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LEDs versus Lasers: What's the Difference?

Whether you’re looking to boost up hair growth or fight hair loss, you’ve probably researched alternative home treatments that don’t involve hair follicles being surgically graphed on your scalp like crop rows.

Your research in the field of non-surgical hair replacement has probably taken you on a vast journey, covered messy topical applications and pills with indecipherable ingredients, and finally brought you to the wonderful world of Laser Hair Therapy and its various terms that may (or may not) confuse you. If you snored through some of your science classes, you might recall what the differences between some of these terms are, such as LEDs and lasers.

The truth is, all lasers are Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) but not all LEDs are lasers (and no, this is not shaping up to be a bad logistics problem).

Let’s go back to basic physics for a minute. You may recall that an atom is composed of a nucleus, around which electrons orbit at different levels. Any time an electron drops to a lower level, a photon, which is just light, is emitted out of the atom. And yes, the photon’s energy, which can be measured by its wavelength, will be precisely equal to the difference between these two atomic levels.

What does this have to do with treating your male pattern baldness or researchinghair growth treatments for women, designed to stop your beautiful locks from losing their luster?

A lot, actually.

Let’s look at laser combs as an example. Designed for hair growth, they utilize Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) to regenerate hair follicles that are damaged or dying. Like all laser hair therapy devices, laser combstry to increase the action of adenosine triphosate, a molecule that carries energy from cell to cell– in this case the cells of your scalp. The problem with hair growth laser combs is that some of them function solely with LED technology or with a single laser using fiber optic light pipes.

Now you’re starting to grasp the purpose of our physics lesson.

Both LEDs and lasers produce light because of electrons dropping to lower atomic states, but transitions in LEDs are independent of each other. This means light radiates in all directions, outputting minimal power usually on the order of milliwatts (1 milliwatt = 0.001 watts). LEDs are hence mostly used inelectric equipment (or in poorly designed laser hair therapy devices, which really shouldn’t be classified as such). To make things worse, some LED manufacturers sometimes attempt to make their light more coherent by adding lenses and performing other charlatan maneuvers, but the results end up being nothing like what a real laser is capable of.

Atomic transitions in lasers, on the other hand, are synchronized so that light emission is coherent, can be focused, produces interference patterns and therebydelivers maximum energy into human tissue. The power of lasers is on the order of watts, which allows a deep penetration down to the base of hair follicles in the case of laser hair therapy.

Since both devices do emit electromagnetic radiation (light) via stimulated emission, then a LASER, which stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, in technically also a light-emitting diode.

Hopefully the above logistics problem now makes sense, i.e.– ‘all lasers are Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) but not all LEDs are lasers’.

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