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Low-Level Light Therapy for Hair Loss: Does It Work?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 06/21/2021

Updated 04/04/2024

Laser devices (sometimes referred to as low-light laser therapy hair treatment or low-level laser therapy hair treatment) often look like a helmet that lights up on the inside. But what is light therapy for hair loss, and does it actually work?

These space-looking contraptions use a technology called low-level light therapy (LLLT) to stimulate hair follicles and promote hair regrowth. Though the research behind their effectiveness is far from complete, some studies support how well they work.

Read on to learn more about low-level light therapy for hair loss, along with other hair loss treatment options worth considering.

Low-level light therapy is considered a safe and less invasive alternative to hair transplants. Also called laser hair growth treatment, red light therapy or cold laser therapy, LLLT stimulates new growth by irradiating scalp tissues with photons, which improves growth in weak cells.

Irradiation means to treat with radiation (or light), and photons are particles containing electromagnetic waves.

It’s not just a laser pointer helmet, though. At in-office treatment sessions, dermatology experts use a particular wavelength to stimulate hair follicles at the hairline and elsewhere to return to the anagen phase (aka the growth stage of the hair-growth cycle). You can also get an LLLT cap for at-home use.

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Hair loss can occur for many reasons. The most common among men is male pattern baldness (also called androgenetic alopecia or androgenic alopecia).

Male pattern baldness is most commonly caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This hormone interferes with the hair growth cycle by shrinking hair follicles (sometimes called miniaturization) to cause thinning and hair loss. Eventually, hair restoration becomes impossible.

Aside from male pattern baldness, hair loss in men can also be caused by illness or stress. This is usually temporary and is called telogen effluvium.

Research shows that near-infrared (red laser light) can help with tissue repair and regeneration. This is why it’s often used to treat wounds and fade scars.

These devices work by giving off a light that penetrates the scalp. Many believe this light enhances blood flow to stimulate new hair growth.

So, does low-level light therapy for hair loss actually work? There isn’t enough solid research to give a definitive answer on whether or not these hair growth devices can be relied on.

That said, the initial research that’s been done is positive.

The Research on Laser Light Therapy for Hair Loss

A review of scientific research found that laser treatments for hair loss can improve male pattern baldness.

A separate review of several high-quality studies found LLLT to be safe and effective for people with male pattern baldness.

Yet another review of research found that 10 out of 11 studies of laser treatment devices showed solid improvements to both hair count and hair density for the treatment of hair loss.

A review of clinical trials published in 2020 found laser hair therapy to be effective — but it also pointed out that some research was associated with the laser device industry.

Who Should Do Light Therapy for Hair Loss?

As of now, LLLT is considered a potential treatment for androgenetic alopecia and other forms of hair loss. Compared to topical and oral remedies, it has minimal side effects.

Light treatment is an at-home option a dermatologist might recommend before suggesting hair transplant surgery — but most likely after discussing FDA-approved treatments (more on those later).

That said, a type of hair loss like alopecia areata associated with immune conditions likely won’t respond to LLLT — at least not on its own. Why not? Low-level light therapy doesn’t address the root cause of the disease.

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Interested in trying a laser light cap? You may have to shell out a bit of money for one.

These devices start at just under $1,000 on average but can go for double or triple that price.

Capillus® is a popular brand of hair-growth caps (also called laser therapy caps). This model features built-in, low-level lasers with a total power output between 410 and 1,360 milliwatts.

The lower-powered options from Capillus® go for $899, while the higher-powered option is $2,499.

In addition to caps, you can get LLLT bands and combs — both of which tend to retail for less than helmets. Combs are available for as little as $100, while bands can run closer to $700.

As with caps, there isn’t a body of high-quality research to support the effectiveness of these low-level light therapy devices for hair loss.

If LLLT isn’t for you, there are other approaches you can take when dealing with hair loss. Check them out below.

  • Finasteride. This medication is often used to treat male pattern baldness. It works by preventing your body from converting testosterone into DHT, the hormone that causes you to lose hair. A study with 522 participants found that over 99 percent of men who took finasteride over a ten-year period stopped their hair loss from worsening. Of those men, 91.5 percent noticed some regrowth.

  • Minoxidil. This topical treatment comes in liquid and foam formulas and doesn’t require a prescription. It’s believed to work by making hair follicles enter the anagen (growth) phase. Minoxidil also increases blood flow to your scalp, which can stimulate hair growth. A 2019 review of topical minoxidil found that it improved hair growth in both men and women suffering from pattern hair loss.

  • DHT-blocking shampoo. Some shampoos are specifically made to thicken hair, block the mechanism of DHT and stimulate hair growth. This thickening shampoo is made with saw palmetto — a natural ingredient thought to help reduce hair loss.

  • Biotin. The B vitamin biotin has become quite buzzy because of the way it encourages healthy hair and growth. One study found that taking biotin supplements produces faster hair growth in people dealing with thinning hair. Biotin is naturally found in certain foods, like eggs, milk and bananas. You can also try out biotin gummies, which contain a bonus dose of vitamin D. (Low levels of vitamin D may contribute to hair shedding.)

Finasteride and Minoxidil Together

Finasteride and minoxidil are great on their own, but they can be even more effective when used together.

A study found that roughly 94 percent of men dealing with hair loss showed an improvement in hair growth when taking both finasteride and minoxidil.

