Afro American Hair and LLLT

shocked woman suffering hair loss

Source: By Andrey_Popov

Photobiomodulation therapy or PBMT is an alternative treatment therapy that applies low-level laser light to the skin surface. PBMT is also referred to sometimes as Low-Level Laser Therapy or LLLT.

For decades, PBMT has been used to promote wound healing, reduce inflammation, and repair nerve damage. Likewise, PBMT’s healing effects on skin cells and tissues also benefit hair follicles, making for a promising hair restoration treatment. While different skin tones and hair textures may respond to hair restoration treatments in different ways, there is objective evidence opining that Afro-American hair responds to the healing effects of PBMT in much the same way as other hair types and textures.

What Is PBMT?

Hair follicles age and become damaged just like any other cells in the body. Harsh hair care products, medication side effects, and underlying health conditions can weaken and eventually cause damage to your hair follicles over time. When this happens, the natural growth cycle that promotes hair growth suffers.

PBMT has biological effects on the body’s tissues through its ability to interact with individual cells and jumpstart the chemical processes that support cell health. The low-level laser light put out by PBMT is absorbed by hair follicle cells. These interactions cause cells to expel nitric oxide, a gas that builds up inside cells that undergo stress from injury or disease. The more nitric oxide a cell accumulates, the less oxygen it can take on.

Ample oxygen supplies are essential to cell metabolism and energy production for hair follicles. In effect, PBMT works to promote healthy chemical processes inside hair follicle cells, which helps restore your cells’ natural building and repair processes. As cells become healthier, hair growth cycles can resume as normal. Ultimately, these are biological interactions that occur regardless of skin tone or hair type.

PBMT and Afro-American Hair - Does It Work and Is It Safe?

hair growth anagen phase

Source: By Designua

PBMT and the Hair Growth Cycle

The human scalp houses anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 hair follicles from which your hair grows. Hair follicles go through repeating phases of growth, dormancy, and regrowth. Here’s a basic breakdown of the hair growth cycle:

  • Anagen phase - active hair growth, which lasts from two to six years
  • Catagen phase - hair growth slows as hair follicles shrink (lasts for one to two weeks)
  • Telogen phase - hairs that have gone through the anagen and catagen phases start to shed or fall out (lasts for 100 days, on average)

On a normal, healthy scalp, as much as 90 percent of hair follicles are in the anagen phase, one to two percent are in the catagen phase, and 10 to 14 percent are in the telogen phase.

Hair loss issues can result from underlying medical problems, medication side effects, or develop as the body ages. These conditions tend to disrupt or slow the scalp’s natural hair growth cycle. PBMT’s ability to stimulate the chemical activities that support healthy hair growth may help prolong hair follicle growth phases, reduce premature shedding, and increase the number of hair follicles that are in anagen-phase. 

PBMT and Afro-American Hair

Low-level laser therapy or PBMT radiates a specific wavelength, based on the wavelength in sunlight that may enhance skin health. Since skin health and hair health go hand-in-hand, PBMT benefits naturally transfer to hair follicle health. To assess its benefits, studies involving PBMT have been done to observe its effects on different skin tones. As a baseline guide, the Fitzpatrick scale is used to assess the effectiveness of PBMT on different skin types. The Fitzpatrick scale rates skin types based on how different tones react to the sun in terms of sunburn potential.

Based on six different skin tone classifications (Types I, II, III, IV, V, and VI), the darker your skin the higher you rate on the Fitzpatrick scale. Types I thru III refer to fair-skinned tones while Types V and VI refer to light brown and black skin tones. Due in part to low numbers of African-American participants in study trials, limited data is available on PBMT and Afro-American hair loss and skin tone, however, no known adverse effects have been reported for any skin type and the benefits of the treatment remain consistent across the board.  

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Choosing a High-Quality Laser Device That Works

PBMT devices run the gamut in terms of quality and therapeutic effectiveness so not all PBMT devices deliver the same results. To be effective, low-level laser therapy for hair loss requires a device that produces a certain wavelength of light. Other aspects of the device must also be present to ensure its effectiveness and safety. Here are the three main features you want to look for:

  • Lasers - some devices use LEDs, which are computer chips that emit light. LEDs have not been clinically proven to be as effective as lasers for stimulating hair regrowth.

  • Visible red light – 650-700 nm wavelength - The optimal wavelength for stimulating hair growth is 650-700 nm, so look for devices that produce within this range.

  • Low output – PBMT (by definition) is a low output laser light treatment. Outputs that are too low or too high may not produce optimum results.

PBMT and Afro-American hair has gotten a bad rap in some circles, but not everything you hear or read has validity. While Afro-American hair has its own unique texture and volume, the biological processes that promote hair growth remain the same. PBMT’s ability to reinvigorate the hair growth cycle makes it an effective treatment for hair loss for African-Americans as well as anyone else struggling with hair loss.

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