Red light therapy is a safe, effective, and natural treatment option for hair loss that’s gaining popularity with professionals and the public. Backed by a strong base of peer-reviewed clinical research, red light treatments have increased hair count, hair density, and hair thickness for men and women alike. In addition to being a natural baldness treatment for both sexes, lab studies have even shown it can help regrow the coats of dogs and other mammals. And all of these benefits come without any negative side effects.
This article breaks down the research on red light therapy and hair regrowth. Read on to learn the science behind natural light and its effect on baldness.
How Red Light Therapy Helps Treat Hair Loss
Red light therapy is a natural hair loss treatment that’s been found safe and effective across numerous peer-reviewed clinical studies, with plenty of happy users to back it up. If you’re not familiar with red light and its benefits, this article gives a good overview of what it is and how it works.
The short version is this: A quality LED light therapy device delivers safe, concentrated wavelengths of natural light to your skin, with no chemicals, UV rays, or excess heat. These red and near infrared wavelengths of light stimulate the mitochondria in your cells similar to natural sunlight, reducing oxidative stress and increasing circulation, so your body is able to make more core energy to power itself.
Making energy more efficiently throughout your body improves physical function, speeds the healing process, and lowers inflammation & pain, as demonstrated in numerous peer-reviewed studies. It also has a major stimulating effect on the dermal papilla cells, which play a big role in the regulation of hair cycling and growth.
Research Shows Red Light is an Effective Natural Treatment for Hair Loss
Hair loss is one of the most common effects of aging, impacting over half the world’s population. More than 50% of men over the age of 40 are affected by Androgenetic Alopecia, or common hair loss. 75% of women over 65 also suffer from alopecia.
Fortunately, red light therapy offers a safe and natural option for preventing and reversing hair loss. And it’s backed up by a wealth of peer-reviewed clinical studies, trials, and meta-analyses.
A 2019 meta-analysis examined 8 clinical studies, comprising a total of 11 double-blind randomized controlled trials. The quantitative analysis showed a significant increase in hair density for people who were treated with red light therapy. There was a significant increase in hair growth with red light therapy treatments versus sham and placebo treatments.
A meta-analysis from 2018 reviewed recent advances in non-surgical treatments for hair loss. 22 studies were examined by comparing red light therapy to other common treatments such as hormone-regulating drugs like Finasteride and Dutasteride, researchers concluded that red light therapy was the superior treatment. Importantly, while many of the drugs reviewed in this meta-analysis had negative side effects, red light therapy was found to have none.
Improved Hair Count, Density, Thickness, and Strength with Red Light
Another meta-analysis published in 2017 analyzed 11 studies and 680 patients who were treated with red light therapy for hair growth. Researchers noted significant improvements in both hair count and hair density. Additionally, hair thickness and tensile strength were also improved in those treated with natural light. People who were treated with red light were asked about their experiences, and on the whole, responded very positively to the treatments.
Red Light Proven Effective for Male Pattern Baldness Versus Sham Treatment
In a single study from 2018, researchers conducted a 6-month, randomized, double-blind trial with both red light therapy and a sham device. With 100 people, they applied real red light therapy to one side of each participant’s head 3 times a week for 30 minutes, while the other side received a sham treatment. At the end of the trial, the side that received red light treatment had significantly greater hair coverage than the sham-treated side. Hair thickness, hair count, and hair regrowth also saw significant improvements. Researchers concluded that red light therapy is an effective, safe, and well-tolerated treatment for male pattern baldness.
Treating Male Pattern Baldness with Red Light Therapy
In 2019, researchers conducted a 6-month study that examined men with pattern hair loss and changes in the protein expression in their dermal papilla tissues, which are responsible for hair growth. Participants received 25 minutes of red light therapy treatment every other day for 6 months. By examining which proteins were up-regulated, researchers concluded that red light therapy promoted hair growth and reversed the miniaturization process of balding by enhancing dermal papilla cell function.
Another study that aimed to define the safety and physiologic effects of red light therapy on males with pattern baldness was conducted in 2014. 44 men participated and had a section of their scalp trimmed to 3 mm height. The area was tattooed and photographed. One group received red light treatment every other day for 16 weeks while the second group received a sham treatment. Upon completing the study, researchers found:
A significant increase in the post-treatment hair count in the red light treatment group
A 35% increase in hair growth in the red light treatment group
No adverse events or side effects were reported
Treating Female Pattern Baldness with Red Light Therapy
Just ten years ago, the options for women’s hair loss solutions were limited. With more attention being given to female pattern hair loss over the last decade, many studies and treatment methods have sprung forward. Red light therapy is one of the most tested and proven hair loss treatments for women today.
To study the effectiveness of red light therapy on women with normal hair loss, one of the researchers who conducted the previously-mentioned study on men decided to recreate it for women participants with hair loss. The double-blind, randomized trial was conducted in the same way: 47 women participants had an area of their scalps trimmed to 3 mm height. The area was tattooed and photographed. One group received red light treatment every other day for 16 weeks while the second group received a sham treatment. Upon completing the study, researchers found even better hair growth results for women than men:
Significant increase in post-treatment hair count for women
A 37% increase in hair growth in the red light treatment group
No adverse events or side effects were reported
Red Light Therapy & Topicals Perform Well Together: A 2017 study looked at the effects of red light therapy versus topical minoxidil 5% ointment, a common treatment for female pattern hair loss. The study included 45 women, broken into 3 groups: those who received red light therapy, those who received a topical ointment, and a combination group. Researchers concluded that red light therapy treatments were effective. The use of both red light and topical ointment was recommended by researchers to hasten hair regrowth.
51% Increase in Women’s Hair Counts: Another 2017 trial studied red light therapy’s effect on women experiencing hair loss. Researchers used the Ludwig-Savin Baldness scale, specifically designed to examine hair loss in women. They found that women receiving red light therapy at 650 nm saw a 51% increase in hair counts.
Studies Show Widespread Hair Growth Uses for Red Light
Numerous lab studies have also shown a wide range of other hair growth benefits from red light therapy. Here’s a quick look at some of the peer-reviewed research:
Hair Growth for Dogs with Alopecia: 7 dogs with alopecia, of different ages, breeds, and genders, received red light therapy treatments. At the end of the study, coat regrowth was improved in every animal, and was greatly improved in 6 out of 7 dogs.
Hair Growth in Various Mammals: Animals treated with red light therapy saw a 60% regrowth of hair compared to the 42% of non-treated animals. Mammals treated with red light also showed much longer hair than those not treated.
Promising Results Treating Lichen Planopilaris
Lichen planopilaris is a type of scarring hair loss that occurs when the common skin disease, lichen planus, affects areas of skin where there is hair. This condition tends to be progressive, and the most effective treatments have response rates of only 10%. Lichen planus is an inflammatory disease and red light therapy is a well-documented natural anti-inflammatory treatment.
While more studies are needed, this 2017 trial is a promising start. 8 participants with lichen planopilaris were treated with red light therapy for 15 minutes daily, for 6 months. The results were positive:
Increased hair thickness after 3 and 6 months
Decreased erythema, or less patchy and reddened skin
Decreased activity of the lichen planopilaris disease
Conclusion: Red Light Therapy is a Safe, Effective Hair Loss Intervention
Red light therapy is a safe, effective natural hair loss treatment that’s reliable for both male- and female-pattern baldness, as shown in numerous studies. Across study after study, red light treatments have increased hair counts, boosted hair thickness, and helped people improve their appearance and confidence levels. If you’ve struggled with hair loss and unsuccessful treatments, consider giving natural red light therapy a try.