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Low-level laser therapies have been getting increasingly popular in the field of trichology. Despite its novelty, this therapy is among the commonly used treatment methods nowadays that complement conventional therapies.
Consequently, to complement your treatment effectiveness, you are likely to be recommended one of the LLLT devices by your dermatologist.
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 your optimal hair loss treatment.
What is low-level laser therapy?
Low-level laser therapy, usually abbreviated as LLLT, is a non-invasive medical procedure. It is also referred to as low light therapy, cold laser, red light therapy or photobiomodulation.
LLLT was accidentally discovered by Hungarian physician Endre Mester in 1967, who found that mice irradiated with the light of low-level lasers grew hair. Since then, it has been found that LLLT has biological effects on the skin, such as increased blood circulation and enhanced cell regeneration.
In the early 2000s Lexington International, LLC under the brand name of HairMax, started to manufacture LLLT combs for hair loss treatment at 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 androgenetic alopecia.
Four years later in 2011, FDA clearance for treatment of female pattern baldness followed. Currently, apart from oral finasteride and topical minoxidil, it is one of the few FDA-cleared 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 were published.
One study sought to confirm the hypothesis that LLLT can potentially stimulate the growth of hair. Their 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 clinical studies evaluating the effectiveness of LLLT in patients with androgenetic alopecia.
A simplified summary of studies, evaluating the efficacy of LLLT in hair loss treatment
|Author, year||Treatment regimen||Assessed parameters||Effectiveness|
|Satino et al. 2003||5-10 min, every other day for 6 months||hair count, tensile strength||yes, in both sexes|
|Yamazaki et al. 2003||3 min, once every 1-2 weeks||hair regrowth||yes|
|Waiz et al. 2006||Four sessions basis, once a week||hair regrowth observation||yes|
|Kim SS et al. 2007||10 min once a day for 14 weeks||hair density, patient satisfaction||yes|
|Avram et al. 2009||20 min, twice a week for 3-6 months||hair count||no significant changes|
|Leavitt et al. 2009||15 min, 3 times a week for 26 weeks||computer-aided hair count||yes|
|Rushton et al. 2012||7.5 min, 3 times a week for 26 weeks||trichogram, phototrichogram||no improvements|
|Kim et al. 2013||18 min, daily for 24 weeks||hair density, investigator and subject global assessment||yes (no significance according to the subject)|
|Munck et al. 2014||8-15 min, 3 times a week||hair growth observation||yes|
|Lanzafame et al. 2014||25 mins, every other day for 16 weeks||hair count||yes, compared to the placebo group|
|Jimenez et al. 2014||8-15 min, 3 times a week for 26 weeks||hair density, patients self-assessment||yes|
Note: made by Hairverse, according to Zarei, M., Wikramanayake, T. C., Falto-Aizpurua, L., Schachner, L. A., & Jimenez, J. J. (2016).
As you can see, 9 out of 11 reviewed studies have shown positive results with laser treatment, based on different assessment parameters.
The study also found that all devices that are cleared by the FDA for LLLT hair loss treatment are both safe and, in most cases, effective for male and female pattern hair loss. Interestingly enough, LLLT was found to be effective for patients whose conditions would not respond to the standard treatment options for hair loss like minoxidil and finasteride.
Taking into account one particular study, it was found that 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 the growth of hair, maintaining an appropriate hair thickness, and ensuring patient satisfaction.
However, some studies have insisted that the maintenance treatment and possible long-term consequences of LLLT have not been well elucidated.
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 effective in managing hair loss in both men and women.
How does LLLT work?
The exact mechanism of action of LLLT in the treatment of hair loss is not clear. According to dermatologist Dr. Suneil Gandhi, the possible mechanisms by which hair growth is improved are:
All these mechanisms lead to the following end results on hair follicles:
Though the safety and effectiveness of low-level laser therapy for hair loss is quite clear, one question still stands out:
How to use LLLT for maximum effectiveness?
