[Buyers Guide] Definitive Guide to Hair Loss and Laser Therapy

Hair Loss Buyers Guide

Hair Loss Is Emotional

If you’re one of the millions of people experiencing hair loss, you know it’s much more than a physical problem.

For both men and women, our hair is often our most recognizable and consistent identifier. Socially, a healthy head of hair is attributed to youth, virility, and even success, making it as valuable in some professional settings as a pressed shirt and a clean shave (think salespeople, entertainers, business owners).

Even the most confident person suffering from hair loss can expect others to project undesirable traits on them. Advanced age and decreased ability are just a few of the assumptions (correct or not) that society tends to connect with a thinning head of hair. Not surprisingly, there are studies that show hair loss can even affect a man’s ability to find a mate.

Up to 50 percent of men will experience hair loss by the age of fifty. It’s hardly a male-only malady, however, as 40 percent of women will experience thinning by the time they hit forty. Often times, fluctuating estrogen levels can cause hair fall before and after pregnancy, though women (like men) are also susceptible to stress- and depression-related hair loss.

They may not weigh much, but a few hairs landing in the shower drain can have an earth-shaking impact.

If You Are Experiencing Hair Loss

This guide is designed to help you navigate a new and exciting industry that’s making serious headway in the battle against baldness. As with all big decisions, the key is to be informed. Our goal is to:

o   Help you understand the principles of hair loss. What it is, why it’s happening, and, most importantly, what you can do about it.

o   Help you discover and understand low-level laser therapy (LLLT), a growing, yet well-established, technology that’s noninvasive and backed by science.

o   Help you navigate all of the options available to consumers. While all solutions claim to work, the key is knowing what works best for you.

It All Starts with Androgenic Alopecia (standard male or female pattern baldness)

Androgenic alopecia, also known as male and female pattern baldness, accounts for the vast majority of hair loss today. Take a look at the chart below:

 

Genetics: Don’t Blame Your Parents, Blame DHT

While it’s true that genetics is the leading contributor to pattern baldness, your genes don’t reject hair growth themselves. Instead, our genetic makeup determines how our follicles react to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). In other words, two people with the same levels of DHT can experience different levels of DHT-related hair loss. It all depends on the presence of a specific gene called an androgen receptor, or AR gene. It’s the only known gene to actually react with DHT and cause pattern baldness. Some of us have it, the lucky ones don’t.

That brings us to DHT, which is a hormone that’s formed naturally from excess testosterone. For our chemistry fans:

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Entering through the bloodstream, DHT attacks the follicles and causes them to retreat to a resting phase. The follicle shrinks until the hair eventually falls out. And though the cause is the same, the results can be very different for men and women.

  • Men: Thinning often shows via a receding hairline and loss around the crown. Thinning progresses until the two portions of scalp meet.
  • Women: Hair loss in women tends to be less concentrated. Fall out can affect wide swaths of the scalp at a time, giving the appearance of a dramatically thinner head of hair.

Other Leading Causes of Hair Loss

While genetics may be responsible for most hair loss, it’s far from the only cause. If you’re losing your hair, contact your health professional to see if one of these factors could be at the root of your problem:

  • Diet: Certain dietary deficiencies can cause fall out.

    Depression can lead to hair loss.
  • Stress: As mentioned before, stress can cause thinning by shocking your follicles into a resting phase.
  • Depression: By altering our internal chemistry, depression and anxiety can cause hair loss.
  • Illness: Certain ailments and treatments (such as chemotherapy) can interrupt our bodies’ ability to grow hair.

For specific questions, make sure to visit your doctor. Remember, determining why you’re losing your hair is the first step in figuring out how to stop it.

What Is LLLT and How Does It Work?

Low-level lasers, also known as cold lasers, are noninvasive lasers that stimulate the cellular activity that generates healing (more on that soon). They’ve been in use as an effective hair loss solution since the 1990s and, until recently, were only available in clinical settings during in-person appointments.

A Brief History

While LLLT may be considered cutting edge, the technology has been around since the 1960s, when scientists learned that certain frequencies of light sparked hair regrowth on lab mice. Since then, LLLT has been incorporated into healthcare as photobiostimulation therapy and is used to help with:

  • Inflammation and joint pain
  • Nerve and wound care
  • Neurological care

LLLT is so effective at generating cell growth that it’s even used by doctors in conjunction with hair replacement surgery. It helps with recovery and sparks growth in new and dormant follicles.

