Updated: Dec 11, 2020
When it comes to picking and choosing which hair loss treatments you use there is nothing more convincing than approval from the FDA. To get FDA approval, a treatment has to undergo rigorous clinical testing and must show effectiveness throughout all of the trials.
The main purpose of an FDA approval is trust. Knowing what you are putting in your body, how it is going to affect you, and having pros outweigh cons are all very important and that is what an FDA approval signifies.
There are only three FDA approved hair loss treatments: finasteride, minoxidil, and low-level laser therapy (LLLT), but it is LLLT that people are most misguided about. In this article, we are going to discuss briefly what LLLT is and then dive into the reason behind why many people are misinformed about it and what you can do to get the most out of it.
What is low-level laser therapy?
In the 1960’s, a Hungarian man named Endre Mester was studying laser’s effects on cancer when he accidentally discovered that they were able to regrow hair on mice. This prompted trials and research that led to modern day LLLT for hair loss, but how does it work?
LLLT is essentially subjecting your scalp and hair to a series of red lights (typically for 20-30 minutes every other day). The lights are (at least should be, you’ll understand in a bit) set to emit at wavelengths between 630 and 670 nanometers, which is the optimal wavelength for hair growth according to scientists.
Before we talk about how it works to regrow hair, it is important to note that the exact way LLLT works to regrow hair is not known. Up to this point scientists have only come up with theories about how they believe it works. Nonetheless, however it works, data shows that it is successful at re-growing hair (1).
Two of the most plausible theories are as follows:
1. LLLT saturates the scalp with photons of light that create ATP in the body. The ATP is then used by the body to facilitate metabolic processes which stimulate hair growth.
2. Lasers help our blood vessels release nitric oxide. This causes vasodilation and increased blood flow. When blood flow in increased the amount of oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the follicles increases, thus promoting growth (low blood flow and hair loss are correlated (2)).
Why people are misled about LLLT
Even reading the introduction to this article I bet you didn’t realize that you had been misled, that’s how easy it is. Earlier I stated that the three FDA approved treatments are finasteride, minoxidil, and LLLT, which is technically not true.
See, LLLT itself is not FDA approved, but rather the various devices that are used to treat it (combs, helmets, etc.) are individually approved. This is what many people are misinformed about, and also where shady companies like to take advantage of people.
Since most people don’t know that devices, not LLLT itself, have to FDA approved, there are are many “LLLT” devices on the market that are not FDA approved. Many of these non-FDA approved devices, while they can technically claim they preform LLLT, are cheap, poorly built, and ineffective.
LLLT is a complex process that requires high quality materials, precision medical-grade laser technology, and brilliant minds to be done correctly, none of which comes cheap. Unfortunately, if you want to get yourself a good LLLT device you are likely going to be paying upwards of $500.
Ask yourself this question: would you rather bite the bullet and pay for a device that is going to work and have longevity, or get a cheap one which either won’t work or will need to be replaced frequently?
Only devices that are FDA approved for LLLT are a safe bet in terms of effectiveness.
Devices that have not been FDA approved have not been proven to be effective yet, and most likely (assuming they are not currently undergoing clinical trials) are not going to provide you with any hair growth whatsoever as most are either made with low quality materials (i.e. weak lasers) and/or are not tuned to the correct wavelength.
Again, the companies that manufacture these cheap laser devices are just trying to take advantage of the knowledge gap. LLLT itself is not approved, only devices that preform it are, remember that throughout your decision-making process.
Which device to use?
When picking out which LLLT device to use it comes down to preference, convenience, and price for most people, and there are several options for FDA approved devices.
There is one however that stands out from the rest, it is from a company called iRestore.
Based on online reviews, iRestore is revered as the highest quality helmet that delivers great results and is FDA cleared. It is also the helmet that I have used for years and has been and integral part of my success in overcoming hair loss.
iRestore offers two helmets:
-the essential which contains 51 medical-grade lasers/LED’s
-the professional which contains 282 medical-grade lasers/LED’s
I can only speak to the efficacy of the essential as the professional came out after I had already gotten my helmet (plus there is a significant price difference). Does more lasers mean better results? We cannot make any conclusions until more research becomes available. But no matter which helmet you use, make sure you read this guide on how to best implement LLLT into your hair loss routine.
The hair loss industry has always been full of snake oil salesman trying to take advantage of people who want a solution. Usually, when it comes to FDA approved treatments, you can trust, for the most part, that it is going to be effective and do what the label says it will.
As we learned LLLT is a little different, and many people try to exploit it. But, as long as you bear in mind that LLLT itself is not FDA approved, but rather the devices themselves, you will be well aware of all of the scams about and hopefully know that paying the extra money is worth it. Don’t waste your money on cheap gimmicky laser combs, they won’t do anything for your hair loss.