Hair loss (alopecia) can affect your entire body or just your scalp, and it can be either temporary or permanent. Some common reasons for hair loss are genetics, hormonal changes, medical conditions, or normal aging.
Hair loss is a serious concern for both men and women, but it is more common in men and affects more than half the world’s population.
Fortunately, exciting new research is showing red light therapy to be a safe and effective treatment for hair loss. This article covers the causes of hair loss, the science of red light therapy, and how red light can help promote hair growth.
What Causes Hair Loss?
There are 3 main types of hair loss: Androgenetic Alopecia, Alopecia Areata, and Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia.
Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA)
Androgenetic Alopecia is the most common type of hair loss, affecting an estimated 50 million men and 30 million women in the United States alone. Men with AGA, also known as male-pattern baldness, experience a receding hairline or balding of the crown, and women have overall thinning or widening of the midline.
AGA is genetic, and as its name implies, it involves the sex hormone, androgen, which is the main hormone responsible for the sexual development of men. Androgen also has a variety of functions in both sexes, however, including regulation of hair growth.
Alopecia Areata (AA)
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease, wherein the body’s T-cells attack the hair follicles, causing hair to fall out. However, the hair follicle is not destroyed, therefore hair can regrow.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, AA has been linked to vitamin D insufficiency, as well as vitiligo, asthma, hay fever, down syndrome, thyroid disease, and atopic dermatitis.
One of the biggest factors associated with AA is family history. There’s also evidence that race is a factor, with greater rates of AA in black and Hispanic groups. Women are also more likely to experience AA than men.
Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia (CIA)
Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, it does not differentiate between cancerous cells and healthy cells. Because the hair follicle matrix has the fastest rate of mitosis of any organ, its cells are a prime target for chemotherapy, which is why hair loss is such a common side effect of chemo treatments.
Common Treatments for Hair Loss
There are various treatments available to treat hair loss, such as topical treatments, oral treatments, corticosteroid injections, hair transplants, and scalp cooling.
While these treatments are common and known to be effective, they may not always produce the desired results. Plus, these treatments are often invasive and/or expensive.
Fortunately, red light therapy is gaining popularity as an effective treatment for hair loss, as well as a way to boost the results of the other treatments mentioned.
A Brief Introduction to Red Light Therapy
Red light therapy (RLT), also known as photobiomodulation (PMB) and low-level light therapy (LLLT), is an innovative biohacking technique that uses red and near-infrared light to supercharge your cells and, as a result, boost overall health and wellness.
The term “red light” includes wavelengths of red and near-infrared (NIR) light. It is the most popular and most widely studied form of light treatment, due to its broad range of effects. The main difference between them is that NIR wavelengths are longer and penetrate much deeper into the skin than red light.
When red and NIR light is absorbed into the skin, it affects the body’s cellular health, improving an individual’s health and longevity from the cellular level.
How Red Light Therapy Works
The human body is very responsive to light. All light is beneficial to some degree, but too much can be harmful. Red light and near-infrared (NIR) light are exceptions, as confirmed by thousands of independent studies.
Red light therapy involves shining red and/or NIR light onto the body to stimulate biological processes. When the body is exposed to red light, the light wavelengths stimulate the mitochondria to produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is a molecule that produces the energy our body needs to function so that it can heal tissue, cells, and systems.
Put simply, red light works as a stimulant for cells, similar to recharging a battery. In fact, the body works similarly to a battery, and our body’s ability to receive and maintain a charge determines our overall health.
More than 4000 studies and scientific reviews have been conducted to investigate the physiological effects of red light therapy. The main areas of therapeutic benefit include:
- collagen production
- repair and recovery of muscles, and
- relief from symptoms of illnesses that stem from some type of inflammatory response.
How Red Light Therapy Can Promote Hair Growth
The key to hair growth is to promote activity in the hair follicles and support their health so they can regrow hair. Red light therapy can help with this by:
Increasing Cellular Energy
When red and NIR light is absorbed into the skin, the light wavelengths stimulate the mitochondria to produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the primary cellular fuel.
When cells are healthy, they can function better, replicate more successfully, and defend themselves against oxidative stress and any environmental pathogens. As the cells in the hair follicles become more active, the papillae will produce more keratin, which will result in new hair growth.
Increasing Collagen Production
Red light therapy increases cellular and stimulates the body to produce more collagen, which is another type of protein. Collagen acts as an antioxidant to fight damage caused by free radicals, as explained in this study.
Free radicals damage cells in the follicles, which impacts their ability to grow hair. By increasing collagen in the body, there is less oxidative damage to the follicles and so, they are able to function normally.
Increasing Microcirculation to the Scalp
Red Light therapy has been shown to aid the functioning of both the circulatory system and the lymphatic system by increasing the creation of new capillaries. The increase of capillaries improves blood flow to the scalp and brings oxygen and nutrients to cells.
This is important if you’re suffering from disease-related hair loss or you’re suffering from an abnormal inflammatory response that could inhibit normal hair follicle functioning.
Studies on Red Light Therapy for Hair Loss
Here are some studies investigating red light therapy as a safe and effective treatment for hair loss.
A 2019 meta-analysis of 11 randomized, controlled trials on light therapy and hair loss found the following:
- Red light therapy “significantly increased hair density”
- Red light therapy increases hair growth in both men and women
- Effective with both short- and long-term treatment
- No reported negative side effects
A 2014 study in which 47 women with AGA (Androgenetic alopecia) had either red light therapy applied to their scalp at 655nm, or a placebo treatment, every other day for 4 months. The active group showed significant improvement in hair counts compared to the control group.
Another 2014 study on both men and women produced similar results. Researchers found a significant increase in hair density among participants, as well as self-reported improvements in thickness and fullness of hair, independent of sex.
A 2020 study analyzed the various factors that might affect the effectiveness of red light therapy on AGA. They found that duration of the session, light pulsing, and energy fluence (number of joules per square centimeter) have a significant therapeutic effect on AGA.
A 2016 review of red light therapy and hair regrowth concluded that red light therapy is a safe and effective treatment for men and women suffering from AGA who have not responded to or were not tolerant of standard treatments.
A 2014 review showed similar findings. Researchers hypothesize that the main mechanism involved in the stimulation of epithelial stem cells in the bulge of the hair follicle, as well as increased anagen activity.
A 2018 study looked at red light therapy in combination with minoxidil. Results showed a significant increase in recovery from AGA as well as higher patient satisfaction in those having undergone the treatment compared to those in the control group.
A 2003 study on red light therapy and AA found that participants regrew hair 1.6 months earlier in irradiated areas compared to non-irradiated areas.
A 2017 study on chemotherapy patients found that those undergoing red light therapy treatment showed 2.6 more hair growth than those in the placebo group, with no adverse effects.
There are hundreds of more research that demonstrated the efficacy of red light treatment, notably with regard to AGA. While there is still more research needed on the treatment’s effect on AA and CIA, the existing findings are definitely promising.
How to Use RLT for Hair Growth
Device: Model1+2 Pro
Duration: 17 minutes for optimal duration
Distance: We recommend positioning the device 1 inch away from your scalp
Wavelength: For optimal results, we recommend 660nm (red light)
Red light therapy is a promising treatment for hair loss. As shown in numerous studies, red light treatments have increased hair counts, boosted hair thickness, and helped people improve their appearance and confidence levels.
If you’re struggling with hair loss, consider giving red light therapy a try. Check out our high-quality red light devices here.