Laser Hair Growth: Does It Work?

If you’re trying to find an effective treatment for thinning hair, you have probably heard of laser hair growth. Supposedly, you can just wave a laser over your head several times a week, and your hair will miraculously start to grow thicker and faster.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

I wanted to get to the bottom of this growing trend. Laser hair growth devices are all over the market these days, but they aren’t cheap. You’ll find a couple of different common formats. Some are handheld lasers you run over your scalp. Others are actual helmets you wear.

Prices range widely. At the lower end, you might pay around $20-$30 for a handheld device. The cost of the helmets can range as high as $1,000. Do you really want to spend that kind of money on a device that will supposedly miraculously grow your hair? That depends on if it works or not—and if it is safe.

What is Laser Hair Growth?

Laser hair growth technology uses low-intensity lasers. You usually have to apply them to your scalp for 10 to 15 minutes three times weekly. They are not considered medically necessary by insurance providers, so you will have to pay the full cost yourself.

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According to the companies that develop laser hair growth technology, these devices stimulate your hair follicles. There is reason to believe that this claim is actually true; believe it or not, it is actually backed up by scientific studies.

In one research trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology in 2014, 128 men and 141 women were randomly given either a HairMax Lasercomb® or a sham device serving as a placebo. For 26 weeks they treated their scalps three times a week. Photographs were then analyzed for hair growth density changes. The evaluators were blind as to which group each photo belonged to.

Both the researchers running the analysis and the subjects themselves reported that the Lasercomb® device did create a noticeable improvement in the thickness and fullness of their hair. Improvements were not dependent on the age or sex of the subjects, and no harmful effects were reported.

Another research study in Clinical Drug Investigation specifically probed into whether the HairMax Lasercomb® would be effective in the treatment of male androgenetic alopecia. Alopecia is a condition where the immune system attacks the hair molecules, resulting in hair loss. Over a hundred participants in the study were given either a sham device or the real Lasercomb®. This trial also took place over a 26-week period and the same great results were reported, both by the analysts and by the subjects.

How Much Do These Devices Help?

While we have established that laser hair growth devices can create a statistically relevant improvement in hair growth, just how much of a difference do they make? Is it enough that it would justify the high cost?

The studies are promising, but some doctors believe that laser hair growth products are simply too expensive for what they can deliver. Amy McMichael, associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. says, “I think it is an expensive tool for very little difference.”

Doctors emphasize that it takes around six months to see marked improvements, and those improvements are still going to be relatively modest. People who have hair follicles which are not all that damaged yet will get the best results. If your hair follicles are particularly damaged or you are actually bald, you are not going to get any significant results.

That means if you are interested in using laser hair growth technology, it is vital that you set out with realistic expectations. You cannot reverse baldness, but if your hair is thinner than you would like, you may be able to get a slight boost in density by using one of these devices over a long time period. For some people, that just will not be worth the time or cost, but for others, it could be an excellent investment.

Now let’s take a look at some of the popular laser hair growth devices available today. We’ll check out their reviews and their pros and cons.

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HairMax Professional 12 LaserComb

Since we started out by discussing HairMax studies, it only makes sense to take a look at some of their laser hair products. This device takes the form of a comb, not a helmet, and sells for around $400-$600.

More than 90 customers have rated it on Amazon.com as of the time of this article, giving it an average of 3.5 out of 5 stars. This product is promoted as the “only at-home FDA cleared medical device to treat hair loss and promote hair loss in both men and women.”

To use the HairMax Professional 12 LaserComb, you just glide it over your scalp three times a week, spending eight to 12 minutes on your treatments. As you might expect, user reviews are mixed. Some customers say they noticed no change at all, but many reported a slight but substantial improvement—more than enough to make them happy. Notably, more than one customer pointed out that you will get the best results with the LaserComb if you are combining the laser treatments with hair growth supplements and a quality shampoo.

iGrow Hands-Free Laser LED Light Therapy System

While many customers prefer the comfort of a laser comb, others would rather enjoy hands-free operation. The iGrow Hands-Free system is a helmet that you wear. It is designed to be portable, and includes some cool extra features, like a built-in iPod/MP3 interface and headphones.That way you can enjoy some music while you receive your laser treatments. Since operation is hands-free, you can work on other things while you wait.

What do customers say? Buyers emphasize that the product may work for some customers and not others—and apparently the company itself is totally up-front about that (which is a great sign that they are good to deal with). More than one buyer noted that the devices seems to slow the process of hair loss, and may cause some slight re-growth.

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This product definitely offers great convenience, and the customer service sounds excellent. You will fork out a lot of cash for it though. You can buy it in the $600-$800 range, making it a much more expensive purchase than the HairMax comb. As of right now, more than 30 customers have ranked it with an average of 4 out of 5 stars.

