How laser therapy works – Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) for hair loss treatment

May 3, 2011 |
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You’ve all seen lasers used in movies to defeat the evil empire, but lasers are no longer just part of science fiction. Lasers, which are thin, intensely focused light beams which emit a very pure light of one wavelength, have many medical applications today, and are being touted as a possible stimulus for hair growth in balding areas.

Most lasers used for cosmetic purposes target specific chromophores (components in the skin that absorb light) in the body. The major chromophores that affect your hair are -
* Melanin (in hair follicles and sun spots)
* Hemoglobin (in blood vessels)
* Water (throughout the epidermis and dermis — layers of  your skin)

Medical lasers can be either high or low powered. There’s no question that high powered lasers are very effective in treating a number of medical conditions. High-powered lasers are used to destroy hair follicles and remove unwanted hair, target abnormal blood vessels (such as varicose veins), and erase fine lines and wrinkles. High powered lasers can cut through tissue, burn tissue, and emit heat. Low-level lasers, on the other hand, don’t produce heat, and are generally used to heal damaged tissue rather than to destroy tissue. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) may stimulate better hair growth in an area that still has hair; it’s not effective in growing new hair in a completely bald area.

Low-level laser therapy
Low-level laser therapy is a non-invasive technology that has been around for many years. Its main uses have been to stimulate wound healing, decrease inflammation, and lessen intense chronic pain. The first low-level therapeutic laser was developed in the 1960s by Hungary’s Endre Mester. He reported an improved healing of wounds through low-level laser treatment. When used for hair loss, the theory is that chromophores absorb the laser light, which then stimulates hair growth in balding areas, possibly by increasing blood flow and increased oxygen flow to thearea, which may stimulate the hair follicle at the cellular level and cause weak or thin hair to become stronger and thicker. We say “possibly” because this theory has yet to be scientifically proven.

Hairs that have already begun to miniaturize (thin in diameter) apparently respond to treatment, though completely bald areas typically do not respond. It takes typically up to 12 months to see any new hair growth, if it happens at all.

Who benefits from LLLT?
Both men and women experiencing androgenic alopecia, or genetic induced pattern baldness, appear to be the best candidates for LLLT. Some evidence suggests that LLLT works better when used in conjunction with minoxidil (topical over the counter medication for hair growth) and/or finasteride (prescription pill). Because LLLT isn’t particularly effective on bald areas, it may be a more effective treatment in women, whose hair loss is typically diffuse (spread throughout the scalp) and more miniaturized, than in men, who typically have more areas of the scalp that are totally bald.

Looking at the clinical data
The clinical data for LLLT relating to hair loss isn’t as plentiful as it is for proven treatments such as minoxidil and finasteride (see Chapter 9 for more on these medications). Although numerous reports and studies document its effectiveness, none of these studies were conducted in a controlled manner over a long period of time (greater than six months). Many reports of success with LLLT are anecdotal from individuals. This lack of evidence does not mean that it doesn’t work, but it does underscore the need for in-depth, long-term studies on theeffectiveness of LLLT.

In total, for both areas, hair count increased by an average of 94 percent. In addition, the study reported an increase in hair strength.

LLLT systems available in the doctor’s office involve the patient sitting under the machine, an experience similar to sitting under a hair dryer at the hair salon. The advantages of having laser done in the office include the following:
* The lasers are stronger.
* You get a precise amount of laser delivered each time.
* It’s less stressful than trying to do it yourself.
* Results are better-monitored over time by a doctor.

The disadvantages of the office-based system are

* You have to leave home to have it done.
* You have to make multiple trips to the office.
* It’s much more expensive than doing it yourself.
Treatments are generally administered two or three times per week for 6 weeks and then once a week for the next 16 weeks. After observable hair growth occurs, periodic touch-ups may be needed to maintain the benefits of the treatment. Each treatment session takes approximately 20 minutes. The doctor’s office based systems generally price the service for a three or six month course of therapy with up to three visits per week at a cost of a few thousand dollars.

As of this writing, the in-office systems have been issued an accession number by the FDA, meaning the products are classified as cosmetic products and have met the international laser standards for safety. However, they’re not yet FDA cleared for hair growth because scientific proof is lacking. Manufacturers of the devices claim that studies with this type of machine have shown an 85 percent success rate in halting the progression of hair loss and up to a 39 percent increase in fullness,but again, scientific studies are lacking to confirm this.

Laser Hair therapy for hair loss User Reviews

I have been doing laser therapy for 2 months now. I am a woman, age 30, who has minimal diffused thinning all over the top of my head. It is working for me! I has thickened up my existing hair and patchiness in some areas has DISAPPEARED. I believe it is a great therapy for those with a small amount of loss. I think those that have a more progressed problem may have difficulty seeing results from it. I has helped me so far and I am confident that by 6 months my problem will be resolved. Dr. Feller is too closed minded about this therapy.

heres what i have to say about my experience with the laser. The laser they are refering to is a fancy name for basic red light therapy. that is red light at a very specific wave lenghth. i first discovered light therapy as an acne treatment in a blue light, which greatly cleared my skin. it was offered in-office treatment with a huge bright led machine. they also used red light on my skin, which in turn took the redness out of my skin, and reduced all my swelling and redness in my face. So red light basically targets swelling. Well what does DHT do to the follicle? im sure alot of things, including sweling, which would choke the follicle and squeeze the hair i would imagine. I went online and found blue and red LED lights meant for the same acne treatments they do in-office, and bought them for my home. i bought an arm mount to hold my red light, and mounted it behind my couch. i sit under the red LED light for an hour sometimes, usually 2-3 times a week. and i have definitely noticed my hair is thicker, i can’t see my scalp as easily. it also takes the redness out of my face, the point is, it is penetrating my skin. Any swelling, or redness(whereever there is redness, like my face) is going away. i can only assume that if i see a difference in the skin on my face, it has to be effecting the skin at some level on my scalp. Im also curious to know myself, if the blue light (which is meant to kill bacteria, like acne causing bacteria) will kill dandruff? is dandruff a bacteria, like acne? if so, then a combo red led and blue led, light would also benefit the scalp, which im searching for.

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