Sometimes, the amount of time it takes before you see results depends on the device you use. But very often, there is not much difference.
Ideally, you should be able to see noticeable results on average within 2 to 6 months after initiation of treatment. Though, combining LLLT with other treatments options may provide quicker and more significant results.
It suffices to note that the results from LLLT are not instantaneous. It won’t occur overnight. Some things must come into play before you can achieve better results. What is more, these determinants are dependent primarily on you – the user. For instance:
- Stick to your schedule
Stick to the schedule, you find in the manual which should come together with your LLLT device. Recommendations by different manufacturers for different devices may differ because of properties like the number of lasers in the device and type of it: combs, band or cap.
For the indication, the common treatment regimen used in previous studies is 10-20 min every other day.
If you fail to follow the procedures as indicated in the guidelines, then you should not expect any significant results. LLLT for hair loss is not a short-term treatment plan, but rather a long-term remedy that requires dedication and commitment. Simply put, you should keep your hair follicles 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 are cleared by the FDA, are safe and effective, but the same cannot be said for the devices that are not authorized.
Since LLLT has become very popular at home, unlicensed retailers have seen an opportunity to exploit vulnerable patients by providing devices that are not authorized, albeit at lower prices.
- Purchase devices that use medical-grade lasers
Low-level laser light and LED light mainly differ with coherence. LLLT devices produce a light that is of consistent frequency and phase while light produced by LEDs is incoherent – 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. There is no doubt that LEDs too have beneficial characteristics but once again, the successful studies which were reviewed in this article were based on LLLT treatment, not LEDs.
To be safe, go for brands that have been cleared by the FDA.
What are the different types of low-level laser therapy devices?
Since laser treatment for hair loss has got more attention, it is no wonder that we can choose from several different types of LLLT devices. Currently, there are three of them:
With the ever-increasing advances in technology, science enthusiasts have upped their game and started incorporating complex technology, such as lasers, in products that are otherwise simple, like combs.
Usually, laser combs come with two rows of comb teeth, with a row of laser diodes lined in between them. The original concept of laser combs by HairMax had 6 laser diodes, and currently, the latest comb model – Ultima 12 is equipped with 12 laser diodes.
Compared with other types of laser devices, combs have really few laser diodes. However, it has an undeniable advantage – the teeth of the comb separate the hair which doesn’t let your hair block the laser light, therefore increasing its effectiveness.
Just like laser combs, laser helmets or caps work using the same technology of photostimulation.
One of the differences is in the design. You just have to put the device on your head and keep it for approximately 30 minutes, no hand movement is needed.
What is more, laser caps and helmets have many more laser diodes compared to combs, which is up to 272. That enables these devices to cover nearly the entire scalp at the same time.
On the contrary, if you have a lot of thick or long hair, the laser light may be blocked and hardly reach the scalp, reducing the overall effectiveness of laser therapy.
Laser bands are manufactured by HairMax and in terms of device type, they come somewhere between the laser combs and laser caps.
They have much more laser diodes than combs, however, you still have to manually move the band through your head as it doesn’t cover the entire scalp in one go.
The good feature of a band is that it also has teeth, just like combs, which helps to part your hair from the path of laser light. For that reason, bands tend to have the least application time, compared to other types.
Fun fact: HairMax LaserBand 82 and Ultima 12 Laser Combs were designed by Pininfarina – an Italian car design firm, the same who worked for Ferrari, Maserati and others.
Which of these devices works best?
As with all products designed for human consumption, there is really no basis to say that the “best” product is for everyone. One person may find a device handy and claim it is the best, but that is just their opinion.
Another person, who may have a bad experience with one device, might discredit it even though it worked well for someone else. So, it can be a tough decision when choosing a device that is considered the “best” for everyone.
Conveniently, you can always look up reviews of these devices at any time from the comfort of your home. If you are not convinced about what you are reading online, there are alternatives to choose from.
