Since its initial discovery as a potential therapeutic tool in the late 1960s, Low-Level Laser Light Therapy (LLLT) has demonstrated itself as an effective yet seemingly poorly understood treatment for an ever-growing number of illnesses and ailments.
From boosting collagen, improving wound healing, and reducing muscle soreness, Laser Light Therapy has repeatedly produced statistically significant improvements vs. placebo groups across a whole host of randomised control trials, but how does it work, and crucially, what can it do for our hair?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about LLLT and its potential benefits.
What is Low-Level Laser Light Therapy (LLLT)?
LLLT, also known as photobiomodulation, is the use of light energy typically from lasers but also more recently from LEDs, in order to affect or stimulate biological processes within the body. Lasers were first found to have biologically stimulating effects when, in 1967, Endre Mester found that lasers could induce faster hair regrowth and better wound healing in mice.
How Does Low-Level Laser Light Therapy Work?
Why or how LLLT works is still poorly understood because the underlying biomechanical processes going on inside our bodies in response to light stimulation are also poorly understood. However that said, something along the following lines is believed to be occurring.
One simple way to think about the mechanism of LLLT action in cells is to compare it to that of photosynthesis; the process whereby plants absorb and store energy from the sun to create energy (glucose) from carbon dioxide and water. Similarly, with LLLT, its specific wavelength (red light, typically 600-810nm [nanometers]) appears to be absorbed by photosensitive parts of our cells, in turn stimulating other biological processes.
In human cells, LLLT appears to act on the mitochondria, the energy centres inside each of our cells, which absorb nutrients and convert them into energy (ATP); a fuel source used by our cells in their normal day-to-day functioning.
The boost in ATP produced by the exposure of cells to LLLT appears to kick-start additional protein synthesis within our cells leading to increased tissue oxygenation, additional growth factor production, and an increase in the number of inflammatory response compounds, potentially helping the body to deal with injury and illness more efficiently.
What conditions is LLLT used to treat, and how effective is it?
Several studies have examined a number of conditions and their responses to an extended course of laser light therapy. We will take a look at some of those now.
Skin: Reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
The study stated: “The treated subjects experienced significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling, profilometrically assessed skin roughness, and ultrasonographically measured collagen density.”
Does Laser Light Therapy stop hair loss and increase hair growth?
As we learned in our article Why Do We Lose Hair?, there are multiple root causes (no pun intended) of hair loss. Now let’s assess what the scientific evidence has found for the effectiveness of LLLT on hair regrowth.
One of the most important studies occurred in 2013, involving 41 men. 22 of the group received a 25-minute light therapy session every other day for 16 weeks (a total of 60 treatment sessions). The remaining 19 men received a placebo device.
The device used in this study was a hat-like device containing 21 x 655nm lasers and 30 LEDs with a wavelength of 655nm. After 16 weeks, a 39% increase in hair density was observed vs the placebo group, with average hair counts in the selected scalp area increasing from 142 at the beginning of the trial to 162 after 16 weeks; both a significant absolute and statistical increase over the period.
Another 2017 study [[https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28513251/]] took 90 patients suffering from androgenic alopecia and split them equally into 3 groups: Group 1 wore a hat containing 655nm lasers, Group 2 wore a hat containing 655nm lasers plus 808nm infrared laser lights, and Group 3 acted as the control and received no treatment.
The study found a statistically significant increase in hair density counts between Groups 1 and 2, with Group 1 performing the best. Mean hair density counts were 9.61 vs 9.16 per cm2 in Groups 1 and 2 respectively.
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Conclusion: Should you buy a laser light therapy device to treat hair loss?
The evidence appears to suggest that laser light therapy is an effective tool in the battle against hair loss. As we have seen, laser light therapy devices appear to stimulate new biological processes within our bodies which appear beneficial for a number of ailments.
Given the low cost, ease of use, and minimal downtime associated with laser light devices which can be used in the comfort of your own home, it is a no-brainer based on the scientific evidence available.
Based on the evidence, we would recommend a protocol of 20 minutes light treatment every other day.
References Used in this Article