LLLT soon earned acceptance as a hair loss remedy on its own, with private clinics offering in-person treatments. Regular, costly appointments were needed, however, and pharmaceutical solutions like finasteride and minoxidil remained more popular than LLLT for hair growth.

In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first at-home cold laser treatment. Housed in a comb, this development significantly changed the landscape of hair loss solutions for the general public. While the comb’s construction was a bit clumsy (and its use time-consuming), it opened the door for some very exciting technology that’s been developed since.

How Does It Work?

Applying LLLT for hair growth has shown exciting results because the process sparks improvement on a cellular level. Simply put, LLLT not only awakens dormant hair follicles, it keeps them going.

Here’s how:

  • Inhibits 5 alpha reductase: LLLT has been shown to slow the production of this enzyme, which is responsible for converting testosterone to DHT. Studies have shown this can be a vital step in healthy hair regrowth as it dramatically limits the amount of follicle-choking DHT in the bloodstream.
  • Activates shock proteins: Exposing your cells to direct low-level lasers elicits an impressive reaction similar to how they react to wounds and trauma. Also known as chaperone proteins, they play a role in healing and boosting hair follicle stem cell growth. Essentially, this encourages regrowth starting at the cellular level and continues to the root and epidermis.
  • Boosts oxygen delivery: Low-level light causes oxyhemoglobin to release oxygen directly into your blood. LLLT also helps your blood regulate hemoglobin which contains carbon dioxide and nitric oxide. This feeds more life-giving oxygen to capillaries in your scalp.
  • Increases blood flow: LLLT allows your blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the area by stimulating blood flow below the surface. Nitric oxide helps widen capillaries, freeing blockages and oxygenating the healthy blood flow.
  • Causes acute inflammation: When injured, the body begins the healing process immediately with various responses, including acute inflammation. Replicating that reaction in the scalp has shown to be helpful in regrowing hair.

How Long Does It Actually Take to Work?

Great question, tough answer.

The easy response is that results are typically seen after four to six months of regular use. The more accurate answer is that the scalp must first minimize the existing hair loss. During Phase 2, the active hairs thicken and strengthen. Finally, the dormant follicles begin to reawaken and produce new hair.

 

There are a few ways to aid the process, including:

  • Take your vitamins: Hair loss supplements are typically rich in vitamins and minerals missing from our diets. Not surprisingly, the benefits aren’t limited to your hairline. Ingredients like biotin, niacin, vitamin D, and zinc can have profound effects on overall health.
  • Document your results: This will help you 1) keep track of your progress and 2) identify variables. For example, changes in stress and diet can stall your timeline.
  • Address other issues: Lack of response or accelerated hair loss may point to larger underlying issues; hormonal imbalances and thyroid disorders can also result in hair loss.
  • Boost your current efforts: You don’t have to stop what you’re already doing. Thanks to its positive effect on blood flow and cellular development, LLLT actually complements the more traditional hair loss solutions like minoxidil and finasteride. It’s even recommended by many doctors for accelerating the growth process and recovery following hair transplant surgery.

LLLT Summary

Medically speaking, LLLT has emerged as a powerful tool that can help treat a host of issues, including hair loss. Thanks to its ability to rejuvenate damaged areas, on both the vascular and cellular level, LLLT offers a noninvasive, natural approach to healing, whether it’s in the field of wound care or hair growth.

LLLT has been shown to be so effective that it’s now seen as an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical treatments such as finasteride and minoxidil, providing sufferers with an all-natural yet aggressive hair regrowth solution. Many users have reported accelerated results when using LLLT at the center of an all-natural regimen that also includes vitamin supplements and an improved diet.

Building a Holistic Program

While LLLT is a pretty potent treatment on its own, much of its power lies in its ability to help your body distribute nutrients and supplements where they’re needed. Using it as part of a larger, holistic approach provides the highest potential for success.

So, what should you look for?

Vitamins and supplements can help aid hair growth.

Vitamins

  • Hair, skin, nail help: Any supplements promoting health in these areas will likely provide the proteins and fats your body needs to also create new hair. Keep an eye out for keratin and vitamin E.
  • DHT blockers: Biotin, lycopene, and zinc can inhibit DHT’s ability to penetrate follicles. This strengthens existing hair and encourages new hair growth.
  • Proprietary blends: These mixtures usually combine vitamins and minerals with all-natural ingredients like saw palmetto and green tea extract.

Amino Acids

These are the building blocks of keratin, the main protein your body uses to build hair. Supplements that include proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline may be especially helpful.