Theradome Hair Beam Laser Therapy Massage Helmet

Here is another helmet-style product you can purchase. It’s been reviewed by over 40 customers as of right now, and currently has 3 out of 5 stars, which isn’t amazing, but let’s take a closer look anyway since it is one of the better known products for laser hair growth.

This product is listed as FDA-approved. The mixed reviews are largely the same kind of mixed reviews that you see for other laser hair growth products.

Some customers say that the product didn’t work at all, while others say they had good results, but they needed to use the device diligently for months to see them.

They also emphasize that the changes are subtle.

Some customers say that Theradome was unresponsive to their inquiries and hard to reach via phone, and that processing refunds took an exorbitant amount of time and effort. So this is a product we would not recommend. Both iGrow and HairMax look like better options.

What Are the Alternatives?

There are a few other alternatives for laser hair growth products out there. HairMax for one has developed a number of other combs which also look like they could be potentially good products. There are a few other smaller and newer brands as well that offer laser hair growth devices. Most of these have only a few reviews as of right now, and not a whole lot of information available.

Let’s say for a moment you don’t decide to try laser hair growth technology. What other options do you have for trying to thicken your hair and combat thin and balding patches?

  • First, consider treating the cause: Hair loss is sometimes genetic, and there is no treatment for that. Other times, it is the result of a temporary stressor, and will pass on its own given time. Still other times however there is an identifiable and treatable root cause such as a thyroid problem, vitamin deficiency, or medication. You may be able to treat your hair loss and re-grow your hair by treating the underlying disorder or deficiency. If your hair loss is the result of birth control pills or a medication, you may be able to switch to something which is friendlier to your tresses.
  • Try a medication like Minoxidil (Rogaine):  You don’t need a prescription, and a three-month supply will run you around $50. It’s FDA-approved, and generally effective. Around 10% of users see no benefits, but around 40% see new growth. What about the other 40%? If you fall into that bracket, you will not see any new growth, but you won’t continue losing hair either. The medication will halt the hair loss from progressing, helping you to maintain the density you do have. It takes 12 weeks or more to start seeing results. Some people develop scalp irritation.
  • Improve your diet: Whether you have a medically-recognized deficiency or not, chances are good you could use more nutrition. A lot of people have poor diets; in our modern world, we get so caught up in our busy lives that we don’t take the time to eat right. Boost your protein intake and get plenty of vitamins and minerals in your diet. Consider adding sources of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Iron, zinc, and biotin are also all excellent additions.
  • Try a hair-growth supplement: One of the fastest and easiest ways to improve your diet is through the use of a healthy organic hair-growth supplement. You take a capsule daily and you get all the benefits of a cornucopia of vitamins, minerals and healthy herbs.
  • Manage your stress levels: Another thing you can do is try to reduce your stress levels. Keep in mind that that acute, mild stress is not going to cause you to lose hair. But chronic ongoing stress that ends up taking a physical toll can indirectly lead to hair loss. So do what you can to get your mood back under control. Get plenty of rest and make sure you are eating a healthy diet. Don’t starve yourself! Losing a lot of weight quickly can cause you to lose your hair too.
  • Try styling hacks: As a stopgap measure, there are a number of things you can do with your hair to try and make it look fuller. For example, you can buy a coloring product for your scalp. This helps your thin patches blend in. You can invest in hair extensions. You also can trade in a longer haircut for a shorter one. That way your hair will not hang limp and heavy. If your hair is parted on top, consider moving your part to the side. Most hair loss is obvious on the crown of the head, so a side part can help conceal the thin or bald patch. You can also invest in shampoos and conditioners designed to boost your volume.

So What’s the Verdict?

Should you invest in laser hair growth technology or not? That depends on what you hope to achieve, and what you are willing to pay for it. Eight hundred dollars is a lot of money to spend on a product which will probably create only a minimal difference in the appearance of your hair. For a lot of customers, that price just is simply not going to be worth it.

If however you do think you would be happy with a subtle improvement and you are willing to take the financial risk (remember, nothing guarantees success with laser hair growth), then you may want to go for it. If you do, make sure you read customer reviews and choose a brand which is getting great ratings not only for their product, but also for their customer service. Go with a laser comb if you want to save money; pick a hands-free model if you feel the higher cost will be worth it for the hands-off convenience.

Follow the best practices to get the best results:

  • Use the product for at least six months.
  • Follow the instructions. Use the product as frequently as the instructions state. If it says 10 to 15 minutes three times a week, then be sure to follow through religiously.
  • Take a hair growth supplement and add more protein, zinc, and other healthy nutrients to your diet while you are using the device. Make it a routine and stick with it. This is really important. Read reviews on laser hair growth devices and you will see that supplementing made all the difference for a lot of the customers who saw results!
  • Consider incorporating some styling hacks as well.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck on re-growing your hair. Be diligent and you will give yourself the best chance at excellent results!

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19366270
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24474647
http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704471504574441211355376166