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Laser phototherapy is being touted as an effective treatment for male pattern hair-loss.

e.g. Hairmax claims:

HOW HAIRMAX STIMULATES HAIR GROWTH:

  • Energizes weakened hair follicles
  • Awakens dormant hair follicles
  • Increases growth factors for more oxygen and nutrients to your hair follicles
  • Reverses hair’s thinning process
  • Restores hairs natural growth cycle
  • Stimulates hair to grow fuller, denser and stronger

Has laser phototherapy been demonstrated as an effective treatment for hair-loss?

  • Welcome to Skeptics! I have narrowed the scope of this question a lot to keep it on topic. Please check you are still happy with it as a question. If there are other treatments you would like investigated please ask another question (e.g. Effectiveness of rogaine/minoxidil would be interesting.) – Oddthinking Jan 11 '16 at 5:08
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    I have my fingers crossed that any answer to this question can explain how laser phototherapy can be effective at removing hair and restoring hair. This remains a mystery to me, but I am quite ignorant about the differing treatments. – Oddthinking Jan 11 '16 at 5:09
  • Brilliant. Thank you for your edits. Yes. That's the question. – Digityogi Jan 11 '16 at 5:16
  • Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/19170/… – Sklivvz Jan 11 '16 at 9:50
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I was totally ready to say this is a complete and utter sham, however I have found two papers that seem to indicate that there is some positive effect from using the Hairmax device.

A Rutgers team (sponsored by Lexington International) concludes (PDF):

This randomized, doubleblind, sham device-controlled, multicentre efficacy trial indicates that the HairMax LaserComb laser phototherapy device with its patented hair-parting teeth mechanism is an effective, well tolerated treatment for hair loss of androgenetic aetiology. Indeed, the HairMax LaserComb is currently the only laser therapy device that has been clinically studied and proven to grow hair in males with certain classes of AGA.

Please note that this is for a specific type of baldness (AGA - Androgenetic Alopecia). Don't know what that means exactly.

And since I didn't want to make just one paper the answer, here is a paper from Harvard that says essentially the same thing (PDF):

In four randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled trials of MPHL and FPHL, we detected a statistically significant increase in terminal hair density after 26 weeks of lasercomb treatment compared with sham treatment. Such improvement was independent of the sex and age of the subject, and independent of the lasercomb model when similar laser dose rates were delivered. A higher percentage of lasercomb-treated subjects reported overall Lasercomb Treatment of Male and Female Pattern Hair Loss 125 improvement of hair loss condition and thickness and fullness of hair in self-assessment, though the results did not always reach statistical significance. Increase in terminal hair count was comparable to the short-term trials of 5 % minoxidil topical solution and 1 mg/day finasteride, but less efficacious than longer term (C1 year) trials.

In this one, there is some cautionary language (added emphasis from me in the quote).

Note that the Hairmax page uses some language that I would say is more marketing speak than scientific language, the basic claim of improving hair growth seems to bear out in testing.

PubMed also has a page where they quote the above Harvard paper.

There is another paper that appears to come from a Laser in Medicine journal:

Conclusion: LLLT for hair growth in both men and women appears to be both safe and effective. The optimum wavelength, coherence and dosimetric parameters remain to be determined.

Google Scholar lists a bunch of other papers and articles: https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#safe=strict&q=scholar:+hairmax

I guess you learn something every day and have your preconceived notions challenged.

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    Very interesting! Haha I was also thinking it wasn't going to be effective. Thank you for this. I'm also wondering what classes of AGA are helpful in the first study... . – Digityogi Jan 12 '16 at 8:30
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    And of course, always remember that there's a difference between "statistically significant" and "significant". The former means "We're pretty sure that the hair growth we're seeing is being caused by the process being studied". It does not necessarily mean that they are seeing a lot of hair growth. – Arcanist Lupus Feb 1 '19 at 8:09

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