Light Therapies: An update

by Ralph Hill - Internet Technology Researcher and Writerby Ralph Hill - Internet Technology Researcher and Writer

In  another article, we took a look at LED Photomodulation, and the beneficial effects of light sources of specific bandwidths and energy ratings. Since that article was written there have been a number of new devices and technologies introduced to the market. In addition to advances in LED based devices, there is a new player with a different type of light source.

As light technologies are newly embraced (they have been around for a long time in various forms) by marketers and users, a number of Buzz Words such as Bio-Stimulation and photo-bio rejuvenation start to become part of the language of the skin treatment technician. As mentioned, light based therapies are not a new science, and now there are devices that purport to offer help stimulate a multitude of effects from slimming and cellulite, through pain relief and edema to lymphatic drainage in addition to the established photorejuvenation and collagen synthesis outcomes.

Combinations of monochromatic light sources make up the new generation of devicesCombinations of monochromatic light sources make up the new generation of devices

LED technology
There are a plethora of new devices on the market using LEDs to deliver therapeutic light.

The devices range in complexity and size, with some devices with small hand pieces containing 30-60 LEDs, some with larger face sized panels containing a combination of red LEDs and larger infra red and/or blue light sources.
An example of this technology is the Dermillume Pro 1000.
The emergence of the combination of more than one type of light source in the head or panel can be seen as an evolution from the monochromatic panels of 12 months ago and potentially a more cost effective alternative to interchangeable panels and the polychromatic devices such as the MAX7.
In these combination or hybrid devices the panels will typically contain 100-120 red LEDs delivering around 12 Joules/cm2 of energy at 660nm, and 6-8 blue light sources that deliver 24 joules/cm2 at 414nm. n the case of red and infrared (NIR) combinations, the NIR

energy is delivered by 612 lamps with an output level around the 14 joules/cm2 at 940nm.
It is interesting that some manufacturers are introducing warm light sources (such as NIR) that have a slight heating effect. This is due to the improved circulation and subsequent tissue oxygenation effects the heated tissue provides. (Nothing new here!) This is interesting, as the LED has been popularly known as cold light. All part of the evolution!
It will be apparent by the energy ratings of these devices that as we move in to the third generation, we are seeing the radiated energy levels rising. It is not rocket science to understand that with more energy being radiated, then treatment time can be reduced. With some of the first generation devices (and some of the smaller, lower powered units) clients need to spend longer and more frequent treatments under the LED array to obtain satisfactory results. We know that the contemporary client may find this highly inconvenient, as they want the fastest methods available.

There is still polarised opinion on the merits of panel types Vs compact handpiecesThere is still polarised opinion on the merits of panel types Vs compact handpieces

Along with all these new devices come differing levels of performance and quality. This was exemplified by a recent visit to a US trade show, where LED devices for under $3500 were on offer in the same hall as similar appearing units for over $7000.

Upon closer inspection of one of the cheaper models, it was determined that the 26 Red LEDs in the handpiece (treatment area of less than 15 cm2) were controlled by a rudimentary dimmer type circuit that pulsed the LEDs. (Compared to the multi program microprocessor control of another model)
The maximum energy deliverable from the bargain device was less than 5 joules with the handpiece touching the skin, this compared to panel devices that can deliver in excess of 10 joules at a distance of 30cm. Clearly you only get what you pay for in the efficiency stakes.

At the same show were vendors arguing the merits of panel types Vs handpiece types, and it must be said that there are advatages of each dependant on the types of treatments you plan to provide. Of course the handpiece devices are unmatched for treating specific areas, and this is a benefit when treating localised conditions. On the other hand, panel types are perhaps more versatilie when providing treatments such as post sunburn on larger areas. The panel types generally do not require operator participation throughout the treatment and so could be performing a simultaneous treatment on another part of the body if required.
The type of treatments performed most often would be the indicator of which type to purchase. (Perhaps both types!)

The random pattern that the LEDs are on ensures the cells do not become desensitisedThe random pattern that the LEDs are on ensures the cells do not become desensitised

Pulsing LEDs
It has been demonstrated that pulsed light sources deliver better therapeutic effects than just constant light sources, and there is a good deal of science behind choosing the best frequencies to pulse the light. The pulsing of LED light sources is known as LPL and this photopulsation technology is based on the scientific principal that skin cells can be photoreceptive. Pulsing the light forces the cell to respond to the light in a similar way that the iris in the eye closes or opens according to the brightness of the light around it.

With photopulsation, this all happens up to 2-3 times per second and ensures the cells are kept awake and functioning correctly. This type of technology is employed by the Revitalightsystems.

It is theorized that pulsing the light at one particular frequency for the length of the treatment (20-30 mins) causes the cells to become desensitised to the light as the cells adapt to the pulsing frequency.

To counteract this, multiple frequencies in either a formulated or random sequence ensure the effectiveness of the pulsing light is maintained. Devices with this feature will have some form of programmable options, not just a fixed or adjustable pulse rate.

The Icetron inductive lamp offers high efficiency, long life and low heat outputThe Icetron inductive lamp offers high efficiency, long life and low heat output

Fluorescent lamps: The new generation
There have been developments that have allowed this type of lamp to be practically used for photothereputic treatments for the first time.

The type of lamp used employs the new Icetron plasma induction technology. There are benefits with this type of light source that fall between that of a conventional incandescent lamp and the low-thermal LED or cold light source.
As with the LED light source, the Icetron lamp has extremely long life span, and are typically rated at 25 years @ 10 hours per day.
The most significant difference to a LED system is the level of output. The high efficiency lamps are rated at 150 watts (over 11,000 lumens) and use a filter to determine the light frequency spectrum required. With this level of light output, the energy delivered to the skin surface will be in excess of 20 joules/cm2 at a distance of 30cm, (12) making this technology more efficient than LEDs.

Currently there are filters offering the useful 615nm, (Red) 550nm, (green) 420 nm, (Blue) wavelengths for rejuvenation and acne related treatments.
The only device currently using the Icetron inductive lamps is the Versaclear Skin Therapy system.
Fluorescent lamps do have a thermal output component, however this is much lower than conventional incandescent lamps and as previously mentioned, will provide improved circulation and subsequent tissue oxygenation effects from the heated tissue.

Light therapy has come a long way since the early days of coloured incandescent lamps that seemed to emit more heat than light. As the technology evolves we are seeing some very intelligent hybrid technologies that are proving both cost effective and valuable to enhancing skin treatment programs.
Looking around at what is available shows there are many manufacturers on the light therapies bandwagon, but some are a few generations behind with the technology. Be sure you do your homework thoroughly before you make a financial commitment.

Links to some light therapy technologies:


About the Author:

Ralph Hill is the technology writer, illustrator and editor for Virtual Beauty Corporation. He has a background in science, electronics and electro-mechanical devices, but enjoys researching and writing on a myriad of skin care related topics including cosmetic chemistry and anatomy & physiology.




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