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Shining The Light On LED Therapy

Sales must be down because I have been getting inundated with sales reps cold calling my office telling me how our practice can improve the therapeutic outcome of many of our services merely by adding LED light therapy.

I have spoken to some other practices and get mixed reviews when discussing LED therapy. Some feel it is highly beneficial while others think it verges on the level of witch-doctory. The FDA states that LED technology with a low-level output is determined to be of “non-significant risk”, but has it been determined to provide any significant improvement specifically in the medical aesthetic arena?

I, personally, am skeptical as to whether or not a wavelength of LED light can actually make an improvement in certain conditions we currently treat in our practice. I’m not talking about infrared light for purposes such as skin tightening or blue light used in conjunction with Levulan® kerastick photodynamic therapy for the treatment of acne.

Every company I speak with has their spin on the product. I understand spin, I used to teach sales reps how to spin. What matters to me more is clinical data that suggests there are actual improvements in skin tone, texture and clarity. That there is alleviation of wrinkles, and lightening of dyschromias from acne, melasma, or from environmental causes. Call me a non-believer, but I value a doubled-blinded study far more than I do anecdotal experience.

Reps are telling me that LED therapy is used highly successfully as a stand alone therapy or as an adjunct to laser services. They now claim to have therapeutic advantages post laser lipolysis claiming it reduces erythema, edema and bruising. Come on! Really? Where’s the data that suggests that? Does it provide more of a psychological benefit to the patient than it does physiological? If so, patient selection is as important as in hypnotherapy!

Information on the web has revealed the following cosmetic indications where LED light therapy has been “known” (how it’s known I’m not sure) to provide benefits: burns, scrapes, pain relief from skin injury, prevention of bruising, inflammation (if a fresh injury), and, wound healing (such as after a laser peel or resurfacing procedure).

Some conditions where LED light therapy is believed to have some benefit for is: Red LED for the treatment of Rosacea, anti-aging, sun damage, dyschromias, existing bruises and inflammation, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and, poison ivy. Yellow LED for wrinkles, and blue LED for the treatment of acne.

The Rosacea Support Group’s website at, states some very compelling information about the major players in the LED therapy market and various physician testimonials as to their therapeutic benefit.

Curiosity has truly consumed me on this topic; therefore, my question for discussion is this, does a device such as the above discussed, have to be FDA approved to substantiate a claim of efficacy in your eyes? And, is an FDA approval important to you when selecting modes of therapy for your practice?

Author: Paula D. Young RN runs internal operations and training at Young Medical Spa and is the author of the Medical Spa Aesthetics Course, Study Guide, and Advanced IPL & Laser Training course for medical estheticians and laser technicians.

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Reader Comments (3)

Unfortunately, the FDA standards for devices are different than those for drugs.

Devices need only be safe, but not necessarily effective, to be approved. Drugs must be both safe and effective.
If new devices are shown to be "substantially equivalent" to a pre-existing device ("predicate device"), then they get their 510K letter, and it's off they go to market.

I'd like to see much more proof these things work, and fewer anecdotes!!

03.23 | Unregistered CommenterTF

I am convinced that they work.
The only question is, do you use yellow light, red light, near infrared light?
How much energy, what does of photons, etc
I will provide a complete report after the ASLMS.
LED's improve outcomes after stroke! They hasen wound healing. They may rejuvenate.
If you understand their mechanism of action, they become believable.
I am with Rox Anderson, I believe LEDs may be the future of Light-based Medicine.

03.23 | Unregistered CommenterJEE

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