The Truth About Power and Misleading Red Light Therapy Claims
If you’re trying to find the best light therapy device, there are many factors to consider: design quality, setup options, warranty & service, safety certifications, and power and energy output. This last one—power & energy—tends to be the most confusing and misleading factor when it comes to a red light therapy device. In this article, we’ll explain how light therapy power is measured. We’ll also break down some misleading marketing claims around power, wavelengths, and the FDA so you know what to look for in a quality product.
The Basics of Measuring Light Therapy Power
There are two ways to evaluate light power from a light therapy device. Joovv utilizes both of these methods and provides this information under our technical information section.
1. Radiant Flux or Total Light Output: This measures the maximum light emitting capability of a device, or how it converts electrical power into light energy. This is the most accurate way to measure a light therapy device, by evaluating its spectral power distribution (SPD). This measurement requires an integrated sphere measuring device. The common unit for radiant flux is milliwatts (mW) or watts (W).
2. Irradiance: Provides a measurement of power at a specific distance from the light source over a specified area. This is the power value used to determine the amount of energy being delivered during a treatment. The common unit for irradiance is mW/cm2, which provides milliwatts over a square centimeter.
Misleading marketing claims around light therapy power: Unfortunately it has become more common for companies selling red light therapy devices to market the device’s irradiance, even though this can be very misleading. Companies want you to think that more power is always better and that they provide the most. These brands use solar meters to measure their devices, which are meant for solar panels, not light therapy products. This is very misleading and has created confusion for buyers.
For effective measurements, power meters need to be calibrated to the wavelength of light they are measuring and can only measure one wavelength of light at a time. This means you cannot measure red light at 660 nm at the same time as NIR light at 850 nm. But many companies do, and they pass on meaningless power specs to the customer.
Key Variables to Consider
The power of a light therapy device—or the effectiveness of a light therapy treatment—is more complex than just a measurement of irradiance. There are several other factors that affect the overall success of the therapy. Some of the key variables include:
- Targeted vs Full-body: targeted devices treat a relatively small area on the body, while full-body devices are designed for much broader coverage, allowing for treatments of a larger area, in a fraction of the time.
- Clinically Proven Wavelengths: leading photomedicine researchers have found in numerous peer-reviewed studies that a narrow band of red and near infrared light is the clinical sweet spot for health and safety. Red light in the mid-600 nanometer range, and near infrared light in the mid-800s is ideal. Products containing multiple red and near infrared wavelengths are not necessary.
- Quality and Design: light therapy devices intended for human use, and emit energy in the NIR spectrum, are considered medical devices and should be manufactured following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) under quality management systems like ISO 13485 or MDSAP. Joovv does this, but many other brands do not.
- Safety Certifications: Light therapy devices should comply with the medical standard IEC 60601-1* along with all collateral and particular standards that are deemed applicable by the regulatory authority where the device is sold. The company or manufacturer selling the device should be able to provide evidence of this compliance and if they cannot, it's a big red flag and you should consider looking for an alternative device elsewhere.
*IEC 60601 is a widely accepted series of international standards for the Basic Safety and Essential Performance of Medical Electrical Equipment.
Now that you know some of the important factors, we’ll cover some of the misleading information when it comes to power and wavelengths.
Misleading Marketing Claims Around Light Therapy Power and Irradiance
When you’re comparing light therapy products, there are a few common misleading claims that come up again and again. Below we debunk some of the most misleading light therapy claims.
Misleading Claim #1: A Company Makes the “Most Powerful Red Light Therapy Device”
Many brands will claim to offer the most powerful light therapy, but they’re not telling it straight.
We dived in deeper to investigate companies marketing inaccurate power claims. For the purpose of this article, Joovv purchased devices from the companies of (Device A and Device B) and measured irradiance at 6 inches. Our purpose was to compare our findings to what is actually being claimed by these companies on their respected websites. We found the irradiance claims to be inaccurate for both Device A and Device B by nearly 2 times the actual measurement. And these are hardly the only brands doing this.