Review of five best low lever-laser therapy devices
Lately, the number of LLLT device manufacturers has grown significantly. As of the time of this writing, there were 71 FDA-cleared laser devices in the market. However, only a handful of them can boast about their clinical trials.
Thus, to make sure we pick truly the best laser devices available, we only review the products of manufacturers that have published their original clinical trials and scientific studies.
Here is a detailed review of the devices for low-level laser therapy. By the end of this laser comb, band, and caps review, you should be able to make up your mind on which device would be best for you once you have considered all factors. The devices are as follows:
iRestore Essential – Best Laser Helmet for a Low Budget
This is one of the more known LLLT devices you will find on the market today. The iRestore Laser Hair Growth System was recently renamed to 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’s delve deep into the specs of this iRestore Essential device.
The highly recognizable iRestore dome is made of white-colored plastic. The inside part of the dome is highly modified with cushions and a band whose purpose is to keep 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 a specific wavelength recommended for this therapy. On the controller, you will also notice a display that indicates the battery life and also has a timer on it.
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 that the 25-minute session is over. After this duration, the LEDs and lasers will turn off automatically and you are at liberty to remove the helmet.
Originally, the device comes with no battery, you have to plug it in to use. However, iRestore offers you a solution to that – you can get a rechargeable battery pack from iRestore which is sold separately and will cost you an additional $79.99 as of now.
On the other hand, there is an advantage worth to be highlighted. iRestore offers an industry-leading 12-month money-back guarantee. If you didn’t find it working for you, send it back and get a full refund. For US citizens iRestore even pays the return costs themselves.
Warranty: 1-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
CapillusUltra Mobile Laser Therapy Cap – Best Mid-range Laser Cap
Capillus® is another well-known brand name in the industry. Its Capillus82 Laser Cap for Hair Regrowth is quite similar to the other common devices, such as the iRestore. Despite that, it offers way more laser diodes, yet, at a higher price.
With the basics in place, let us now see the specs.
Capillus82 has a pleasing appearance, which makes you look like wearing a regular cap. However, it doesn’t have cushions inside, like iRestore, inside of the cap is covered by hard plastic which may get uncomfortable after a while.
One of its advantages is that you don’t have to plug it into the power socket to use it. Capillus82 laser cap has a rechargeable battery, which lets you move around with it on your head.
On the contrary, sometimes you can run empty during the laser treatment session as the battery itself does not have any indication, thus, you don’t actually know when it is about to run out. What is more, you cannot continue by plugging it in, you have to recharge the battery and then continue the session.
Getting into the technical characteristics, Capillus82 is equipped with 82 medical-grade laser diodes, where iRestore, for example, had only 21. For that reason, Capillus82 has different indications for its use.
You should wear the Capillus cap on a daily basis for about 6 minutes every day. Once you have worn it, you can then press the power button to start the therapy. The diodes will light up automatically once the therapy starts. However, you should note that failure to meet the stipulated 6-minute duration will not give you the results you expect.
The Capillus 82 laser cap for hair regrowth is an LLLT device that is actually not too different from some of the other common LLLT devices, such as the iRestore.
Capillus® LLLT devices are usually way more expensive than other competing devices in the market. And that is with no good reason as apart from a pleasant design, they do not offer any other exclusive features which would justify the high price tag.
What is more, Capillus has a Complicated return policy. As they state, all sales are final, no refunds or exchanges with the exception of the Satisfaction Guarantee, and the latter states that if the device didn’t work for you, you can only send it back in the time brackets of 365-400 days after the purchase and also have to pay a 25 % restocking fee.
That means, you have one month to return it, which is exactly one year after the purchase. What is more, you have to return it in perfect condition, pay 25 % of its price and pay the cost of shipping yourself.
Warranty: 1-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
HairMax Laser 272 PowerFlex Cap – The Most Powerful Device on the List
It is a laser cap by design and is somewhat reminiscent of the structure of the previously mentioned Capillus 82 cap. PowerFlex laser cap was developed by HairMax, the pioneering company in laser treatment devices for hair loss.
