December 2008

Laser Hair Regrowth?

By James Giddings

Laser hair regrowth? That headline was surely a typo; it was suppose to say laser hair removal, right? No, it wasn’t. As incredible as it sounds, lasers really can enhance hair.

First, however, let’s begin with a careful definition of our subject. The technology discussed in this article is licensed for cosmetic, not medical, use. Therefore, strictly speaking, a person cannot make the medical statement that it grows hair. However, one can say it enhances the look and feel of hair. Now that the legal definition is out of the way, let’s get into the thick of things.

Can lasers grow hair?

Let’s start by talking about an actual medical laser technology approved by the FDA in January 2007. The product was the HairMax LaserComb. As a medical device it couldn’t be used in salons, it was a handheld device marketed for use in the home. The most incredible thing about it is that the FDA performed multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled trials at four sites in the U.S. Subjects of the study received either the real device or a sham device and were instructed to use it three times per week for 26 weeks. The study found that subjects with the real device “had significantly greater increases in mean terminal hair density” than those with the placebo. That means most of the people who used it showed improvement.

What about its safety? Interestingly, the FDA study found “no subject experienced a serious adverse event and the adverse event profiles were similar between the two treatment groups.” That means the safety level was very good. The Substantial Equivalence section stated it was “as safe and effective” as proven devices that came before it were.

How does this FDA study help salons? It demonstrates that technology works. However, it doesn’t provide a tool for use in the salon.

Salon Lasers, Inc. recently introduced a new professional cosmetic laser designed especially for the mainstream salon. It is being marketed as a great new revenue stream for salons or spas. In addition, this device is designed to be as easy to use as a sit-down hairdryer. Unlike the handheld unit in the FDA study, this unit only requires a couple minutes for the technician to set up the service, and then it takes care of all the work.

Unlike the five to nine beams emitted by the handheld laser system, which the user had to slowly and systematically move over their scalp, this one emits 56 beams from a hood. Since the intensity of each beam is similar to a laser pointer, this allows it to cover the entire scalp safely without requiring motors to reposition the lasers. Enough direct or refracted light reaches adequate scalp coverage with just the natural fidget movement of the client’s head. This light is precisely tuned to a frequency that stimulates cells.

On a cautionary note, it is important to know the product’s limitations. It cannot promise a full head of hair to people who are bald. It offers improvement. In some cases, the improvement is remarkable. In others, it is less. In almost all cases, there is at least some improvement.

The device is designed to be used in conjunction with drug therapy, filling a need that couldn’t be addressed previously. While drug therapies primarily treat causes of hair loss, the lasers directly stimulate cells that grow hair. By combining the two treatments, the greatest result can be attained.

A salon owner can calculate its income potential relatively easily. The stated lease rates are lower than the expected monthly income from a single client. All you need to turn a profit is to sign up one person.

In addition to the income potential, there is an amazing emotional component. It is interesting to research customer reviews of similar units. Note, since this salon model is so new, independent reviews of it are hard to find. However, a large percentage of people who have written reviews of similar devices were extremely excited to report any improvement, even if it wasn’t huge. The positive emotional response feels almost electric. The excitement a salon might generate by offering this type of service could be higher than any of their other services, at least among their clients with thinning hair.

Currently, devices and the states that license them for salon use are few. However, there will surely be more to come. This could be the birth of a new and exciting revenue stream for our industry. It might be worth doing a little research of it on your own.

To quote Craig Black, president of Salon Lasers, “Everybody looks for that rare opportunity to be the first in the door with a proven technology, to get in on the ground floor, so to speak.” It looks like we might be looking at the next big thing in our industry.

For more information regarding: The FDA’s study of the LaserMax HairComb, visit www.fda.gov/cdrh/pdf6/K060305.pdf; The Salon Lasers company, contact Craig Black at 866-646-9050 or craig@salonlasers.com or visit www.salonlasers.com.