If you’re searching for a light therapy device, you’re in the right spot. But finding the best product for your needs can be fairly challenging. Not only can the science of light therapy be somewhat daunting, but the myriad of choices on the market doesn’t help either. And unfortunately, most manufacturers aren’t overly transparent when it comes to the specifications of their products.
But, fear not! This article should help dispel some common myths and bring additional clarity when it comes to investing in the ideal LED light therapy device. After all, there are just four key considerations you should think about before taking the next step:
- Treatment Area
(Before we go any further, this article is intended to help you compare LED light therapy devices. If you’re interested in learning how light therapy compares to saunas, check out this article. And if you’d like to learn how LED devices differ from infrared heat lamps, check out this popular piece.)
Choose a Light Therapy Device that Delivers Clinically-Proven Wavelengths
Light therapy, or photobiomodulation, has been proven in hundreds (yes, hundreds) of clinical studies to help with a wide variety of conditions - everything from muscle recovery, joint pain, skin health, and testosterone production. It’s hard to ignore the overwhelming amount of published literature demonstrating its beneficial effects. But, similar to how our bodies absorb nutrients and vitamins in different ways, each color of light has a distinct biological impact.
In fact, there is a narrow band of wavelengths from approximately 600-950 nanometers (nm) that can uniquely penetrate human tissue, leading to some pretty amazing results at a cellular level. This range of wavelengths is often referred to as the infrared, or therapeutic, window. More specifically, based on the mechanism of action for light therapy, wavelengths in the mid-600 nm range and mid-800 nm range have been shown to have the greatest impact at a cellular level. (1)
Within this narrow band, there are certain wavelengths that activate an enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase (CCO). The highest rates of absorption relative to CCO are in the ranges of 660-670 nm and 830-850 nm, which is why these specific wavelengths of light have been proven across a robust number of clinical studies.
So, it’s absolutely critical to choose a light therapy device that delivers these specific wavelengths. It’s the primary reason we opted for our devices to deliver red light at 660 nm, near infrared light at 850 nm, or a 50/50 combination of both.
With that said, don’t be fooled by companies that promote “unique” or “synergistic” blends of light. That concept simply isn’t supported by the scientific research. In addition, be leery of companies that include wavelengths of light within the aforementioned infrared window, but haven’t been proven to work in clinical studies. For example, light in the 700-770 nm range has been shown to have limited biochemical activity, and therefore, is useless to incorporate in a light therapy device. (2) Stick to wavelengths in the mid-600 nm and mid-800 nm range, which again, have been proven over and over again across a multitude of clinical studies.
Shorten Your Treatment Times with a Light Therapy Device that Delivers Medical-Grade Irradiance
Would you settle for using a faucet that only produced a slow dribble of water? Of course not! No one has time to waste on something that should be much quicker. The same thing applies to light therapy products. While many low-powered devices technically "work", the irradiance is so low that most people simply don't have time for an effective treatment. This brings us to another important consideration when choosing a light therapy product, which is the irradiance, or energy output from the device.
The amount of energy delivered to the human body - usually measured in Joules - varies from study to study. For superficial tissue, like your skin, at least 4-6 Joules/cm2 is typically required. And for deeper tissue treatment, like joint inflammation or muscle recovery, up to 120 Joules/cm2 has been shown to be extremely effective. (3)
In order to calculate the amount of Joules, you need to know the irradiance - typically measured in mW/cm2 - delivered from the device. Presuming you have this information, the equation is relatively simple: irradiance multiplied by seconds divided by 1,000. For example, let’s say you’re evaluating a device with a subpar output of 20 mW/cm2. The per-minute calculation is as follows:
20 mW/cm2 x 60 seconds / 1,000 = 1.2 Joules/cm2
(If you’re following along with the calculation above, using 1,000 as the divisor converts mW to W.)
So, for deep tissue treatment, it would take you anywhere from 60-120 minutes to receive a clinically-relevant dose of energy when using a light therapy device with this sort of power. That’s a long time! Sort of like a filling up your water bottle from a dripping faucet. :)
For comparison purposes, when using one of our most popular models - the Joovv Max with the combination configuration - you’re receiving 6.6 Joules/cm2 (110 mW/cm2) per minute. So, for the same type of deep tissue treatment, you only need to use the device for approximately 10 minutes to receive a clinically-significant dose of energy.
