Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/25/2021
If you’ve searched online for products that treat hair loss, you may have seen ads, videos and other content promoting laser hair growth caps.
These devices use a technique called low-level light therapy to stimulate your hair follicles and promote hair growth. They’re widely promoted as a treatment for male pattern baldness and an alternative to medications like minoxidil and finasteride.
Laser hair growth caps are supported by some science, however, the research that’s available right now is far from comprehensive.
Below, we’ve explained how laser hair growth caps work, as well as their potential benefits for treating hair loss and stimulating hair growth.
We’ve also listed several other treatment options, from medications to hair-friendly habits, that you may want to consider if you’re beginning to lose your hair.
Male pattern baldness, the most common cause of hair loss in men, develops as a result of genetic factors and the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
The most effective treatments for male pattern baldness work by reducing the amount of DHT in your bloodstream and preventing damage to your hair follicles.
Laser hair growth caps and other laser hair devices rely on a technique called low-level laser therapy (LLLT) to stimulate your hair follicles and promote hair growth.
According to an article published in the journal, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, exposure to low-level laser light stimulates cellular activity.
Although these products can and often do stimulate hair growth, they have no effect on DHT levels and don’t appear to stop long-term damage to your hair follicles.
If you’re losing your hair, it’s best to talk to a licensed healthcare provider to learn more about your options.
Laser hair growth caps are head-worn devices that use laser diodes to stimulate your scalp and promote hair growth.
Although the specific design of these devices can vary, most look like a baseball cap with laser diodes on the inside. Many laser hair growth caps feature hundreds of laser diodes designed to target your scalp from every possible angle.
The idea behind laser hair growth caps is simple. Research suggests that exposure to low-level laser light stimulates cellular activity. By exposing your hair follicles to concentrated laser light, a cap may be able to promote hair growth and improve your hair in areas with hair loss.
Other laser hair growth devices, such as combs, bands, helmets and others, are all designed to take advantage of the same theory.
Like many other hair growth devices, laser hair growth caps can vary hugely in design, cost and quality.
Simple devices that feature a few hundred laser diodes with a low to moderate output are often available for several hundred dollars, while high-end, high-powered devices with thousands of laser diodes are often priced in the “thousands of dollars” range.
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Before we get into the science behind laser hair growth caps specifically, it’s important to cover the basics of how male pattern baldness develops.
Contrary to popular belief, male pattern baldness isn’t caused by stress, wearing an overly tight hat or your mother’s father’s genes.
Instead, it’s caused by a combination of genetic factors and an androgenic hormone produced by your body called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, according to an article published in the book, StatPearls.
If you’re genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness, DHT can damage your hair follicles and, over time, stop them from producing new hairs. This process tends to begin at your crown or hairline and become more noticeable over time.
You can learn more about the effects of DHT on your hair in our guide to DHT and male pattern baldness.
Laser devices like hair growth caps have no effect on your DHT levels, meaning they won’t stop DHT from damaging your hair follicles if you’re genetically predisposed to hair loss.
Instead, they work at a more local level by emitting light and stimulating hair growth in the areas of your scalp that are already affected by hair loss.
While there isn’t much research on low-level laser therapy and hair growth, several studies have found that it may be effective at stimulating hair growth and treating male pattern baldness.
For example, an evidence-based review published in the journal, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine in 2016 looked at 21 studies of laser devices for hair growth. It concluded that low-level laser therapy devices are safe and effective for both men and women with pattern hair loss.
A 2018 review published in the journal, Lasers in Medical Science, reached a similar conclusion, noting that laser therapy “appears to be a safe, alternative treatment” for pattern hair loss.
While this research is certainly promising, it’s important to note that the studies featured looked at laser hair growth devices as a whole, not hair growth caps specifically.
Some of the studies featured in this research also involved the use of laser hair growth devices in combination with other treatments, such as the hair loss medication minoxidil.
As a 2020 review published in the journal, Skin Appendage Disorders, noted, some studies in this field appear to be associated with the laser hair growth device industry.
As for research into the specific effects of laser hair growth caps, only a few small-scale studies are currently available.
According to an article published in the journal, Dermatologic Surgery: Official Publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, women between 18 and 60 years of age with pattern hair loss were treated with a device called the Handi-Dome Laser.
Over the course of 17 weeks of treatment, the women treated with the laser cap achieved a 51 percent increase in hair count compared to those treated with a non-therapeutic device.
Like other studies into laser devices for hair loss, this one is promising but far from perfect. Not only does it not feature any men with pattern hair loss (the main target audience for most laser hair growth devices), but it was also associated with a hair growth device manufacturer.
A similar study published in the journal, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, involving a laser hair growth helmet called iGrow® found that women who used the device experienced results comparable to those achieved using the hair loss medication, Minoxidil.
We've talked more about these issues with research into laser hair growth devices in our guide to laser hair treatments.
Laser hair growth caps can vary in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars for high-end devices with powerful laser diodes, making them a major purchase for most.
Although some studies have found that low-level laser therapy may promote hair growth, there is very little research on the effectiveness of laser hair growth caps and helmets as treatments for male pattern baldness.
As such, it’s tough to recommend these products, especially when proven, inexpensive options for treating hair loss like minoxidil and finasteride are available.
If you’re losing your hair and want to take action, it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider about your options. If appropriate, they can prescribe medication to help you stop hair loss and even potentially regrow hair in areas of your scalp with noticeable thinning.