Home Based Light devices vs In-Clinic Lights: Is there a Difference?

Light-emitting diodes (LED such as LED Red, originally developed for NASA plant growth experiments in space show promise for delivering light deep into tissues of the body to promote wound healing and human tissue growth. Aesthetic doctors have been using this technology to treat a range of skin conditions from skin aging, acne, psoriasis, vitiligo to sun damage.

Several studies demonstrate the benefits of low-power light therapy on wound healing. Hence, the increasing popularity in incorporating this no downtime low energy light therapy (also known as photobiomodulation) into many daily skin treatments to speed up the process of skin regeneration and healing. All of the initial studies involved using in-clinic technology evaluated by clinicians and FDA.

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With a boom in the demand for photobiomodulation therapy, home based devices have mushroomed across the market as all cosmetic brands are jumping on the bandwagon to catch a slice of the piece. However, the use of home based LED devices as a therapeutic resource remains controversial. There are questions regarding the equality or not of biological effects promoted by these home based devices compared to in-clinic technology.

The main worry about home based devices is whether they are of the correct wavelengths and if they reach the minimum energy required to effect a difference?

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“I am not convinced about home based light devices because I have been using one for a few months and I don’t see the difference that an in-clinic LED Red treatment gave me”

The Science Behind LED Photobiomodulation (in-clinic devices)

red-thumbs-up.svg.med  In a study using in-clinic LED technology, LED photobiomodulation produced in vitro increases of cell growth of 140-200% in collagen precursor cells, and increases in growth of 155-171% of normal human epithelial (skin) cells. Wound size decreased up to 36% in conjunction. LED produced improvement of greater than 40% in musculoskeletal training injuries in Navy SEAL team members, and decreased wound healing time in crew members aboard a U.S. Naval submarine.

LED Photobiomodulation therapy was shown in studies to increase collagen production and speed healing.

red-thumbs-up.svg.med In another study, in-clinic LED technology were effective in in improving the healing of cutaneous wounds in type II diabetes, but only at an energy density of 4 J/cm at a wavelength of 632 nm.

Gentlewaves by Bioscience was found in study to improve wrinkles, pores and redness but only at the specific pulsating parameters set by the company. Not all yellow light shown on the skin exhibited the same benefit.

red-thumbs-up.svg.med Using different pulse sequence parameters, a multicenter clinical trial was conducted, with 90 patients receiving 8 Gentlewave treatments over 4 weeks.37,4648 The outcome of this study showed very favorable results, with over 90% of patients improving by at least one Fitzpatrick photoaging category and 65% of patients demonstrating global improvement in facial texture, fine lines, background erythema, and pigmentation. The results peaked at 4 to 6 months following completion of 8 treatments. Markedly increased collagen in the papillary dermis was also seen.

Gentlewaves, FDA approved pulsating yellow LED therapy is clinically proven for its skin rejuvenation and anti-aging benefits.


While studies do support the skin benefits of photobiomodulation light therapy, the studies were conducted using in-clinic photobiomodulation devices using specific wavelengths an fluence (energy density). The main worry about home based devices is whether they are of the correct wavelengths and if they reach the minimum energy required to effect a difference?

“I am not convinced about home based light devices because I have been using one for a few months and I don’t see the difference that an in-clinic LED Red treatment gave me” says Joan, who visits SW1 Spa for her monthly Deep Red facials, a facial which incorporates photobiomodulation light therapy with ultrasound skin cleaning.

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Even among in-clinic photobiomodulation devices, there are huge discrepancies in the output and results. We looked at a range of different brands of in-clinic LED devices from USA used in institutions, clinics and hospitals, and found that they varied greatly in the output and their power density. This could also explain the differences in results and outcomes for the patients. “I definitely found a difference in my skin after trying out the different LED light therapies at three different salons and two clinics. I found that some of the LED light were ineffective and did nothing for my skin whereas at others, I could really feel the difference. The technology and brand is very important when it comes to these light technologies, you cannot assume all of them are the same, they are clearly not!” explains Annette, who has regular aesthetic treatments monthly.

