The fanciest way to treat hair loss



Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 9.10.07 AM

Red light LED has been promoted for at least a decade to stimulate hair regrowth. HairMax was first to market with a home device specifically designed for hair loss treatment, and it was basically just standard red light LED bulbs in a hairbrush shaped tool. Now the company is selling a headband shaped LED device, which is probably a huge step up in terms of convenience and efficacy, but it’s got a downside: the $795 price tag.

LED used to be the stuff of spas and dermatologists offices, and machines used to cost $10,000 and up. But the price of LEDs have come down dramatically, and the market moved out of the medical or salon environment and into the home. Now you can buy hand-held LED devices for as little as around $150, but some can go as high as $800.

I’ve been using LED in my home for a few years, having purchased two salon-grade machines on the secondary market. From what I have gathered from reading about this technology, power is what separates one LED device from another. LEDs by nature are low voltage and generate low heat, but with enough power to them you can definitely cause a burn if you’re not careful. The rule of thumb is the greater the power output of the device, the shorter the amount of time you need to use the device. Also, you need to know the wavelength of the LED, but few studies say what is best; just that red light is generally known to have a healing effect between 600-800 nm, stimulates collagen growth, and mild elasticity improvement.

Another factor of efficacy is distance to the skin. Because it’s light rather than laser, the red light produced by the bulb quickly diffuses rather than hits the skin like a laser beam. This means that you need to hold the device close to your skin for it to have an effect (which is why those red or blue light LED shower heads are a waste of money unless you just like the way they look).

The HairMax LaserBand was designed by Italian design firm Pininfarnina, most famous for its automotive designs. That alone may explain the $795 price tag, but it’s a bit unnecessary for what is essentially a wireless headband with what looks like uncomfortable comb teeth and several red LED bulbs. It’s unclear that men will buy this based on signature on the device when few men actually know about this technology as a hair loss treatment, and women don’t know who Pininfarnina is. But is it effective?

The site doesn’t say how many joules/cm the device produces, which is really what you need to know to determine efficacy and how long to use it. I couldn’t find this information on the Web site, and couldn’t get the search feature to work to search for ‘joules,’ and the quick search for “hairmax and joules” didn’t turn up much on Google.

So, does LED work for stimulating hair growth? Small studies have shown that they do. Will any of the HairMax devices work? Unclear unless they can provide the specs on their device in joules/cm2. If I was experiencing hairless, I’d spend my money on the strongest red light hand held LED device that I could find on the market, not an Italian designed headband that costs the better part of a grand. I will give them props for the headband shaped device, but the price tag and not knowing the power output makes it a gamble.