For years, people have combed their hair with standard, analog brushes and combs. It was not until recently that we stepped into the future and began utilizing technologies such as lasers for otherwise simple products.
It may sound like a fantasy from a science fiction movie, but they exist and they have some great expectations.
Every company that is currently producing any form of the laser comb is claiming their product to be the saving grace of men and women alike who have experienced bouts of thinning or lost hair.
The combs supposedly can add body along with health to your hair. There are testimonials all over discussion boards for and against the product, but these are mostly anecdotal.
The companies that create them will obviously swear their product is legitimate, but who would trust the people trying to sell it? Laser combs carry a rather lofty price tag.
So before you go out and buy one out of impulse, you need to answer the question that is burning in the back of everyone’s minds. Do laser combs really work?
A Brief History of Hair Loss Products
Nearly 70% of men notice their hair beginning to bald by the time of their 35 birthday. This number goes up another 15% for men by just the age of 50!
It is not a surprise that people are spending countless hours and insane amounts of money to try and at least slow this otherwise inevitability (1).
Companies have been producing creams, special shampoos, toupees, hair plugs, and more recently lasers.
People have been trying to solve the frustration of thinning hair dating back as far as 3000 BC when the use of wigs and hair pieces by royalty and the wealthy were first recorded.
The oldest known medical text is from 1553 BC and was written for various cosmetic and hair loss prevention methods (1).
Fast forward to the year 1624 AD when King Louis XIII of France began wearing a wig to hide his balding head.
This led to many more nobleman and members of the elite class wearing wigs of the same fashion.
For the next couple hundred years, wealthy people all across Europe and North America were wearing wigs to separate themselves from the lower class.
It was in the 1800s that people began selling various elixirs such as “Mrs. Allen’s World Hair Restorer”, “Ayers Hair Vigour”, and “Skookum Root Hair Growth.” None of which actually did anything more than line the pockets of those selling them (1).
Toward the turn of the 1900s, technology had advanced to a point where companies were now making various machines such as the Evans Vacuum Cap Company’s suction device that was supposed to catalyze hair growth by enhancing blood flow (1).
Over the course of the next hundred years there has been an astonishing advancement in hair growth products. Some of which produce real, noticeable results.
The first laser-light treatment for hairloss was performed in Canada in 1998. The study in Canada stated that 17 out of 18 patients they worked with showed absolutely no signs of continued hair problems (1).
How Does a Laser Comb Work?
A standard laser comb is a hand held device that utilizes lasers to revive and restore hair follicles. Hair growth follows a regular three process cycle.
The processes are called Anagen, which is the growth part; Telogen, which is the resting period; and Catagen, which is a transition period going into the next cycle.
At any moment of time, there is approximately 10-20% of your hair that is currently going through the Catagen and Telogen phases (2). These are the phases when the hair is going to shed out then hopefully regrow as new hair.
Balding at a young age occurs when the hair falls out but the follicle does not restart the process and grow new hair. Laser combs stimulate the hair follicles and emphasize the growth of new hair in the Anagen phase (2).
The lasers provide energy to the follicles which allows them more ability to grow new hair. The laser also acts as a stimulant to the hair root which will in turn create an even stronger follicle.
Miniaturizing is when the root becomes weak and can no longer support or generate hair growth. Once a root dies, it is dead beyond revival.
Laser combs are used to catch the follicle before it is too late and reverse the miniaturization process. This generates denser, fuller, healthier hair (2).
Laser combs work to help hair in each individual phase of the hair growth cycle. Hair grows at a rate of about half an inch per month during the Anagen phase (2).
This phase lasts approximately two to eight years at a time. Laser combs produce energy to this phase and aid in the production of healthier, thicker hair.
There are cells in hair follicles called chromophore, which means they are color loving. These cells are able to absorb the light from the lasers and turn it into energy (3).
The light activates resting chromophores and triggers processes that will then start to produce hair. Regular light will not work in the same way as this because it is not intense enough to penetrate the scalp and reach the follicles.
Chromophores require a very specific light wave in order to work. This is why laser combs use wavelengths of 650 nanometers (3).
The next phase is the resting phase. This phase lasts on average only a couple of months before the hair eventually falls out (2). Laser combs are designed to aid in the process of re-growing healthy hair after this phase ends.
The lasers also aid in stimulating Vellus hairs, more commonly referred to as “peach fuzz.” The laser provide energy for the peach fuzz to mature and thicken into real hair (2).
Do They Work, Are There Side Effects?
