By Paul Taylor
Does the HairMax LaserComb really work? And do laser combs cause side effects?
This review answers those questions to help you decide whether lasers are a safe way to tackle your hair loss.
As you'll see below, hair follicle stimulation is the main issue. This is something you must get right, otherwise you and your hair could be in for a very traumatic time.
Both laser comb design (i.e., its quality of construction) and the way you use your laser comb can affect hair follicle stimulation. So, four important aspects of design and usage instructions are reviewed below.
At first glance, using a HairMax LaserComb (or similar hand-held device) instead of going to a hair clinic for laser treatment does make sense.
Clinics can be costly and inconvenient, with patients typically traveling to a clinic many times for a full course of treatment.
And whilst a laser comb might initially cost $300 or more, you should be able to use it for years in the comfort of your own home, making it a lot more affordable and convenient in the long run.
But therein lies a problem.
Unmonitored self-help use of a laser comb device can mean too much or too little hair follicle stimulation.
Most laser combs seem to have a power level of 5 milliwatts (mW), produce red laser light with a wavelength of 650 nanometers, and generally it’s suggested you use them for 15 minutes, three times per week (1).
However, a one-size-fits-all approach like this is a dangerous assumption to make.
Here are four reasons why:
Fluence is the radiant energy (in joules) received by each unit area (in cm²) of the scalp surface.
Think of fluence as being the amount of energy hitting per cm² of the scalp surface, whereas power is the rate of energy flowing per second.
Some research suggests that it’s best to use a laser device with a fluence level between 3 and 6 J/cm², and that devices like the HairMax LaserComb simply do not provide enough fluence to be of any real help.
And at least one company (Raymax) does
support this by stating that its laser hair loss products have nine
times the fluence energy of other hand held devices, including the
Most companies seem to
keep the fluence level of their lasers a closely guarded secret which,
to me, suggests there’s real uncertainty as to what level is best to
Other research suggests that at about 9 J/cm², over stimulation can occur, giving poor results.
And, interestingly, whilst most hair removal lasers are high-powered with a fluence range of 25 to 40 J/cm², one study showed how a laser device with a much lower fluence (5 to 10 J/cm²) resulted in hair removal counts comparable to those of a traditional high fluence laser.
So, since this 5 to 10 J/cm² range overlaps somewhat with the suggested optimum (3 to 6 J/cm²) there’s obviously some uncertainty concerning laser fluence levels.
Clearly it’s important to get the balance right - too low and there will be no stimulation, too high and there will be over stimulation or even suppression of hair growth.
And to complicate matters even more, whilst a fluence of 3 to 6 J/cm² might be optimal for hair regrowth generally, the radiant energy that your scalp requires could differ.
Anyone who still has a reasonably high density of hair might wonder how much laser energy will even reach their scalp.
The HairMax LaserComb has parting teeth* that separate the hair, allowing the laser light to reach the scalp relatively unimpeded. So, clearly this is an important factor.
The HairMax LaserComb’s parting teeth* also maintain the laser at a constant distance from the scalp surface – something that obviously affects the dose received. And, as mentioned in point 1 above, you need to get the dose right: not too much, or too little.
* Note: many other hand-held devices do not have parting teeth and so do not address either of these issues.
The HairMax LaserComb has a 4 second bleeper that signals you to move to another spot on your scalp. Not all hand-held devices have this feature, but is it really that useful?
If 15 minutes (three times per week) is the total exposure time for the whole scalp, what if you suffer more or less hair loss in one particular region? Should you increase or decrease exposure in some areas?
To me, this method seems to be a very imprecise way to go about laser therapy.
Most clinics will treat the whole scalp simultaneously using a large dome-shaped device containing as many as 100 laser diodes. Each session typically lasts up to 30 minutes, during which time you simply sit underneath the machine.
All of which means that the exposure time and dose is likely to be quite exact.
But, if you're using a hand-held laser comb product at home, the duration in each area of the scalp can easily vary because it has to be moved around from region to region to achieve full scalp coverage.
many people will be tempted to use it more often than recommended, or
for longer in one region of the scalp than another, especially if
positive results are not forthcoming.
Let's start by stating the obvious - lasers can be dangerous!
Many websites give clear warnings against pointing lasers directly at your eyes.
And even though laser comb products for home use are generally considered safe, they nevertheless do all seem to carry a safety message about accidentally looking directly at the laser beams.
In fact, someone once emailed me and described her HairMax LaserComb as "lethal". An exaggeration I’m sure, but obviously you’ve still got to be very careful if you were to use a laser comb product at home.
By comparison, a clinic should be a very controlled environment. So, even if the machines they use are much higher powered and with many more laser diodes than a hand-held laser comb, they should still be safer.
That issue aside, using laser treatment for hair loss in your own home or at a clinic, should cause no pain.
therapy can, however, cause hair shedding, although it’s often claimed
that this is just a short-term side effect and actually a good sign
that the treatment is working.
There's no doubt that laser comb products like the HairMax
LaserComb do stimulate the scalp. And studies (2) have shown that various laser comb models can increase the number of hairs growing on the scalp (hair density).
Nevertheless, you need to be very dedicated to doing your own laser therapy at home, and very precise in your applications. So I still believe that laser comb treatment is likely to be problematic for a lot of people. Far easier (albeit far more expensive) to leave it to the experts at clinics.
And some HairMax
LaserComb reviews from customers echo that point, adding that this product did nothing to help their hair regrow, possibly made it worse, and that its one laser diode split into nine beams with a mirror is a cheap design and not powerful enough.
So, in other words, compared to clinics, it looks like using a laser comb for hair loss is not such a good idea.
Helping people with hair loss is something I personally take very seriously. And I would hope that's something laser comb manufacturer's would do too.
So, in writing this review, I emailed several companies to ask for some very basic specifications of their hand-held laser comb products. Unfortunately though, most did not bother to reply.
I asked for the following information:
The products I asked about unsuccessfully were:
Only Lexington answered these questions (about its HairMax LaserComb Advanced 7 model), albeit that some details were kept confidential.
Note: The HairMax LaserComb was the first hand-held laser device to get FDA clearance to treat hair loss. However, FDA clearance does not mean the same as FDA approval.
As if all the complexities about laser combs reviewed here weren't enough, there are seven more factors that can also affect laser treatment for hair loss.
To find out what these are, read my Laser clinic review.
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