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The Definitive Guide to Choosing a Red Light Therapy Device

Red light therapy or, more correctly, photobiomodulation (PBM), is quickly becoming a popular form of treatment.  It's easy to see why since the evidence supporting the benefits of red and infrared light is substantial.  So, let’s assume you already understand how PBM works and are aware of its many advantages. Perhaps you’ve even reviewed the clinical studies, seen some before and after photos, or maybe you know someone that’s experienced the healing and rejuvenating power of photobiomodulation.

Okay, so you’re a believer.  But what next?  How do you get started?  Do a quick Google search and you’ll see the myriad of different options to choose from.  In some states, you can go to tanning salons where the beds have been converted to red light bulbs.  Some spas, physical therapists, and medical doctors offer PBM services as well.  Alternatively, you can purchase a PBM device to use in your own home.

There are so many options.  But which one is right for you?  Well, that’s the question we'd like to help you with.  The following information is intended to simplify your decision-making process.

The wavelength of your red light device matters greatly.

Pay Attention to Wavelength and Delivered Energy 

To maximize the benefits of light therapy, there are two main factors: the wavelength and intensity of light energy.  Let’s start with wavelength.  While most devices deliver red light between 630-700 nm, you will see ranges from almost orange (600 nm) all the way to 800 - 900 nm, which is in the near-infrared range.  

So which is the best?  You can find published studies that show benefits of virtually all of these wavelengths. However, the bulk of clinical literature suggests that light in the mid-600 nm range and low- to mid-800 nm range is extremely effective.1,2  That is because these wavelengths have the greatest effect on the cellular respiration process.

Specific wavelengths activate cytochrome c oxidase

As you can see in the graph above, at certain wavelengths, there are several peaks in the cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) absorption of photons.3  The highest of these peaks are in the ranges of 660-670 nm and 830-850 nm. These wavelengths have been proven to produce substantial improvements in cellular function with a wide range of resulting benefits including improved skin health, enhanced muscle recovery, reduced joint pain, increased testosterone, and even weight loss!  Alternatively, other wavelengths such as 700 nm or 720 nm have almost no biological effects.  So, it's critical to choose a device that delivers optimal wavelengths of light.

This leads us to the second aspect you should consider, which is the amount of energy delivered to your cells.  NASA-supported research, and many other published studies, have utilized 4 to 6 Joules/cm2  of energy delivered to the body.  For the relief of deeper symptoms, like joint inflammation, up to 120 Joules/cm2 has been shown to be very effective.4,5

Since we know the amount of energy delivered is critical, it's important to understand how to compare light therapy devices.  Unfortunately, many companies don't publish the light output - or irradiance - and some even avoid disclosing the wattage of the device.  It's safe to assume these products should be avoided.  Any legitimate photobiomodulation device will disclose the irradiance in mW/cm2, or sometimes, the energy delivered in Joules/cm2  per minute.  For example, the chart below showcases the irradiance measurements at two distances for our Joovv Light Max device.  

Joovv Max Irradiance

Presuming the irradiance is available, you can then calculate the Joules by multiplying the irradiance by the time (in seconds) divided by 1000.

For example, let's say a device has an output of 17 mW/cm2the calculation is as follows:

17 mW/cmx 60 seconds / 1000 = 1.02 Joules/cm2 per minute

For deep tissue treatment, all Joovv Lights deliver in excess of 80 mW/cm2 at about 6" from the device.  Or, for skin benefits, all Joovv Lights deliver over 65 mW/cm2 at about 12" from the device.  For comparison purposes, many other devices provide less than 10 mW/cm2 - even when you're right on top of the device.  

In summary, the equation is fairly straightforward.  As the power of the device increases, the amount of time you need to use it decreases.  And as you can see, the power output of the Joovv Lights sets them apart, allowing users to get an effective treatment in a much shorter amount of time.  

 

Make sure your red light therapy option is convenient.

How Does Red Light Therapy Fit Into Your Life?

Once you understand wavelength and power, you should next consider lifestyle implications.  Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you have time to drive to a daily appointment for your light therapy sessions? 
  • Do you have a budget that allows for ongoing treatment plans at a salon, spa, or medical practice?   
  • Do you have family members to consider as well?  

