Red Light Therapy For Hair Loss Prevention & Hair Regrowth
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 would rather not have to take these drugs on an ongoing basis and 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 after it has been falling out, 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.
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If you have already been reading about the use of light for hair loss treatments, then the odds are that you have come across the term “LLLT”. This stands for “low level light therapy” or “low level laser therapy”. It is a medical term for the use of red light as a therapy within the range of wavelengths from visible red (600nm) through near infrared (1100nm).
[accordion_item title=”Does the light have to be laser to be effective for the treatment of hair loss?”]
Not at all. There was a time when that was believed to be true. However, in 1989, an important study was published which discounted this belief. The author of the study was Dr. Jeffrey R. Basford, from the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. It was entitled “Low-Energy Laser Therapy: Controversies and New Research Findings”.
What Basford discovered turned what we know of light and laser therapies on its head. Until that time, it was believed that laser was the most important aspect for the therapeutic effect of light. However, Basford determined that it was the light, and not actually the properties of laser, that was providing the benefits that can be obtained from its use. This was because LEDs were able to provide the same benefits as lasers, and, at the same time, were able to avoid the drawbacks.
This meant that LEDs could be used, as they were determined to stimulate adequate energy to encourage a response from the body that included a number of different positive outcomes, particularly healing. At the same time, this stimulation was not strong enough to lead to tissue damage. Therefore, LLLT through LEDs was determined to be just as effective, but much gentler than laser.
[accordion_item title=”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.
[accordion_item title=”What are the FDA approved LLLT wavelengths for hair loss therapy? Are the FDA approved devices LED or laser?”]
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.
At the moment, the devices with FDA approval are laser only, though there are LED device companies that are currently in the process of performing studies to gain their FDA approval for being a medical device instead of merely cosmetic.
[accordion_item title=”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.
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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.
[accordion_item title=”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.
We have sold the (enLux) Peak 630 LED Light Therapy Set for acne treatment since around 2005. Right away people started using it for hair loss also. One of our clients posted his experience on the American Hair Loss blog. Since then we have had a steady flow of sales of that light specifically for hair loss. We have not yet asked for customer reviews of the product, but, as to effectiveness, none of them are ever returned.
If you decide to try red light therapy, here are some things to consider:
- 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.
- 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.
- The maximum treatment time for any red light therapy application is 3 minutes per area. Longer treatment times do not yield better results, and shorter treatment times, as little as 60 seconds per area, are often ideal.
- The Peak 630 LED Light Therapy Set now comes with a light holder with clamp mount. This can be clamped in position above your head, or you could choose from a couple of other fixtures that would make hair-loss treatments easier such as the Danray Snake Arm Lamp or the Smith Victor KT100 Photoflood Kit.
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