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Tracy Frank, Published January 16 2010

Hair apparent: Laser treatments offer line of defense against thinning hair

Charlotte Erickson of Carrington, N.D., used to get creative when combing her hair to cover her scalp.

Now, after nearly a year of regular laser hair therapy treatments, she said she can comb her hair without worrying about having a bare spot.

“It’s definitely improved not only the quality of my hair, but also the quantity of my hair,” said Erickson, who receives treatments from Laser Hair Therapy of North Dakota’s Carrington location twice a week.

She sits under a device that looks like a hair dryer while red lights bathe her scalp for 30 minutes.

Jill Vande Hoven of Carrington, a hairstylist for 18 years, started Laser Hair Therapy of North Dakota in Carrington in November 2008 because she was frustrated by the lack of options for her clients with thinning hair and advanced hair loss.

After doing some research, she discovered low-level laser hair therapy.

“It works with your body’s own natural cell metabolism,” Vande Hoven said.

She said the lasers increase the diameter of hair to promote fullness and thickness, increase blood flow, and increase hair’s resistance to breakage.

“Another thing you’ll notice with this treatment is the hair gets into awesome shape,” Vande Hoven said.

Erickson’s hair used to be dull and dry, but now has a healthy sheen, she said.

“It makes me feel a lot better about myself,” Erickson said. “It’s pretty depressing when you get up, you wash your hair and you comb it and you can see bare scalp all over. Now I can wash it and comb it and my scalp is covered.”

Vande Hoven started offering laser hair therapy in Fargo in October at Hair Design by Candy, in the Good Samaritan Society building at 4502 37th Ave. S.

Candace Tryan, who used to work in Vande Hoven’s Carrington salon, owns Hair Design by Candy and has joint ownership with Vande Hoven of the Laser Hair Therapy of North Dakota Fargo location.

Vande Hoven opened a Bismarck location in November.

The treatments won’t work for everyone, Vande Hoven said. A free evaluation, during which stylists magnify the hair follicles, will help determine how well treatments should work, she said.

“Some people are going to have to have transplants if they want the full head of hair again,” Vande Hoven said. “But some people, if we catch them at the right stage or the right time, we can help them with the laser and they don’t have to go to the next step.”

She also said men with receding hair at their temples will probably never go back to a hairline they had when they were younger.

And, Tryan said the treatments are not a quick fix.

“Normally the hair takes years to get thin and fall out, it needs time to get it back,” she said.

Erickson could see improvements in her hair throughout her treatments, but it wasn’t until about three months ago that she really noticed a change, she said.

Sharon Paintner of Carrington has been receiving laser hair therapy treatments for 10 months and is pleased with her results, she said. She’d had thinning spots toward the back of her head and was worried about having to wear a hair piece, she said.

“I can really see a difference and I can tell a difference when I’m fixing my hair,” Paintner said. “I felt like it was my last resort.”

Laser treatments are $43.75 per session. It typically takes two 30-minute sessions a week for six to 12 months to see results, Vande Hoven said. Then, treatments will need to continue to maintain the hair, she said.

Laser Hair Therapy of North Dakota also offers shampoos, topical treatments and supplements to work with the laser.

Peggy Erstad, MeritCare Dermatology manager, said it’s important that people talk to their doctor first when considering laser therapy of any kind. They should also make sure the therapy and the company offering the therapy are legitimate, she said.

“Lasers are revolutionizing the health and beauty industry, but it’s also an area that is rife with scams and unlicensed individuals performing these treatments,” she said. “Also, do your own research. People need to protect themselves and their health.”

Laser hair therapy licensing differs by state. North Dakota does not require licensing, Vande Hoven said.

“Since it’s non-invasive, it’s considered a class three cosmetic laser,” Vande Hoven said. “It’s FDA compliant and cleared for cosmetic use.”

Nathan Andres of rural Medina, N.D., recently started treatments. He said his mom commented that his hair looked thicker after three weeks.

“I’m in my 30s and my hair’s getting thin and all my siblings are balding,” he said. “I want to prevent that, and this is easy to do.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526