All over the internet, it is possible to find stories of people who have successfully and not so successfully used laser combs. There are forums and websites where you can find reviews and testimonials for various products and brands.
There are also a few research studies you can read to determine whether they work or not (3). In 2009 one such study was conducted on participants who were using the HairMax LaserComb. This 26 week study showed an increase of approximately 17 hairs per square inch.
The study showed that when used regularly and properly, the laser combs did work but not well. Although there was a difference, it was not a noticeable change for most participants (3).
Who do They Work For?
Laser combs only work for individuals who are in the early parts of their thinning hair or have not yet experienced hair issues.
Future hair shedding can be temporarily avoided by people who use laser combs before their hair begins to fall out.
The problem most people encounter with laser combs is that they will not revive hair follicles. Once a follicle is dead, it is beyond repair.
That means bad news for people who already have a smooth dome. If you are wondering whether it will work for you or not, the only advice is to go with your gut.
Almost all laser combs on the market have very mixed reviews. This means you will find just as many people who claim it worked for them as you will find that it did not work at all.
The FDA and Laser Combs
The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, is an organization dedicated to protecting customers and keeping checks on companies. They oversee everything involving food and dietary supplements.
There is only one laser comb company with a product that has been thumbs upped by the FDA. This company is HairMax. Their LaserComb has been approved by the FDA as a clinically proven method to treat alopecia.
It is the only laser comb amongst two other hair products that have been FDA approved. The other two are Rogaine, a topical medication, and Propecia, an orally administered medication.
HairMax managed to get their product FDA approved by administering a series of researches on it. Their findings concluded that 93% of participants in the study saw an increase in the number of terminal hairs they had.
The participants were aged in the range of 30-60. The increase in terminal hair means they gained thick hairs. The average amount gained was 19 hairs per centimeter.
How to Use a Laser Comb & What Results Can You Expect?
Laser combs are very simple to use however they do require a small time commitment. Most companies advise using their products for 10-20 minutes every other day or three days a week (5).
There are no side effects of using the comb more than the recommended amount, but not enough use will lead to poor results.
So, when in doubt, more is better. Simply flip on your laser comb then you are prepared to start. A laser comb is used in similar fashion to a regular comb.
The only difference is rather than a continuous brushing motion you will pause the comb on each portion of your head for five seconds before moving to the next spot.
Each move should only be about one centimeter at a time. A laser comb should be moved against the natural direction of your hair growth. By doing this, the comb will move the hair and open the scalp up for the lasers to penetrate. It is easiest to start with the front portion of your hair and work your way back.
Go all the way to the base of your hairline while ensuring you do not miss a single spot. After you make it to your back hairline, go over it all again only this time in reverse.
For people who have long hair, they can benefit by using a standard comb or brush in their free hand to keep the hair parted.
The most important thing to remember is that slower is better. Moving the brush quickly can hinder its performance (5).
Best Laser Comb Brands + Prices and Reviews
When shopping for a laser comb, there are many things to consider. The performance should be first and foremost in your mind. As was mentioned earlier, there is only one brand of laser comb that is FDA approved.
This particular comb seems to have generally favorable reviews by those that have used it, but it comes at a price.
While it may be one of the best on the market, the LaserComb is also one of the most expensive. With a price tag just below $500, HairMax’s product is quite the cost commitment.
This means it would be wise to do extensive amounts of product research before jumping into anything. HairMax also offers cheaper, possibly less effective, laser combs.
Their Advanced 7 LaserComb has a lower rating and less favorable reviews, but it can be purchased at a fraction of the cost. The Advanced 7 can be purchased from Kohl’s for $195.
There are also other non-FDA approved laser combs people shopping on a budget can opt for. Prices on these products can vary from anywhere as cheap as $30 up to equally as expensive as the LaserComb.
When it comes to purchasing a laser comb, there are tons of reviews people can read to decide whether the price they are about to pay is worth it or not.
In the end, it comes down to how quickly you are losing hair is and what lengths you are willing to go to undo it.
In the end, it is up to you to decide whether it is worth trying a laser comb or not. There have been studies done that show the products work and probably just as many that it does not.
If nothing else, using a laser comb may be able to provide the peace of mind needed to lower your stress and in turn reduce hair loss. When shopping around, make sure to read customer reviews and do not always believe what the companies are claiming.
Although the times have advanced, there are still people who are in the market of selling snake oils. Keep your eyes peeled and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
*This article was reviewed by Dr. Debra Rose Wilson.