Red Light Therapy & Hair Growth Does this really work?
The Power of Light
Significant exposure to red and near infrared (NIR) light has a long list of health benefits. It is completely non-invasive, easy, safe, and convenient. This is particularly true with Canada’s #1 red light therapy device from Kala Therapy, but before we get into that, let’s learn more about the science behind light therapy.
Is it real?
On the surface, because of our everyday experience, it seems silly to think that light could have any sort of useful effect. It is just light after all—what is light going to do?
Counterintuitive as it may be, the answer is rather surprising. All forms of light are biologically useful to us for different purposes. Full-spectrum light, for example, helps to prevent depression caused by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is experienced most intensely in Nordic countries where natural light levels are just a few hours per day in the wintertime. Further research[i] shows that this effect is strongest with green light. Another study[ii] indicates that green light reduces the perception of chronic or intractable pain for up to four days. This can be helpful as a supplement to drugs, or even replace them.
Highly energetic light, such as ultraviolet, provides the energy our skin needs to make the vitamin D that we need for good health. It lets us treat skin diseases[iii], like atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, scleroderma, and vitiligo; it can sterilize water and surfaces; it can also cause premature aging (photoaging), sunburn, and skin cancers from over-exposure.
Other studies[iv] show that blue light causes alertness by triggering cells at the back of our eyes to modify our brain chemistry. These cells signal to inhibit melatonin production and thereby wake us up in the daytime.
Red & Near Infrared
Red and NIR light successfully treat acne, wrinkles, slow-healing wounds, muscle & joint pain, sores, and mood. Today our specific interest is in stimulating the growth of scalp hair.
A human body has five million hair follicles, the exact same number as our simian ancestors; however, we evolved so that the vast majority of these are vellus hairs that are so fine you need a magnifying glass or microscope to see them.
One million of that total is above our shoulders, and 9 to 15% of those are on our scalps. Blondes and blonds have about 150,000 scalp hairs, whereas redheads have 90,000; brown and black-haired people sit somewhere around 110,000.
Not all scalp hairs are active at the same time, either. There are four phases:
- Anagen (growth, 80-90% of the total, lasting between 2-7 years),
- Catagen (transition, ~3%, lasting 3 weeks),
- Telogen (resting, 7%, ~100 days) and,
- Exogen (shedding).
This means that about 10-20% of your hair is not actively growing, which is a good thing since it would be uncomfortable to go bald all at once at the end of summer for three months and then grow hair for winter. Instead we lose about 25-100 hairs per day, which is offset by the same number that start to grow again. When everything is working synchronously, equilibrium is maintained.
[v]Insults to the body’s normal chemistry, such as chemotherapy, can shut down hair production. Chemo attacks fast-replicating cells such as cancer. Unfortunately, it also affects hair cells, which are fast growing. All the hair goes into telogen mode and then exogen mode, which accounts for the baldness associated with this type of cancer treatment. Even red light therapy cannot change that because the follicles are turned off chemically.
How Does Light Work its Magic?
Red light conditions the skin, improves function, and penetrates about 5 mm into the epidermis, allowing the cells to more easily acquire nutrients. The topmost layer is simply the dead skin cells that protect the under-layers and these are shed regularly. The remainder is living cells that need nutrition just like any other cells.
Near Infrared is a longer wavelength of light—it penetrates further and more deeply into individual cells, to the dermal layer, and beyond. This boosts circulation, brings more oxygen and nutrients to cells, and it stimulates the fibroblasts in the skin.
Fibroblasts, which manufacture structural materials and collagen for cells, also produce the precursors to elastin. Together these are the elements necessary for skin repair and the maintenance of the youthful responsiveness and appearance.
Start slowly, and use at least three days per week. You can build up to once-per-day to maximise your results, but follow the time guidelines. Cells can only absorb so much light energy, so keep this chart in mind:
- 30 seconds-2½ minutes per area (at a distance of 15 cm/6 inches)
- 1-3½ minutes per area (30 cm/12 inches)
- 1½-5 minutes per area (45 cm/18 inches)
- 2-7 minutes per area (60 cm/24 inches)
- 3-14 minutes per area (90 cm/36 inches)
A molecule named Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) provides energy to your cells’ power plants, named mitochondria. ATP yields a lot of energy just by snapping off the last phosphate group (purple in the diagram) and turning the ATP into Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP). The ADP drifts back to the outer edge of the cell where enzymes using energy they get from food reattach the phosphate group and turn ADP back into ATP. One molecule of ATP can cycle in this way thousands of times per day.
Equally important, NIR helps to break down Nitric Oxide (NO), which is a vital biochemical messenger in the body. However, once NO has done its job, it leaves behind oxygen radicals that can cause cellular damage. These need to be cleaned up. NIR greatly speeds up that process, decreasing naturally occurring damage.
All taken together, this makes the skin more capable of supporting the needs of the hair follicles so they grow faster, thicker, and stronger. In addition, NIR stimulates the follicles in the Catagen (transition) and Telogen (resting) phases to move into the Anagen (growing) phase, which can result in up to 20% more hair growth.
One study[vi], which was focused on using external, non-invasive, transcranial NIR for treating traumatic brain injury, noted that the effects of NIR could last not just for days, but weeks, or months post-treatment.
The biggest problem with Red Light Therapy (RLT) and NIR Therapy of any sort is that many sellers are looking to profit from its new found “popularity”—new sellers are jumping onboard, but they are not doing the background work necessary to provide you with a good product.
Ordering “bulk” red and NIR LEDs and slapping them into a plastic housing just isn’t good enough. Research has shown that the most effective wavelength for RTL is centred on 660 nm, and the most efficacious wavelength for NIR is found at 850 nm. Those are exactly the wavelengths produced by Kala panels and devices. Most anything else is not nearly as effective for Red Light and NIR Therapy.
Poor quality red and infrared LEDs can wander far from this requirement (up to 100 nm from specification). This reduces their ability to supply useful light that will actually help you. Some manufacturers don’t even supply their units with cooling fans (in order to save money). Fans are essential to guarantee a trouble-free product that lasts for years.
Kala units are priced competitively, come with a 30-day money back guarantee, a full one year warranty, and include free shipping right to your door! In fact, we’re so confident about the quality that we provide that all our panels are certified by a third party independent investigator. They are flicker-free, safe, and have the lowest Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) of any available device.
We really would like to help you get started on your journey towards improved health with our top quality equipment. Take this opportunity to speak with one of our customer service specialists and discover how Red Light Therapy can change your life for the better! We would love to hear from you!