Many of our customers first experienced the benefits of red light therapy by purchasing sessions at a salon or spa.  In fact, two of our cofounders were introduced to red light therapy through a local salon.  But, we have found that most people find ongoing sessions to be inconvenient and expensive. It’s just too difficult to get to a salon or spa 4-5 times a week on a consistent basis.  Plus, over time, the costs really add up.

The majority of people eventually want to experience the convenience of red light therapy in their own home.  Through a one-time investment, this approach allows everyone in their family to utilize red light therapy on a consistent basis in order to see the best results.

The size of your red light therapy device is important.

What Areas of Your Body are You Trying to Treat?

Are you intending to treat just your face?  Or, do you want your entire body to experience the benefits of red and infrared light?  Many of our customers have started out using PBM to treat wrinkles or stretch marks.  But, have later realized it can help with muscle recovery, joint pain, and even wound care.

Most PBM devices have such a small treatment area that it would require 20-30 minutes just to treat your face - and then even more time to treat other areas of your body.  To better understand this, let's compare an average handheld red light device to the Joovv Light Mini, which is our smallest device.

All things considered, a decent handled red light device should have similar output to the Joovv Light Mini (approx. 4 J in about 4 minutes). However, even the best handheld devices will only treat a surface area of about 5-8 square inches. The Joovv Light Mini, on the other hand, can treat a surface area of about 250 square inches.  At over 20 times the size, that's a major difference!

Therefore, carefully consider the intensity of the light output as well as the size of the area that your device can treat.

Choose a high-quality red light therapy device.

Don’t Settle for a Substandard Product

Just because you're after an in-home device, doesn’t mean you should settle for red light less that’s subpar or less powerful. Treatments with a red light device designed for the clinical setting can cost over $100 per session. And achieving the results you want typically requires several sessions per week. All in, this option is out of financial reach for the majority of people.

If you fall into this group, and you end up choosing an in-home red light device, don't sacrifice on its power output.  Make sure that it delivers enough intensity at the right wavelength.  

Utilizing the latest LED technology, we’ve modeled the Joovv Light after devices designed for the clinical setting.  We wanted a device that we could use at home, yet was powerful enough to see quick results, even for deep tissue healing.  Depending on what symptoms you're trying to treat, using any of the Joovv Lights, you can experience the rejuvenating power of photobiomodulation in just 5-8 minutes per day.  Granted, we're biased.  But you'll be hard-pressed to find another in-home device that provides that same amount of power over a similar treatment area at a reasonable price.

Summary: Consider These 4 Questions Before Purchasing your Light Therapy Device

In summary, ask yourself these 4 questions before purchasing a red light therapy device:

  1. How large of a treatment area do you want?
  2. How much time do have for each treatment session?
  3. How convenient is the device to use (and store)?
  4. How long will the device last?

Admittedly, we're biased.  But we think the Joovv Light should rank near the top of your list.  Unparalleled value, superior power output, and unmatched treatment area. That’s the Joovv difference.

References:

(1) Avci P, Gupta A, et al. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) in skin: stimulating, healing, restoring. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. Mar 2013; 32(1): 41-52. 

(2) de Almeida P1, Lopes-Martins RA, De Marchi T, et al. Red (660 nm) and infrared (830 nm) low-level laser therapy in skeletal muscle fatigue in humans: what is better? Lasers Med Sci. 2012 Mar;27(2):453-8.

(3) Karu, T. I., Pyatibrat, L. V., Kalendo, G. S. and Esenaliev, R. O. (1996), Effects of monochromatic low-intensity light and laser irradiation on adhesion of HeLa cells in vitro. Lasers Surg. Med., 18: 171–177.

(4) Wunsch A and Matuschka K. A Controlled Trial to Determine the Efficacy of Red and Near-Infrared Light Treatment in Patient Satisfaction, Reduction of Fine Lines, Wrinkles, Skin Roughness, and Intradermal Collagen Density Increase. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. Feb 2014; 32(2): 93-100.

(5) Baroni BM1, Rodrigues R, Freire BB, et al. Effect of low-level laser therapy on muscle adaptation to knee extensor eccentric training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015 Mar;115(3):639-47.