Red Light Therapy for Hair Loss, Hair Growth and Gray Hair at HomeLast Updated:
In the near future, health experts might be claiming that red light therapy has become the latest ”super cure” for whatever ailment might inflict humans. We have seen RLT correct vision issues, diminish anxiety and depression, cure skin problems, make you look younger and now we find it’s a good remedy for hair loss.
It’s the hair loss angle that’s of interest in this article. According to experts, androgenetic alopecia (male / female pattern baldness) affects 50% of the male population over the age of 40 and 75% of the female population over the age of 65. These are significant numbers in terms of people who would love to find a noninvasive cure for their hair loss problems.
By all indications, RLT might just be that cure. With that in mind, let’s look at the issue in earnest.
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Red Light Therapy Theory
Before investigating how red light therapy helps with hair loss, hair growth, and restoration, it would be prudent for you to gain some understanding of the theory of RTL.
Human cells are filled with organelles called ”mitochondria.” Mitochondria serve as the primary energy source for cells. When mitochondria are activated or stimulated, they act to aid in cell growth and repair.
What researchers have discovered is that certain red light wavelengths can stimulate mitochondria. In particular, red and infrared lights are very healthy light sources for the stimulation of mitochondria. Based on the science, it would appear that red or infrared light emitted at wavelengths of between 600 nm and 1,000 nm are optimum for promoting cell growth and repair in the human body. The proper wavelength frequency required depends on the target area of the body to which RLT is to be applied. The light also has to be emitted with a certain strength called irradiance or power per square centimetre.
Now that you have some understanding of the theory, let’s answer some specific questions in terms of how RLT helps stimulate hair growth.
Does red light therapy for hair loss work?
By all indications, the answer to this question is an emphatic yes. There is ample evidence to suggest that RLT is an effective way to promote hair growth and hair regrowth.
To understand how this is all possible, we take you to the three phases of hair growth:
- The Anagen Phase – this is the stage where hair grows
- The Catagen Phase – as hair matures, the hair follicles start shrinking in this stage
- The Telogen Phase – follicles become dormant and hair loss begins
By now, you can probably see where this is headed. By applying the proper frequency of red light in treatments over weeks and months, red light therapy has the ability to send hair follicles back to the Anagen stage, creating an environment where new hair follicles are created and dormant hair follicles are given life.
Back to the science for a moment, red light therapy acts to stimulate the mitochondria in hair follicles. The light energy serves to wake hair follicles up. There is evidence that men who have been bald for years have seen amazing results. They have experienced hair regrowth in areas that have long been seeing the light of day. As long as a hair follicle exists in any state, it is eligible for hair restoration and rejuvenation.
How to use red light therapy for hair growth?
It is notable that the optimum red light/infrared light frequency to grow hair is in the 650 nm to 700 nm range. This would be referred to as low-level laser therapy (LLLT). At that frequency, the red light can penetrate the skull at around 8 mm, which is deep enough to stimulate hair growth and help regrow hair.
While red or infrared lamps are useful in this process, lasers are far more effective. Why? The penetration goes deeper, and it is easier to direct a laser at areas where hair loss and baldness exist. When using LED lasers at home, it is important to remember to use caution around the eyes. The eyes are very sensitive and subject to damage from any kind of laser light.
How often to use red light therapy for hair growth?
As is the case with any kind of lamp or laser usage, you don’t want to overdo it. According to experts in the field of RTL, the frequency of treatment depends on the environment in which treatment is being delivered. In a salon setting, treatments should cover 20 – 60 minutes a session a couple of times a week for several months until results are satisfactory.
(Read how red light therapy helps boost testosterone in men.)
With the proper home devices, the process is easier and more affordable at home. In a home setting, LLLT should be used in 5-minute increments 2 to 3 times a week. You can continue this treatment process until the results are satisfactory. note: This is a natural process that causes no pain or discomfort.
Can red light therapy cause hair loss?
While there is not a lot of information available regarding the potential for red light therapy to cause hair loss, common sense tells us that overuse of laser lights could damage cells. Damage to hair follicles would certainly result in some levels of hair loss. For this reason, caution is warranted with every treatment.
Red light therapy is not as intense as laser therapy and therefore doesn’t pose any hair loss risk.
Can red light therapy reverse grey hair?
Again, there is not a lot of research available on this topic. However, we do know that gray hair occurs because of aging or stress. The graying that occurs because of aging is generally not reversible. However, the graying associated with stress is reversible.
Most of the time, changes in diet and getting exercise can rejuvenate hair, reversing the graying process. It stands to reason the RLT could also play a role in this process. By stimulating the hair follicles, it is easy to imagine that one of the benefits would be the arrival of hair in the individual’s natural hair color.
