Red Light Therapy for Hair Loss

A black cap with a built-in round LED light panel displaying red and orange lights

What is Red Light Therapy

Red Light Therapy, also known as soft laser therapy, Low-Level Light Therapy (LLLT), or Photobiomodulation (PBM), is a non-invasive treatment that uses low wavelengths of red light to stimulate cellular processes and promote healing and rejuvenation.

This therapy is utilized for various medical and cosmetic purposes, including skin health improvement, wound healing, inflammation reduction, and hair growth stimulation.

A Brief History

The modern era of red light therapy began in the 1960s with the invention of the laser, marking a significant advancement in the field of phototherapy. This development opened new avenues for exploring the therapeutic potential of light in treating various medical conditions, including hair loss.

The Hungarian physician Endre Mester is often credited with the discovery of the biological effects of low-level laser light. In his seminal experiments conducted in 1967, Mester observed that low-level laser exposure could stimulate hair growth in mice. This finding laid the foundation for the use of LLLT in various medical applications, including wound healing, pain management, and hair growth stimulation.

The use of LLLT for hair growth was met with skepticism due to a lack of understanding of its mechanism of action and inconsistent clinical results. However, as technology advanced and more controlled studies were conducted, the efficacy in promoting hair growth became more evident. In the 1990s and early 2000s, research focused on optimizing the parameters of red light therapy, such as wavelength, power density, and treatment duration, to achieve better outcomes in hair growth.

The turning point in the acceptance of the therapy for hair growth came in 2007 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted clearance to the first low-level laser device for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss) in men.

How Does Red Light Therapy Work

The effectiveness of red light therapy in stimulating hair growth is primarily attributed to its mechanism of action at the cellular level.

It utilizes specific wavelengths of light, typically in the red to near-infrared range (630-670 nm for red light and 810-850 nm for near-infrared light), which are believed to penetrate the skin and reach the hair follicles.

Once the light energy is absorbed by the target cells, it triggers a series of biochemical events known as photobiomodulation. The key component of this process is the absorption of light by the mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles within the cells. This absorption leads to an increase in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule that stores and transfers energy within cells.

The enhanced ATP production subsequently stimulates various cellular activities, including:

  • Increased Cell Proliferation: The therapy promotes the proliferation of cells in the hair follicle, contributing to the growth and development of new hair.
  • Enhanced Blood Flow: The therapy can lead to the dilation of blood vessels, improving circulation and providing the hair follicles with essential nutrients and oxygen.
  • Reduced Inflammation: LLLT has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation around the hair follicles
  • Stimulation of Growth Factors: The therapy may stimulate the production of growth factors, such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF).
  • Regulation of the Hair Growth Cycle: LLLT is believed to influence the hair growth cycle by extending the anagen (growth) phase and delaying the catagen (transitional) phase, leading to longer, thicker, and healthier hair.

Clinical trials have proven effectiveness in hair loss

Numerous clinical trials have been conducted to evaluate the efficacy of red light therapy in promoting hair growth. Here, we highlight some of the most significant trials and their findings:

Study Author & YearParticipantsTreatment DetailsKey Findings
Kim et al. (2007)28 males655 nm, 20 sessions over 24 weeksSignificant improvement in hair density and thickness
Leavitt et al. (2009)110 males655 nm, 15-min sessions, 3x/week for 26 weeksSignificant increase in hair density
Lanzafame et al. (2013)44 males655 nm, 25-min sessions, every other day for 16 weeksSignificant increase in hair count and density
Lanzafame et al. (2014)47 females655 nm, 25-min sessions, every other day for 16 weeksSignificant improvement in hair count and density

These clinical trials provide strong evidence supporting the efficacy in stimulating hair growth in individuals with androgenetic alopecia. 

Top Home Device: The Laser Cap

A range of RLT devices is available for home use, catering to diverse needs and preferences. This includes handheld units, hairbrushes with integrated lasers, overhead panels, and the innovative helmet designs, along with the particularly popular Nordic® Laser Cap.

Each of these devices is designed to deliver red light therapy in a way that is convenient and effective, offering a solution for those looking to incorporate this technology into their hair care routine from the comfort of their home.