By now, hopefully you understand the importance of irradiance when it comes to choosing a light therapy device. Unfortunately, many manufacturers intentionally do not disclose the irradiance of their products. Or worse, they deceive you by providing the total irradiance across the entire surface area of the device versus the most common metric of mW/cm2. It’s safe to assume that you should walk away from these companies. They’re dishonest and not worth your time.
Even if a light therapy company is transparent with their irradiance specifications, you’ll probably find most products are drastically underpowered. It’s pretty routine to find premium-priced products that deliver irradiance measurements in the 10-20 mW/cm2 range. They may look pretty. But what good is a light therapy device if it’s aesthetically pleasing, but takes forever to use?
Because compliance is key when it comes to photobiomodulation, you’d be wise to choose a device that allows for short treatment times via professional-grade output. Don’t settle for anything less.
Pay Attention to the Total Treatment Area of the Light Therapy Device
The majority of light therapy devices on the market are either small, handheld units designed to treat a localized area of your body. Or, at best, a single panel setup just large enough to treat your face. As long as they deliver the right wavelengths and are sufficiently powered, these types of products are okay. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we launched our Joovv Mini. At about 12” away, it will treat an area of about 25” x 18”. If you’re evaluating smaller devices in this category, just make sure you’re not overpaying for something that doesn’t meet the standards mentioned above when it comes to wavelengths and irradiance.
With that said, because light therapy enhances cellular function in almost every anatomical area, you may want to consider a product that has the capacity to treat your entire body in a relatively short amount of time. That’s why so many of our customers have gravitated towards either the Joovv Original or Joovv Max. The Original is 2.5 times the size of the Mini. And the Max is over 3 times the size of the Original. To put the two models into perspective, I’m about 5’10” and the Joovv Original will treat an area from the top of head to about my mid-thigh. The Joovv Max, on the other hand, will treat my entire body - from the top of my head to my ankles when standing about 12” away.
So, in summary, pay attention to the total surface area of the device and ask yourself whether you’re okay with treating just a small portion of your body. Like many of our customers, if your preference is full-body treatment, opt for a product that delivers the right wavelengths with optimal power over a broad area.
What is the Warranty and How Long Will the Light Therapy Device Last?
Just like the treatment area, determining the warranty of a light therapy device is pretty straightforward. But unfortunately, most companies will only guarantee their products for six months. Perhaps one year at most. You can do better than that. And it’s why we offer an industry-leading two-year warranty with all of our light therapy products. Although it’s extremely rare, if something were to go wrong, we repair all of our devices right here in the United States - parts and labor free of charge!
At Joovv, we’ve made the conscious choice to offer an extremely high level of service. But that’s not the case with every company. Yes, the duration of the warranty is very important. However, should you run into any issues with your product, don’t forget to ask where it will be repaired, who will fix it, and how much it will cost. Those questions are just as important as the length of the warranty.
In addition, make sure to do your research with respect to the durability of the light therapy device. More specifically, how long will the LEDs last? With our devices, we use high-quality LED chips sets rated to last over 50,000 hours. Even if you used your Joovv Light for an hour every day, it would last nearly 137 years! Impressive, right? But, not all light therapy devices are created equal. And if a company isn’t willing to provide the durability specifications for their LEDs, we’d highly recommend moving on.
The 4 Considerations that Matter Most When Choosing a Light Therapy Device
From the very beginning, we specifically optimized our light therapy devices to deliver clinically-proven wavelengths along with significant power across a large treatment area. And because of the confidence we have in our products, we’re willing to offer one of the longest warranty periods on the market at two years. Admittedly, we’re biased, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find another device with similar specifications that is designed for convenient, in-home use. But, don’t take our word for it. Do your research and make sure to ask the following questions:
- What wavelengths does the device deliver?
- What is the power output - or irradiance - in mW/cm2?
- How large is the treatment area of the device?
- What is the warranty duration and how long will the LEDs last?
After all is said and done, we think the Joovv Light will rank pretty high on your list. Superior power output, unmatched treatment area, and unparalleled value. That’s the Joovv difference.
(1) 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.
(2) Chung H, Dai T, Sharma SK, Huang Y-Y, Carroll JD, Hamblin MR. The Nuts and Bolts of Low-level Laser (Light) Therapy. Annals of Biomedical Engineering. 2012;40(2):516-533.
(3) 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.