Regrow Thinning Hair Using Red Light Therapy
Thinning and hair loss affects millions of men and women. Red Light Therapy is scientifically proven, and FDA approved for regrowing hair. The predominant wavelength I seen used in studies is around 650 nm.
Originally this research was performed only using low-level laser therapy (LLLT). Today various manufacturers offer hair restoring skull caps with fitted with dozens of laser diodes and standard LEDs.
The advantages of this therapy are that it applies to both men and women of all races and there aren’t any reported adverse side effects.
One of the first effects observed by Mester in 1968 was the regrowth of hair around a wound he treated with laser light. The wavelength of light used by Mester in his original research was 694nm.
As discussed in my previous red light therapy articles, the light stimulates cells in the same manner across the body. In this case, the light directed toward the scalp stimulates the cells in the hair follicles to grow. The exact process by which this happens is not known. One theory is the light acts as a vasodilator and allows more blood to the hair follicle. This is believed to be how, at least in part, how the over the counter drug Minoxidil works to restore hair.
Modern hair regrowth devices use both standard LEDs and Laser LED’s. The laser LED’s provides a pinpoint light source and the standard LED will give a diffuse light source. The combination of radiance is believed to optimize the stimulation of the hair follicles.
Preliminary studies with mice illustrated the biphasic effect of photobiomodulation. When mice were treated with 1J/cm², they shown significant hair regrowth (above baseline) in three weeks. However, when the light dosage was increased to 5J/cm². there was a significant decrease (below baseline) in hair growth¹.
This illustrates the biphasic nature of photobiomodulation therapy, where too much light is worse than too little. Read my article on Red Light Therapy dosages for more information.
Getting Hair To Regrow
This study used two wavelengths of light 655 nm and 780 nm. The light illuminated the scalp for 10 minutes once a day. After 14 weeks the results were an increase in density to 145.1/cm2 vs. 137.3/cm2 pre-treatment.
Another study used a single light wavelength of 655 nm, but used a combination of laser diodes and standard LED’s. Forty-two women completed the study. There were 24 women in the active group and 18 women in the sham group. The researchers counted the hair in a 2.85cm² area of the scalp. The baseline count in the sham group was 228. In the active group, the baseline count was 209. After 16 weeks of treatments, that consisted of one 25 minute treatment every other day, the hair count results for the sham group went from 228 to 252. For the active group, the hair count went from 209 to 310².
That is an increase of 30% more hair for the active treated group.
Most clinical studies with hair regrowth used low power lasers. Evidence suggests that LED’s will work just as well. Modern LED caps use a combination of LED laser diodes and standard LEDs.
Most RLT units, both table and wall, should work. You need to move your head close to the unit so that your scalp is illuminated with the red light. Treatment would consist of 10–15 minutes every other day. Results should become apparent in 16–24 weeks.
So if you already have, a RLT unit I would recommend trying that for a few months, before investing in new RLT equipment. The exception to that rule is convenience.
Custom light sources for hair regrowth are caps and helmets you wear for 15 minutes every other day. A number of manufacturers had gotten FDA approval for hair regrowth devices. One of the more reasonably priced units are from Irestore at https://www.irestorelaser.com/
Hair max is another skull cap RLT manufacturer, https://hairmax.com/
LED caps with FDA approval cost about 3X more than a similar LED cap without FDA approval.
If you do not need FDA approved device you can find a few inexpensive imports from China available on Amazon for under $200.00. Most of the FDA approved caps use a LED light wavelength of 655 nm. A few hair re-growth studies used a combination of red (655 nm) and infrared light ( 780 nm). You may want to look for this combined light option.
Throwing on a LED cap for 15 minutes every other day is easier than standing close to a LED wall unit to illuminate your scalp.
Supercharging Your Hair Regrowth with Minoxidil
I mentioned before that Minoxidil may work on the same vasodilation pathways as photobiomodulation. Researchers tested Minoxidil, vs Photobiomodulation, vs a combination of Minoxidil and Red Light Therapy. The combination therapy of Minoxidil and RLT appears to have doubled the hair regrowth in a two-month time frame. This particular study was performed using women with Female pattern hair loss (FPHL), but I would venture to believe the results will hold for men as well³.
Minoxidil may be purchase without a prescription at your local drug store.
Off Label Use — Treatment for Neurological Diseases
While these LED caps are marketed for hair regrowth, there is evidence that photobiomodulation may be an effective treatment for neurological disorders like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease⁴.
Build or Buy
It seems almost too easy to build a cap unit. I have seen DIY’er grab a couple of feet of monochromatic LED strip lights, and use it to line the inside of a helmet, and create their own makeshift LED helmet.
While you can purchase monochromatic LED strip lights off of Amazon, you can’t choose light wavelength easily, or wavelength information isn’t provided in the product description.
Going to an online electronics supply like Digi-key will provide more information and better options. This LED strip has a high density of LEDs per inch and a light wavelength of 620–630 nm.
Order today, ships today. 69-V412R — LED Lighting COBs, Engines, Modules LED Module — Red Linear Light Strip, Flexible…
With a form and a little cutting and soldering, these led strips may be fashioned into an interior lining for a cap or hat.
More Than Hair Re-Growth
Another advantage of building over buying is the ability to utilize photobiomodulation light to prevent or treat dementia and Alzheimers. Research in this area usually combines the red light used for regrowth with IR light at 850 nm. The 850 nm wavelength is not associated, from what I’ve read so far, for regrowing hair.
There is phenomenal research highlighting how RLT works as a course of treatment for these neurological disorders with positive results. Some of the research looks at pulsing the light at 40hz.
Buying an expensive LED cap, may prevent someone from hacking the device for it to serve double duty.
This is not an issue with DIY building. I am writing a book on RLT, where I will have instructions to build a few DIY photobiomodulation devices.
I am not a doctor or licensed health professional. This information in my article is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge. This information does not substitute for advice from a licensed health professional. Always consult with a physician or licensed health professional before embarking on any course of treatment.