Power is an important characteristic for red light therapy, but it's not always the case that more power is better. There is a threshold at which our cells cannot absorb more energy. When that threshold is exceeded the therapy can be ineffective. The key behind red light therapy is delivering non-invasive energy to the cell that can be absorbed without heat, not who can deliver the most power in general. Companies attempting to deliver excess amounts of power simply to claim “most powerful” in their advertising are not helping your body or health. Their claims are not supported by clinical research and they can be potentially dangerous. Joovv delivers the “sweet spot” when it comes to power, which is why Joovv is trusted by the world’s best athletes and trainers.
Misleading Claim #2: Offering “Multiple Wavelengths” of Red and Near Infrared Light
"This will not produce significant differences"
Joovv devices emit two wavelengths of light: red light at 660 nm, and NIR light at 850 nm. A common misleading claim is for a company to say their red light devices emit “multiple wavelengths” of red and NIR light. This isn’t backed by the facts, and here’s why:
- Lack of Supportive Clinical Data: According to Dr. Cleber Ferraresi, a leading researcher in Brazil, and a member of Joovv’s Scientific Advisory Board, there is no supporting clinical evidence to using multiple wavelengths on the same spectrum. It simply doesn’t help or add to the therapy. “This will not produce significant differences,” says Dr. Ferraresi. For example, wavelengths of 810 nm, 830 nm, and 850 nm are so close to each other that they will have the same therapeutic effect on the human body as just one of these. The same applies to devices combining Red light at 630 nm and 660 nm together in one device. It doesn’t add effectiveness.
- LEDs deliver non-coherent light in a wide beam profile which makes this another reason why it makes no sense to include multiple wavelengths of light in a device like a Joovv. When you add more wavelengths you are forced to space out the wavelength pattern and lower the overall LED count for each wavelength which then weakens the power density and distribution across the treatment area. For example, if you have a device that contains 200 LEDs and emits two different wavelengths of light, ideally you would have those LEDs split evenly by 100 LEDs for each wavelength. This would provide the highest power output by wavelength and the best distribution so each part of your body is receiving the same amount of energy. If you mix in different wavelengths in similar spectrums you are splitting up power output and power density will be less for that specific wavelength.
Misleading Claim #3: Dishonest Claims about the FDA and Safety Certifications
Unfortunately, several light therapy companies are making dishonest claims about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give consumers the impression they’ve been tested and approved when they have not. Companies making claims their devices are manufactured in an FDA-registered facility or which use FDA-cleared methods in manufacturing is a red flag. It might sound official, but these claims are meaningless and are considered off-label marketing.
It's important to know that any company or manufacturer can “register” its facility with the FDA for a fee. Facility registration and/or device listing does not imply the facility or device has been reviewed and approved by the FDA. The FDA makes this very clear to whoever registers and/or lists their products saying: “Please note that registering your device facility and listing your devices does not, in any way, constitute FDA approval of your facility or your devices”.
So why are so many light therapy companies saying this? The quick answer is they are trying to mislead buyers into thinking they’ve been vetted by regulators to sell more devices to people who don’t know better. Another sign of this behavior is for companies to make FDA Class II medical device claims throughout their websites but then change their claims in the disclaimers at the bottom of their websites to say the opposite.
Joovv Really Does Follow Medical Device Standards and Safety Certifications
The current generation of Joovv devices (Solo 3.0, Mini 3.0, and Go 2.0) have been designed and built following real medical devices standards. All Joovv products have been independently certified and conform to technical standards put forth by the International Electrotechnical Commission. Joovv’s Generation 3.0 products can be found listed under the ELT List Mark Directory. Joovv’s CB Test Certificate can be found by searching Joovv as the trademark under the IECEE Deliverable site.
Joovv also complies with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) under ISO 13485, which is an internationally recognized standard for organizations involved in the medical device industry. Each Joovv device is verified and validated before final packaging to meet light output requirements and safety standards. No other at-home red light therapy company goes to the same lengths to ensure quality and safety.
Conclusion: Joovv Sets the Bar When it Comes to Safe, Effective Red Light Therapy
“Most powerful” is not a legitimate reason to invest in a red light therapy panel. In fact, power is just one of the factors that makes a quality device. Aside from power, misleading claims around multiple wavelengths and the FDA are big red flags for consumers. Joovv sets the bar when it comes to creating an industry standard and will always seek transparency and honesty when it comes to providing not only the most effective red light therapy devices but also the safest. It’s our passion and commitment to create the best products in the world rooted and backed by clinical research.