Low-Level Laser Treatments (LLLT) for Hair Loss

Over the last three years, there has been a lot hype and intrigue surrounding the idea of a ‘laser comb’ or other types of clinical or at-home laser hair loss remedies. In January 2007, the HairMax Laser Comb® was the first Low-Level Laser Treatment for hair loss to be approved by the American Food and Drug Administration. The FDA had already passed other forms of laser treatments in 2002 designed to ease muscle pain, but hair loss was a new frontier for LLLT.  Although the laser comb was officially approved by the FDA, this does not necessarily guarantee the efficacy of LLLT on hair loss. In case studies designed to win FDA approval, approval based on the safety and efficacy of each product, results between placebo treatments and actual laser treatments tended to have a relatively small difference between them, but it was granted approval because it did have about the same level of efficacy as men using Rogaine® and it was not harmful to use.

What is the procedure with laser combs?

This is a non-invasive technique you can do yourself at home. Every day you bring a very low-powered laser across the scalp, just as you would comb or brush your hair. According to the FDA and the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS), LLLT home devices can in fact increase scalp strength, stop hair recession, and even increase hair growth in some cases. According to FDA clinical trials, 87.5% of women saw frontal baldness stabilise, 100% saw vertex area stabilise, and 100% of men saw both frontal and vertex areas stabilise after six months of using an LLLT product. However, only around 80% of men and 75% of women saw hair regrowth, which was defined as 11% or more.

In spite of these figures, the laser-comb has not had a lot of popular support and there are many doctors who consider this a fanciful ‘miracle cure’ so it is difficult to ascertain just how effective it is. Many people have had at least some success with LLLT home treatments, and many have been disappointed with its results. As of now, it is difficult to judge the true scientific merit or fraudulence of this treatment. Part of the problem with gauging the product’s efficacy is that at the moment it is a medical anomaly. The actual medical process involved in LLLT, how the laser interacts with the hair follicles, and to what extent these lasers can actually generate positive hair results is as yet still unknown.

Another mystery in the hair laser world is why it works so well for some people and for many others it does nothing. This is a sort of hit and miss product which may or may not improve hair growth. If it does promote some hair growth, it is unlikely that it will be as thick as a surgical method. However, it is a non-invasive procedure with no short-term side effects, although long-term side effects cannot be gauged at this early stage of testing.