Why the Red Laser Cap Stands Out

The red light laser cap stands out as a superior option for several reasons.

It offers ease of use – simply place the cap on your head and go about your daily activities; there's no need to hold a device in place manually.

The cap ensures even and consistent light exposure across the scalp, making it highly effective in stimulating hair growth and enhancing scalp health.

Generally, when selecting an RLT device, consider factors such as:

  • Wavelength: Optimal devices emit light in the red to near-infrared spectrum, typically around 630-670 nm for red light, which is most effective for hair growth.
  • Power Output: Look for devices with sufficient power to ensure deep penetration and stimulate the hair follicles effectively.
  • Coverage: Ensure the device covers the entire area you wish to treat. Laser caps are excellent in this regard, providing full scalp coverage.

FDA clearance has been granted to laser caps designed for red light therapy in hair loss treatment, reflecting their safety and efficacy for this purpose.
Before and after comparison over 120 days of a person using a red light laser therapy cap for hair growth.

When Can You Expect to See Results

The timeline for observing changes can vary from person to person, but a general progression of expected effects month by month might look like this:

0-30 Days: Initial phase where visible changes are minimal, but increased blood circulation is revitalizing hair follicles from within, setting the stage for new growth.

30-60 Days: Noticeable reduction in hair shedding; early signs of new, denser, and healthier hair start to appear, showing improved texture and shine.

60-90 Days: Significant improvements in hair thickness and density, with a decrease in scalp visibility as areas of thinning or baldness begin to fill in with new growth.

90-120+ Days: Continued improvement in hair growth and quality, emphasizing the importance of regular treatment to maintain follicle health and promote sustained growth.

When Is the Right Time to Start Red Light Therapy

RLT is something you can, and ideally should, try out immediately rather than waiting for hair loss to worsen or hoping the problem will resolve itself. The earlier you start, the better the chances of mitigating hair loss and stimulating regrowth, leveraging the therapy's potential benefits right from the onset of symptoms.

Effectiveness Across Different Types of Hair Loss

Red light therapy has been studied and shown to be effective in treating several types of hair loss:

Androgenetic Alopecia

Androgenetic alopecia (AGA), also known as male pattern baldness, is a prevalent form of hair loss characterized by a progressive reduction in hair density and a receding hairline. It is primarily influenced by genetic factors and hormonal changes, particularly the role of androgens.

In men, the prevalence of AGA increases with age, affecting approximately 50% of males by the age of 50. The condition typically begins with a receding hairline and thinning at the crown, eventually leading to more extensive hair loss. The pattern of hair loss in AGA is distinctive, often following a well-defined sequence that starts at the temples and vertex of the scalp.

The underlying mechanism of AGA involves the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. DHT binds to androgen receptors in the hair follicles, leading to a process known as follicular miniaturization.

This process results in the production of shorter, finer hairs and a shortened hair growth cycle. Over time, the affected follicles may cease to produce hair altogether, leading to visible hair loss.

Many men associate hair loss with changes in testosterone levels.

Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) also affects women, although it presents differently and is less severe compared to men.

AGA is the most common form of hair loss where red light therapy has been widely studied and shown to be effective in both stimulating hair growth and slowing the progression of hair loss.



Alopecia Areata

Although research is limited compared to AGA, studies suggest that LLLT may be beneficial in treating alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that causes patchy hair loss. It has the potential to help modulate the immune response and stimulate hair regrowth in affected areas, typically over the course of several months.

Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia

There is emerging evidence that red light therapy can serve as a preventive measure or treatment to reduce hair loss associated with chemotherapy.

This therapy holds promise in minimizing hair loss and supporting the maintenance of hair condition in chemotherapy patients.

Scarring Alopecia

Red light therapy has been shown, as mentioned earlier, to be a highly effective method that will prevent further hair loss and stimulate the growth of new hair. However, there are rare cases where the full effect of the therapy may be lacking. This could be the case with scarring alopecia, where the hair follicle is completely destroyed, and scar tissue has formed. In these cases, it is necessary to consult a professional, a dermatologist, to consider therapy. Also, if hair loss has occurred due to taking medication therapy, LLLT therapy will help, but it will not achieve its full effect until the drugs that cause hair loss are discontinued.