Examples of different in-clinic LED photobiomodulation devices

Product name
Wavelength (nm)
Power Density (mW/cm)
Standard Dose(J/cm2)
PhotoMedex (Manchester, UK)
415 (±5) 40 48
Acne, photodamage, non-melanoma skin cancers, skin rejuvenation, vitiligo and wound healing post elective surgery
633 (±6) 105 126
830 (±5) 55 66
Edge Systems (Signal Hill, CA)
Delphia del Sol
420 7.4 J per treatment area
Acne, improving skin texture, firmness and resilience, increasing lymphatic system activity, fine lines, wrinkles and superficial hyperpigmentation
Flip 4 (Sainte-Julie, Quebec, Canada)
420–700 ≤4
Acne, rejuvenation, injured skin healing including the shortening of the post skin resurfacing erythema duration
Light BioSciences (Virginia Beach, VA)
588 (±10) Variable
OPUSMED (Montreal, Canada)
660 150
Skin firmness, rhytid depth, wrinkles
Revitalight (Chicago, IL)
Revitalight 747
420 80 7.2 J per 90 sec. per treatment area
Fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots on the face, neck and hands
Hand Spa
590 80
Food Spa
625 80
940 80
Soli-Tone (Woburn, MA)
470 84
Acne, anti-aging, hyperpigmentation, rosacea
525 27
590 10
640 89
DUSA (Wilmington, MA)
417 10
Curelight (Rehovot, Israel)
405–420 60
Acne, anti-aging, skin rejuvenation, acceleration of healing of post peel and post surgical suture sites
Lumenis (Santa Clara, CA)
405–420 200 60
LIGHTWAVE Technologies (Phoneix, AZ)
LIGHTWAVE Professional Deluxe LED System
Anti-aging, skin rejuvenation
Dynatronics (Salt Lake City, UT)
Synergie LT2
660 500 mW (total power) 6 J per treatment area
Anti-aging, skin firmness, wrinkles, skin tone and texture for face and neck

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Are all LED Devices made the same?

All reviewed studies show that LED therapy using most in-clinic, clinician-evaluated devices can be an effective therapeutic modality to promote healing of skin wounds. Importantly, studies consistently demonstrated that the benefits experienced are dependent on such parameters, especially wavelength and dose, highlighting the importance of choosing a correct device to administer the photobiomodulation lght therapy to achieve the anticipated benefits.

thumbs-down-hand-outline_318-41753This means that not all in-clinic LED photobiomodulation devices deliver the same results. In fact, there are duds out there which do nothing but shine light on your skin. There are many cheap “LED-like” devices on the market, even those sold on Alibaba which claim to deliver similar benefits for a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, their claims have not been evaulated by any scientific studies so far.

Cheap LED devices are available online even via alibaba, though most are only used in salons or lower-end establishments with questionable benefits.

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thumbs-down-hand-outline_318-41753 In fact, there was a number of negative studies published where no benefits were seen after treatment with photobiomodulation light therapy. We now understand that these negative studies were due to incorrect device and treatment parameters  (wavelength wrong and energy density too low). It is important that the appropriate wavelength of light and sufficient energy density is used to treat specific conditions.

Different wavelengths of light treat different skin conditions. Blue targets acne, Red targets rejuvenation, yellow targets healing.


thumbs-down-hand-outline_318-41753 One wavelength and one set of treatment parameters will not be effective for all conditions.Therefore, an under-powered home device (with a few strips of light) which delivers one colour of light is unlikely to be able to treat the myriad of skin conditions it claims to treat (since we know the benefits are wavelength-specific). Secondly, an underpowered device is unlikely to meet the minimum threshold of energy needed to effect any cellular change in the long run.

thumbs-down-hand-outline_318-41753 While adverse side effects have not been reported from the use of photobiomodulation light therapy, using the wrong device could result in ZERO effects, no better than shining a torch light on your face.

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