Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or red light therapy is rising in popularity as a natural and effective way to stimulate hair growth. Backed by strong clinical trials and experimental studies, red light therapy has shown to improve hair density and thickness without negative side effects.
Over 80 percent of men and nearly half of all women experience significant hair loss during their lifetime. If you are experiencing this cosmetic concern, red light therapy might a solution to consider. This comprehensive article breaks down the science behind red light therapy and hair growth.
Causes of Hair Loss
Hair loss can affect anyone at any time for many different reasons. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the primary causes of hair loss include:
- High stress and anxiety levels
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy, post-partum, and menopause
- Severe and prolonged hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
- Medications and supplements, such as those used for cancer, depression, arthritis, heart problems, high blood pressure, and gout
- Scalp infections and fungal issues
- Family history with androgenetic alopecia, which is a genetic form of hair loss
In addition, hairstyles that tug at your delicate strands and pull them tightly can add pressure on the scalp, causing traction alopecia. Constant hot-oil hair treatments, dyeing, perming, and other treatments that expose your scalp to chemicals can also lead to hair loss. Balding might persist if any scarring occurs as a result of tight hairstyles or constant salon treatments.
How Does Red Light Therapy Help With Hair Loss?
Top-grade LED red light therapy devices deliver safe, concentrated wavelengths of natural light without ultraviolet rays, excess heat, or chemicals. These red and near-infrared wavelengths of light stimulate the mitochondria to reduce oxidative stress and improve circulation, allowing the body to generate more core energy to power itself. Improved physical functions, enhanced healing processes, and lower inflammation and pain are the effects, as demonstrated in a 2017 study. Exposure to light-emitting diode (LED) irradiation and low-level laser therapy also stimulates the dermal papilla cells, which play a significant role in the regulation of hair cycling and growth.
Let us further explore the numerous case studies concluding the effects of red light therapy on hair.
Red Light Therapy for Hair Loss: No Side Effects and More Effective Than Drugs
A meta-analysis from 2018 reviewed 22 studies comparing red light therapy to treatments like Finasteride and Dutasteride (hormone-regulating drugs) for balding. The results showed that red light therapy for hair growth was the superior treatment. Furthermore, many of the drugs examined in this meta-analysis had negative side effects, while red light therapy had none. For instance, although Finasteride may treat a receding hairline, pharmacist Elyse Pennington of HealthWarehouse.com warns that low blood pressure is the drug's most serious side effect. Adding to Finasteride's list of potential side effects are depression, difficulty urinating, trouble getting an erection, testicle pain, gynecomastia, a lump or swelling in the chest area, and nipple discharge, among others.
Improved Hair Density, Thickness, Strength, and Count
The researchers of a clinical study published in 2020 conducted a 16-week experiment in which 60 people diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia, aged 19 to 65 years, received low-level light therapy as an alternative treatment for hair loss. Comparing the results at baseline and the 16th week, the participants showed an increase in hair thickness of 7.50 μm and an increase in hair density of 41.90 hairs/cm2. No side effects occurred.
Supporting these claims further, a 2017 meta-analysis reviewed 11 studies and 680 participants who received red light therapy for thinning hair. The analysts noted impressive improvements in hair density, thickness, strength, and overall count in several patients treated with red light. The researchers concluded that low-level light therapy is a promising monotherapy for androgenetic alopecia and may serve as a powerful alternative to prescription medication and surgical options for hair regrowth.
Red Light Therapy for Male Pattern Baldness
In 2019, researchers examined men with pattern hair loss and changes to the protein expression in their dermal papilla cells. Each participant received 25 minutes of red light therapy treatment every other day for six months. By critically assessing the proteins that exhibited upregulation, the researchers concluded that red light therapy stimulated hair growth and reversed the balding process by enhancing the function of dermal papilla tissues.
In 2014, another group of researchers was in the pursuit of defining the safety and physiologic effects of red light treatments on male pattern baldness. A total of 44 participants had a section of their hair shaved down to 3mm, followed by tattooing the area. One group received LLLT daily for 16 weeks, while the second group received a placebo and sham treatment. Upon completion of the study, the researchers noted the following:
- A 35% increase in overall hair growth in the red light therapy group
- A substantial increase in the post-treatment hair count in the red light therapy group
- No adverse side effects reported
Red Light Therapy for Female Pattern Hair Loss
Less than a decade ago, women had limited and barely-effective solutions to thinning hair. With female pattern baldness receiving more attention in recent years, many studies and treatments have emerged, with red light therapy being a top hair loss treatment for women today.
To determine the effectiveness of red light therapy on women with hair loss, researchers who conducted the previously-mentioned 2014 study on male pattern baldness decided to recreate it with female participants. They conducted the double-blind, randomized trial in the same way: 47 women had a portion of their hair trimmed down to 3mm before tattooing and photographing the area. One group received LLLT every other day for 16 weeks, while the other group received a placebo and sham treatment. Upon completion of the study, the researchers found better hair growth results for women than men:
- A 37% increase in hair growth in the red light therapy group
- Substantial increase in post-treatment hair count for women
- No adverse side effects
Conclusion: Is Red Light Therapy Good for Hair Growth? Yes, According to Science
Red light therapy is a viable hair loss intervention for both male- and female-pattern baldness, evident in the plethora of clinical trials and experimental research featured in this article. In each study, red light sessions resulted in increased hair count and density, boosted hair thickness, as well as improved confidence levels among patients. If you have struggled with hair loss and unsuccessful interventions for years, consider red light therapy (and its multiple uses). The results may surprise you.
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