Diet

This can be tricky. While certain foods are rich in the nutrients we need for hair growth, focusing on them entirely can leave us with other dietary deficiencies. So, while eggs have been shown to contain natural DHT blockers and amino acids, the body needs much more from your diet. Instead, form healthy dietary habits. This will give your body what it needs to grow hair, and the healthy environment you need to keep it.

LLLT Device Comparison

While you’ll see a range of at-home LLLT products on the market, only those offering laser diodes transmitting at specific frequencies can be considered effective at regrowing hair with cold laser/low-level laser technology.

Some Info about Laser Caps

  • Lasers vs. LEDs: Simply put, LEDs haven’t been shown to regrow hair. Instead, they’re generally added to at-home LLLT products as cheap filler to mask an ineffective number of lasers. Only certain lasers produce focused, coherent light, which penetrates the scalp’s tissue and ignites cellular activity.
  • Not all wavelengths are equal: Research has shown that laser light measuring between 630 and 650 nanometers is best for generating hair growth. Wavelengths outside that range may not yield results.
  • Usage: Caps with a sufficient count of lasers can show results even after minimal use. Brands like illumiflow recommend just thirty minutes of use every other day with the 272-laser model.
  • Get enough lasers to do the job: Most caps feature between 20 and 80 actual laser diodes, which often aren’t enough to provide adequate, hair-raising coverage of the scalp. NOTE: While other companies boast more than the industry standard 272 lasers in a single cap (up to 300), the advantage gained from the 18 extra lasers typically isn’t worth the extra cost.

Why FDA Clearance Matters

When a product has been cleared by the FDA, that means it has been put through rigorous clinical trials and quality assurance steps to ensure it’s safe, effective, and honest in its claims. Plus, the FDA requires ongoing compliance in regard to ethics and product handling, meaning the manufacturer of an FDA-cleared product must actively ensure it meets all the latest regulations. By purchasing an FDA-cleared product, you can feel safe knowing it is up to the strictest standards of quality and safety available.

  • BEWARE OF ZOMBIES: With the at-home LLLT market exploding, some competitors are offering copycat products at reduced costs. They’re often called “zombies” because they have similar designs and bodies as the larger brands but at a greatly reduced cost. A closer look, however, shows many haven’t been cleared by the FDA. That means any savings may come at the expense of safety and reliability. Even when a “zombie” brand can gain FDA clearance, it doesn’t guarantee that they have invested in the proper infrastructure to maintain their clearance which is an ongoing, monthly (if not daily) effort. Many brands have popped up and disappeared over the last five years. They either didn’t have the resources to support their product or chose not to.

Hair Loss Devices & Laser Cap Reviews

illumiflow

The breakdown: illumiflow revolutionized the at-home LLLT market when its 272-diode laser cap earned FDA clearance in 2017. That made it the first cap of its kind to be offered to the public at an affordable price. The company hasn’t taken its foot off the gas, still offering the most reliable and effective product on the laser cap market. You need to beware of pop-up brands trying to make a quick dollar in a growing market, often at the expense of consumer safety and satisfaction.

  • Price: $799
  • Tech: 272 diodes (each at 650nm with 5mw)
  • Warranty: 5-year
  • Guarantee: 6-month satisfaction

The verdict: Just like its product, illumiflow’s reputation for at-home LLLT treatments is built to last.

Capillus

The breakdown: Premium brand Capillus has several tiers of laser caps, with its 272-laser Professional model being most robust. But at nearly $3,000, it’s the priciest option on this list. With an equivalent laser count and similar construction to some of its competitors, much of the price difference seems to be due to the longstanding company’s brick-and-mortar distribution model. Unfortunately, it seems old-school practices are holding back this cutting-edge product.

  • Price: $2,999
  • Tech: 272 diodes (each at 650nm with 5mw)
  • Warranty: 3-year
  • Guarantee: 6-month satisfaction (-25% restocking fee)

The verdict: Capillus offers a great product, but competitors offering FDA clearance and the same number of lasers—for a fraction of the price—make it impossible to justify the $3,000 price tag.

 iRestore

The breakdown: irestore has made a splash with some buzzy marketing efforts ahead of the release of its 282-light Professional series, a step up from its best-selling Essential model. But its advertising may be glossing over some questions about its effectiveness. First, the Professional does not include the separate battery pack for mobile use, which can be a big annoyance. The biggest issue, however, seems to be with its lasers: while 282 are boasted, only 82 are actual lasers. The rest are LEDs. While the company claims to have studies showing its reliability, the results are similar to an 80-laser configuration without LEDs. The common denominator? Lasers, not LEDs. And there’s only 82 of them (21 lasers in the Essential model).