Are There Any Side Effects

The incidence of side effects associated with red light tharapy is notably low and rare, making it an exceptionally safe treatment option for a wide range of conditions. Its non-invasive nature and the minimal risk of adverse reactions contribute to its growing popularity in both medical and cosmetic fields. When side effects do occur, they are typically mild and transient, further underscoring the therapy's high safety profile.

If you're concerned that Red Light Therapy might cause hair to grow in areas where it previously didn't, leading to increased hairiness, rest assured, this will not happen.

Is Red Light Therapy Suitable for Men or Women

Red light therapy is indeed suitable for both male and female individuals seeking a solution for hair loss. In dermatology, this treatment is recognized for its ability to stimulate the anagen phase, or the growth phase of hair follicles, which can lead to denser, healthier hairs.

Therapy is suitable for men, particularly those experiencing hair thinning or hair loss due to androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness. This treatment has shown promising results in promoting hair growth and improving the condition of hair follicles. It's considered safe and effective.

Women, in particular, might find red light therapy beneficial, as it can treat areas of thinning without the harsh chemicals or invasive procedures that are sometimes involved in other hair loss treatments.

The therapy's gentle nature makes it an excellent option for individuals with sensitive skin, ensuring that both men and women can achieve positive results in their hair regrowth journey.

Additional Tips to Enhance Red Light Therapy Results

Use Hair Growth Serums

Incorporating hair serums into your routine can significantly complement RLT. These serums are formulated with active ingredients that nourish the scalp and hair follicles. They can provide essential nutrients, improve blood circulation to the scalp, and even counteract the effects of DHT, a known contributor to hair loss.

Avoidance of Aggressive Hair Care Practices

To protect the health of your hair and scalp, it's important to avoid aggressive shampoos, frequent hair coloring (certain hair dyes can be quite harmful), and chemical treatments. These can lead to hair damage, scalp irritation, and can exacerbate hair loss. 

Consistent Daily Use According to Instructions

Using RLT every day, as per the recommended duration and frequency, ensures that your hair follicles receive the consistent stimulation needed to promote hair growth. Ideally, incorporating this therapy into your daily self-care routine can significantly enhance its benefits.

For optimal results, a session lasting between 15 to 30 minutes each day is generally advised.

Alternative Hair Loss Treatment Options

Topical Treatments

  • Minoxidil: An over-the-counter treatment applied to the scalp, which can stimulate hair growth and slow balding. It's suitable for both men and women.

Oral Medications

  • Finasteride: A prescription pill that decreases hormone levels contributing to hair loss in men. It's specifically used for male pattern baldness.

A meta-analysis of 15 studies involving 1172 patients with androgenetic alopecia found that combining red light therapy with minoxidil or finasteride resulted in better outcomes for increasing hair count compared to using either treatment alone.

This is one way to achieve hair growth on bald spots fast.

Hair Transplant Surgery

  • Techniques like Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) involve moving hair from areas of dense growth to areas of balding

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy

  • Involves injecting a concentration of a patient's own platelets into the scalp to stimulate hair growth by promoting the healing of hair follicles.

Scalp Micropigmentation

  • A cosmetic tattoo that gives the illusion of a fuller head of hair by mimicking the appearance of short hair follicles.

Lifestyle Changes and Nutritional Support

  • Incorporating a balanced diet, supplements (like biotin, vitamin D, and iron), and stress reduction techniques can support hair health and reduce hair loss.

Natural Remedies and Herbal Treatments

  • Some individuals explore herbal treatments, essential oils (like rosemary and peppermint oil), and other natural remedies, although their effectiveness may vary and lacks the extensive research backing of other treatments.

Let's Explore Additional Benefits of Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy extends its benefits beyond hair growth, encompassing skin health improvement, anti-aging effects by boosting collagen production, accelerated wound healing, reduction of pain and inflammation in conditions like arthritis, treatment of acne through its anti-inflammatory properties, enhanced muscle recovery, and support in joint health.

RLT has also been associated with improved mood and sleep quality.

This makes RLT a versatile tool in both medical and cosmetic fields, catering to a wide array of health and wellness needs.

Don't worry, with today's advancements in this field, it is entirely possible to avoid hair loss.