Does Red light therapy lighten hair?
There is no evidence that red light therapy lightens hair or changes new hair follicles into anything other than the individual’s normal hair color.
Does Red light therapy make hair grow faster?
In theory, RLT will definitely make hair grow faster. The idea that the red/infrared lights are serving as a great source of energy for cell growth and rejuvenation tells us that the growth process for hair would be enhanced. When using RLT, it is reasonable for someone to expect a thick head of hair in as little as one year. However, results should start appearing in 12 to 26 weeks.
A little Scientific Proof
Several year back, there was a 16 week clinical study (Pub Med 2014) done. During the study, 44 males and 47 females were brought in as subjects. All of them were treated with LLLT for androgenic alopecia at a frequency of 655 nm. The results were are follows:
Hair vertex view of global photography of a 62-yr-old female patient in the treatment group (opens in a new tab), diagnosed with Ludwig type II hair loss. Compared to baseline, there was a 25% increase in hair density and a 3.1% increase in hair thickness at 16 wk. A. Baseline, B. 16 wk.
“LLLT of the scalp at 655nm significantly improved hair counts in women with androgenetic alopecia at a rate similar to that observed in males using the same parameters”.
Devices for Red Light Therapy at Home
Given the growing popularity of this process, there are now a lot of new devices on the market. Your task is to find the device that will deliver the results you want with a little effort as possible. For in-home use, the following devices make the most sense. Note: You should only purchase devices that have been approved by the FDA.
Red light therapy hair cap
Imagine for a moment you are putting on a motorcycle helmet before getting on a motorcycle. This is a similar approach. The device has little probes that administer the red/infrared LLLT. Hair caps are available to cover all or portions of the scalp. Preferred when treatment encompasses a larger area. Wavelength frequency controls available at wavelengths of 650-900 nm.
Red light therapy hair dryer
These devices have the same functionality as a normal handheld hair dryer/blower. Best suited for the maintenance of healthy hair as the red or infrared light treatment stimulates hair growth and the restoration of damaged hair.
Red light therapy hair straightener
Works as a normal hair straightener. Best suited for the rejuvenation of dry hair, split end issues, and damaged hair. This device does more than help repair damaged hair. It also serves to help maintain healthy hair during the straightening process. All of this is accomplished by sealing the cuticles and locking in moisture of hair follicles.
Red Light LED Laser
LED laser light treatments are best suited for very specific areas of the scalp. These devices are easy to control and emit laser light wavelength frequencies within acceptable ranges for hair treatment. These devices are versatile enough to be used for other forms of RLT. However, there are not suitable for use on the eyes.
Check Devices for Low EMF
Be wary of the electro-magnetic frequencies (EMF) emitted by any red light therapy devices that you use. A high level of EMF can be harmful if exposed to, for long periods of time.
Other Topics Related to Hair Treatments and RLT
While the research in a lot of associated areas is limited, there are subtopics of interest. At this point, we would like to address some of these subtopics as best as we can.
Red light therapy after hair transplant
While hair transplants are time-consuming and expensive, they do provide an effective way to promote hair growth in bald areas. With the advent of RLT for hair loss, the combination of RLT with a hair transplant is proving to be a solid approach to replenish hair. The transplant puts the hair follicles in place, and the red light therapy enhances the growing process, keeping the hair healthy in the process.
Red light therapy for hair at home
All of the processes mentioned above are manageable at home with the proper devices. From a convenience and cost point of view, home RLT would be preferred. Should you choose this approach, you would want to purchase top-quality devices and follow instructions to a T.
Red light therapy and ingrown hair
There currently not a lot of information on this topic. But in theory, red light therapy has the ability to stimulate hair follicle growth, and that would not change for ingrown hair. Therefore if an ingrown hair exists, it will be stimulated just like normal hair follicles, but RLT would not increase or create ingrown hair in any way.
Red light therapy and laser hair removal
After a laser hair removal treatment, the skin around the treatment area is often left looking red and bruised. RLT is the perfect option for repairing the skin. There are concerns that the RLT might also spur hair growth, which would be counterproductive to the hair removal process. As long as the hair removal process was effective, leaving no remnants of hair follicles, further hair growth should not be an issue.
Red light therapy for hair removal
RLT is not effective for hair removal. For hair removal, laser hair removal is effective and RLT can be used to heal after a laser is successful at removing the hair follicle.
Based on the above information, you should now have an advanced level of understanding related to the use of red light therapy to treat hair loss. To summarize, the potential benefits are many with little to no risk and RLT is a safe treatment for home use that has been proven to deliver effective results.