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In the world of hair growth, you may have noticed a new fad gaining popularity: laser cap therapy. Hair regrowth hopefuls are committing in droves to spending a few sessions per week donning a bike helmet-esque light therapy device, glowing from their scalp.
But is laser cap therapy just another strange trend destined to be pushed aside in lieu of more effective (and less conspicuous) options? Maybe not.
What is laser cap therapy?
The technique of laser cap therapy falls into a very legitimate medical class deemed low-level light therapy. First approved by the FDA in 2007 as a treatment for hair loss, the technique has picked up a number of different names, including red light therapy, biostimulation, photobiostimulation, cold laser, and soft laser therapy. Whatever nickname is your favorite, experts believe that, in combination with other hair regrowth strategies, laser cap therapy can be a positive addition to your regimen — just don’t hang your whole hair growth hat on them (pun intended).
While more long term studies are needed, evidence does support that a legitimate, FDA-approved laser device can safely help encourage hair growth in cases of both male and female pattern baldness in the short term.
How does laser cap therapy work?
The gist of their design is that for several minutes a few times per week, the cap is placed on your head to allow red lights of a specific frequency to make contact with your scalp. While their mechanism of effect is still not fully understood, the hypothesis is that these lights penetrate your skin in the hopes of coaxing your hair follicles out of the rest phase and into the growth phase. It’s also proposed that the therapy can help keep hair in the anagen (growing) phase longer.
Does laser cap therapy work for everyone?
Something to consider is that this stimulation doesn’t ensure your hair follicle actually has all of the nutrients and materials it needs to build strong, thick hair once it gets the green light. In other words, getting the factory going is one thing; actually having the materials needed to make the goods is another.
Plus, there’s no research exploring how much internal stress signals can interfere with this attempt to flip “on” the growth switch. To date, no studies on the effects of laser cap therapy for telogen effluvium, aka stress-related hair loss, have been conducted. So while low-level light therapy has been used as a technique to reduce inflammation and promote wound healing, this doesn’t necessarily mean these devices can cancel out the hair growth obstacles of a hormonal imbalance, nutrient depletions, or high levels of stress hormones.
Experts have pointed out that the effectiveness of low-level light laser therapy seems to depend on the health of the cells being targeted. It makes sense then that it would be more advantageous to include laser cap therapy as part of a holistic hair growth regimen, such as one that includes supplementing vitamins and minerals key for hair growth, such as the ones found in Nutrafol, with individual additions like herbal warriors against internal stress or peacemakers of hormonal balance if needed. This holistic approach is ideal to ensure your hair follicles are getting the thumbs up to jump into grow mode, and have what they need to get the job done.
Adding laser cap therapy to your growth regimen
If you’re interested in adding a laser cap to your hair growth team, ensure you’re investing in a quality device. While it has been suggested that devices reaching wavelengths of 650-900 nm at 5 mW are an effective treatment option for male and female pattern baldness, wavelengths of devices can vary from 600-11000 nm and come in various wavelength powers. For this and many other reasons, if you’re interested in laser cap therapy, we recommend only purchasing laser cap therapy devices from a physician’s office or certified medical facility. This is the best way to ensure the device you’re using is both safe and effective, and gives you access to a medical professional to talk through your options with.
The price tag for a quality device isn’t cheap. Low laser cap therapy users can expect to spend around $60 and up per session at medical facilities, while the cost of purchasing a laser cap for home use range from the hundreds to thousands, with recommended courses of use starting at 6-12 months.
While the price tag (and your stance on headwear) are two things to consider with this hair growth trend, research does support the helpfulness of laser cap therapy in hair growth.
By Dr. Kali Olsen, ND