you, then return it and receive a full refund. iRestore even covers the return cost for citizens of the United States.
Warranty: 1-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
LaserBand 82 – ComfortFlex – The Least Application Time
The LaserBand 82 – ComfortFlex is another product of HairMax. It is an FDA-cleared laser device, which treats androgenetic alopecia and promotes hair growth in both males and females.
ComfortFlex is the latest laser band model by HairMax. It replaced the previous LaserBand 82 and now offers a flexible band design. This helps it to adapt to the shape of the user’s head and makes the treatment process even easier.
Moreover, for effective head coverage, it comes with patented parting teeth, ensuring that the laser light can penetrate your hair effectively. This feature is beneficial for users with long hair that otherwise might block laser light from reaching the scalp.
This device has 82 medical-grade laser diodes, but it requires some work on the users’ part. You have to manually move it through your scalp every 30 seconds. Full scalp coverage can be achieved by parting your scalp area into three sections (see the image).
According to the manufacturer, you need to use it for only 90 seconds (30 seconds per section) on alternate days. This makes LaserBand 82 – ComfortFlex the device with the fastest treatment type.
Even though LaserBand 82 has fewer laser diodes than laser caps, applying it to three different sections of your scalp helps achieve similar laser light coverage. The downside is that it involves moving the device manually.
Some people might prefer the laser cap design, which looks more casual and is less noticeable than the laser band.
Warranty: 2-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty. 6-Month Money-Back Guarantee with 20% restocking fee
HairMax Ultima 12 LaserComb – The Cheapest Device on the List
The Ultima 12 LaserComb is another product by HairMax, albeit with 12 medical-grade lasers. Ultima 12 can be considered a robust device as the HairMax laser comb was the first device to be cleared by the FDA and shown to promote hair growth in males with androgenetic alopecia.
The Ultima 12 LaserComb has the structure of a traditional comb but with a more complex design. Similar to previously reviewed LaserBand, Ultima 12 is equipped with parting teeth that help to prevent hair from blocking the laser light.
Since the device has 12 medical-grade laser diodes, effective low-level laser treatment can be achieved. The comb must be moved back and forth manually every four seconds for a total of eight minutes.
To see improvements in hair growth and thickness and maintain these improvements, use the device on alternate days. Ultima 12 is the most affordable device on the list, but it is also the most labor-intensive.
Warranty: 2-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty. 6-Month Money-Back Guarantee with 20% restocking fee.
There are many low-level laser therapy devices available for the treatment of hair loss. However, these we have reviewed are among the most reliable and effective products that you can find on the market.
Consider which features are the most important to you as well as your budget when choosing a device. Laser devices should be used in addition to your existing hair loss treatment regimen to maximize improvements in hair growth.