This is compared to about 80 percent who saw an improvement using just finasteride and 50 percent who saw an improvement using only minoxidil.

If this sounds good to you, consider our Hair Power Pack, which contains both treatment options. You can also try our finasteride & minoxidil spray that combines the two medications into one topical treatment.

Lifestyle Habits for Healthier Hair

A natural way to improve hair health is to make some changes to your lifestyle.

Here are a few tips that might help give your hair a boost:

  • Loosen your hairstyle. If you wear a tight man bun or have dreadlocks or braids, it could be causing traction hair loss. To prevent hair loss, change your style to something that doesn’t pull at your scalp.

  • Eat healthfully. Studies have shown that a lack of iron and zinc in your diet can be bad for the health of your hair. What’s more, people who increased these nutrients in their diet saw an improvement in hair growth. Good sources of zinc include crab, pork chops, cashews and oatmeal. Spinach, meat and seafood are good for iron.

  • Stop smoking. Beyond the toll it can take on your lungs, lighting up can hurt your hair. Researchers have even found a link between smoking and hair loss. Smoke is actually a pollutant that can damage hair, and cigarettes have been found to negatively affect the DNA of hair follicles.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Considering light therapy for hair loss? Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Research is currently limited. There have been limited clinical studies on low-level light therapy for hair loss. But what has been researched shows positive results.

  • It might help some men facing hair loss. If you’re dealing with male pattern baldness and looking for potential hair loss treatments, LLLT could be a good option for you.

  • Other options are available. But it’s also worth looking into FDA-cleared medications (which have a ton of science-backed research to support them) or lifestyle tweaks.

To figure out what’s best for you, talk to a healthcare professional or explore hair loss solutions on our telehealth platform.

21 Sources

  1. Avci, P., Gupta, G.K., Clark, J., Wikonkal, N. & Hamblin, M.R. (2014, February). Low-Level Laser (Light) Therapy (LLLT) for Treatment of Hair Loss. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. 46 (2), 144–151. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3944668/
  2. Androgenetic Alopecia. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/androgenetic-alopecia/
  3. Men’s Hair Loss. American Hair Loss Association. Retrieved from https://www.americanhairloss.org/men_hair_loss/introduction.html
  4. Urysiak-Czubatka, U., Kmiec, M., Broniarczyk=Dyla, G., (2014, August). Assessment of the usefulness of dihydrotestosterone in the diagnostics of patients with androgenetic alopecia. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology, 31(4): 207-215. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171668/
  5. Hughes, E.C. & Saleh, D. (2020, June 9). Telogen Effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
  6. Drug Induced Hair Loss. American Hair Loss Association. Retrieved from https://www.americanhairloss.org/drug_induced_hair_loss/
  7. Traction Alopecia (2021, January). StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470434/
  8. Zarei, M., Wikramanayake, T.C., Falto-Aizpurua, L., Schachner, L.A. & Jimenez, J.J. (2016, February). Low level laser therapy and hair regrowth: an evidence-based review. Lasers in Medical Science. 31 (2), 363-71. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26690359/
  9. Darwin, E., Heyes, A., Hirt, P.A., Wikramanayake, T.C. & Jimenez, J.J. (2018, February). Low-level laser therapy for the treatment of androgenic alopecia: a review. Lasers in Medical Science. 33 (2), 425-434. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29270707/
  10. Egger, A., et al. (2020, September). Examining the Safety and Efficacy of Low-Level Laser Therapy for Male and Female Pattern Hair Loss: A Review of the Literature. Skin Appendage Disorders. 6 (5), 259-267. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33088809/
  11. Finasteride (2018). Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a698016.html
  12. Yanagisawa, M., et al. (2019, January). Long-term (10-year) efficacy of finasteride in 523 Japanese men with androgenetic alopecia. Clinical Research and Trials. 5, 1-5. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337105943_Long-term_10-year_efficacy_of_finasteride_in_523_Japanese_men_with_androgenetic_alopecia
  13. Badri, T., Nessel, T.A. & Kumar, D.D. (2020, May 4). Minoxidil. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  14. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S. & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. 13, 2777–2786. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  15. Hu, R., et al. (2015, June 2). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients. Dermatologic Therapy. 28 (5), 303-308. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/dth.12246
  16. Rossi, A., Mari, E., Scarno, M., et al. (2012, October). Comparative Effectiveness and Finasteride Vs Serenoa Repens in Male Androgenetic Alopecia: A Two-Year Study. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, Volume 25, Issue 4, pages 1167-1173. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/039463201202500435
  17. Ablon, G. (2015). A 3-Month, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Evaluating the Ability of an Extra-Strength Marine Protein Supplement to Promote Hair Growth and Decrease Shedding in Women with Self-Perceived Thinning Hair. Dermatology Research and Practice. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2015/841570/
  18. Biotin (2020). Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/313.html
  19. Khan, Q., Fabian, C., (2010, March). How I Treat Vitamin D Deficiency. Journal of Oncology Practice, 6(2):97-101. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835491/
  20. Guo, E., Katta, R., (2017, January). Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology Practical and Conceptual, 7(1): 1-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
  21. Trueb, R., (2003). Association between smoking and hair loss: another opportunity for health education against smoking? National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12673073/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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