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.
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.
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.
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 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.
It’s also important to be aware that some research into laser hair growth technology may not be totally independent. As a 2020 review 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.
In one study, women between 18 and 60 years of age with pattern hair loss were treated with a device called the Handi-Dome Laser. The device was a cap fitted with an array of laser diodes operating at 650 nm.
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 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. Like the previous study, this study did not feature any male patients.
We've talked more about these issues with research into laser hair growth devices in our guide to laser hair treatments.
Although many laser hair growth caps make bold claims about their ability to restore your hair, the scientific research that’s available right now doesn’t quite back these up.
However, several hair loss treatments are currently available that are supported by large-scale scientific research showing that they can slow down, stop or reverse hair loss caused by male pattern baldness.
These include FDA-approved medications such as finasteride and minoxidil, over-the-counter products and even surgical procedures to restore your hair.
If you’re losing your hair and want to take action, the most effective option is to use medication to stop further hair loss and stimulate hair growth. The FDA has approved two medications to treat hair loss:
Research shows that finasteride and minoxidil are particularly effective when they’re both used together to block DHT and stimulate hair growth.
Although finasteride and minoxidil start working right away, it takes time for your hair to respond to medication and start growing. You should typically see a noticeable improvement in your hair count, thickness and density after three to 12 months of using medication.
In addition to medication, using the right hair care products can help to promote hair growth and keep your hair strong, thick and healthy. Consider using:
Finally, if you have extensive hair loss, you may benefit from a hair restoration procedure such as hair transplant surgery.
This type of procedure involves surgically harvesting hair follicles from areas of your scalp that are resistant to male pattern baldness, such as the back and sides of your scalp. The hairs are then transplanted to your hairline, crown or other areas with significant hair loss.
When performed effectively, hair transplant surgery can drastically improve the appearance of your hair and restore hair to balding areas of your scalp.
Several different techniques are used to perform this procedure, each with unique advantages and disadvantages. Our full guide to hair transplant surgery goes into greater detail about how this type of procedure works, its costs, results, typical recovery time and more.
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.