Starting with the first laser combs cleared by the FDA for hair loss treatment, PowerFlex 272 laser cap is one of the latest devices by HairMax and was FDA-cleared in 2018.
Similar to previous devices, PowerFlex has a rechargeable battery pack and is mobile, thus you can move around while using it. When you charge the battery fully, which takes 3-5 hours, it will last you between six to eight sessions of 30 minutes. That means, for full-length treatment, only two monthly recharges are needed.
Considering that you will use the device regularly, which is three times a week, according to the manufacturer, it will last you between 10 to 15 years as laser diodes that are incorporated in PowerFlex are made of premium materials.
When it comes to looks, the cap is similar in design to a baseball cap. The inner layer of the cap is lined with 272 high-quality lasers that are evenly spaced. The cap is generally lightweight and flexible, making it comfortable to wear.
However, note that it is “one size fits all”, thus it may be comfortable to wear at home but it is not designed for motion intensive activities like exercising.
The 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 that you prefer.
The manufacturer also states that its BioLight Comfort design makes the use of linear lasers openings, which help to ensure a smooth laser flow, thus even if you have a full head of hair, the effectiveness of the device shouldn’t be noticeably compromised.
From the devices mentioned in this article, PowerFlex has the most medical-grade lasers which are 272. It is more than 3x of Capiilus82 cap and 5x of iRestore Essential.
What is more, it offers a longer warranty than its competitors. It comes with a 2-year warranty for laser diodes. But do not mistake it with a “satisfaction guarantee” term. The manufacturer’s warranty can be claimed only if the device is faulty or does not operate as it is supposed to.
If it functions properly but you just don’t like it or find it ineffective for your hair loss treatment, you are then eligible for a “satisfaction guarantee” which is 12 months from the date of purchase. What is more, in that case, you will have to pay a 25% restocking fee.
That means, during the first twelve months period 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.
LaserBand 82 – ComfortFlex – The Least Application Time
The LaserBand 82 – ComfortFlex is another product of HairMax. It is an FDA-cleared laser device, which is indicated to treat androgenetic alopecia and promote hair growth in both males and females
ComfortFlex is the latest laser band model by HairMax, which replaced the previous LaserBand 82 and now offers a flexible band design. It helps to adapt to the shape of the user’s head and makes the treatment process even easier.
What is more, for effective coverage of the head, it comes with patented parting teeth, ensuring that the laser light can penetrate to your scalp easier and is not significantly blocked with your head. This feature is beneficial for users with long hair that otherwise might block laser light from reaching your scalp.
This device has 82 medical-grade laser diodes, but it requires some effort from the user differently from the previous devices. You have to move it through your scalp every 30 seconds manually. Despite that, the front to the back application is simple, done in a sliding fashion.
Full scalp coverage can be achieved by parting your scalp area into three sections (see the image below).
According to the manufacturer, you need to use it for only 90 seconds (30sec in one section) every other day. 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 laser cap design, which looks more casual and 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. Despite that, Ultima 12 can be considered a robust device as the HairMax laser comb was the first device to be cleared by the FDA and indicated to promote hair growth in males with androgenetic alopecia.
The Ultima 12 LaserComb is modeled in the structure of a traditional comb but with a 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. However, it will require you to always hold the comb in your hand and move it every four seconds for a total of 8 minutes, every other day.
To achieve and maintain improvement to your hair, you have to use the device every other day. And even though Ultima 12 is the cheapest device on the list, it requires the most effort and can start bothering you in some time.
Warranty: 2-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty. 6-Month Money-Back Guarantee with 20% restocking fee.
There are many LLLT devices available for treatment to reduce your hair loss. However, these are among the most reliable products you can find in the market. You can choose the one that works best for you.
There is always an option to stop a treatment that is not working for you and to consider another one. You will undoubtedly find a device that works well for your skin.