  • Price: $1,195
  • Tech: 82 laser diodes (each at 650nm with <5mw); 200 LEDs
  • Warranty: 1-year manufacturer’s
  • Guarantee: 12-month satisfaction

The verdict: irestore’s Professional series: the presence of 200 LEDs means this product’s effectiveness doesn’t match its price tag.

Kiierr

The breakdown: Kiierr is a newcomer brand selling 148- and 272-laser caps. And while the small company claims similar laser output and effectiveness as some of its more-established competitors like illumiflow and Capillus, it’s unclear by looking at the Kiierr website which wavelengths its lasers are calibrated to. Since only light measuring between 630nm and 650nm is effective for regrowing hair, this is a big distinction.

  • Price: $925
  • Tech: 272 laser diodes (frequencies not shown on website)
  • Warranty: 2-year manufacturer’s
  • Guarantee: 7-month satisfaction

The verdict: This newcomer brand seems to be on the right track, but at over $900, it may not be worth the risk.

Theradome

The breakdown: Theradome’s price looks inviting, until you realize you’re getting fewer than a third of the lasers offered by some of the other options on this list. Some users love that the Premium model is battery-operated and hands-free. A faulty battery, however, may mean having to purchase a whole new unit.

  • Price: $895
  • Tech: 80 laser diodes (680 nm)
  • Warranty: 1-year manufacturer’s
  • Guarantee: 6-month satisfaction

The verdict: The Theradome may be affordable, but at almost $900 for just 80 lasers, the value isn’t there.

Hairmax

Hairmax has been around since 2000 and has had a presence in major retail outlets since releasing its 9-laser comb. Here’s a rundown of Mairmax’s three offerings: the comb, band, and cap.

Comb

The breakdown: Hairmax has improved on its original 9-laser configuration with 12 diodes, but the design still falls short of matching the user-friendliness of advancements like caps and bands. Instead, users must hold the comb to their heads for minutes at a time before moving to the next portion of scalp. Plus, there’s the matter of paying $33.25 per laser.

  • Price: $399
  • Tech: 12 laser diodes (frequencies not shown on website)
  • Warranty: 2-year manufacturer’s
  • Guarantee: 6-month satisfaction

The verdict: The comb has been replaced by laser caps for a reason.

Band

The breakdown: With 82 laser diodes, Hairmax’s latest band rivals many hair caps (albeit only the ones that also use filler LEDs). The band, though, must be moved around the scalp to deliver its LLLT. The company claims this provides the equivalent of 246 lasers.

  • Price: $799
  • Tech: 82 laser diodes (frequencies not shown on website)
  • Warranty: 2-year manufacturer’s
  • Guarantee: 6-month satisfaction

The verdict: At under $10 per laser, this is an improvement over the comb, but the band design simply can’t compare to a cap with more lasers at the same price.

Cap

The breakdown: Hairmax recently dove into the laser cap market headfirst with a 272-laser offering priced at a whopping $1,999—the second-highest price tag among the major laser cap products reviewed here. The 272 lasers are a huge improvement over the company’s bands and combs. That advantage doesn’t justify the pricing, though, as Hairmax’s high per-laser price is nearly double that of some of its competitors like illumiflow and Kiierr. The lasers themselves are not any more premium than other models listed above.

  • Price: $1,999
  • Tech: 272 laser diodes (frequencies not shown on website)
  • Warranty: 2-year manufacturer’s
  • Guarantee: 6-month satisfaction

The verdict: Hairmax’s long-awaited laser cap features design and construction that match the proven winners on the market, but the price is driven up significantly by its big-box distribution. So, if you’re looking to upgrade from a Hairmax comb to the cap, you’ll be paying a premium for the Hairmax name. Is that worth an extra $1,000?

Final Summary

With all of its scientific backing and impressive results, LLLT is a proven treatment for hair regrowth. But more importantly, it should be used as the cornerstone of a multifaceted, holistic approach that centers on total body health.

While low-level laser therapy may spark regrowth by treating the tissue on your scalp, it’s important to talk to your doctor about possible internal causes of hair loss, such as diet, stress, or worse, an underlying medical condition. Either way, any amount of stress surrounding your hairline should be avoided. After all, stress can cause hair loss.

If you’re experiencing hair loss—whether it’s advanced or you’re just starting to shed—LLLT’s noninvasive treatment means there’s little risk in giving an at-home product a try. Better yet, the impressive technology means there’s a good chance you’ll be happy with the results.

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