Once only available to medical practitioners, LED devices are now being created specifically for the spa market. But with so many new LED options being marketed to aestheticians, how do you know what equipment is right for your spa and your clientele?
Below are some illuminating factors to keep in mind before you select an LED device.
The Paradigm Shift
Long before the invention of LED devices, dermatologists and skin care professionals used abrasive techniques such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser skin resurfacing systems to reverse the signs of aging. Because chemical peels and micro-dermabrasion treatments are unpredictable, researchers looked for other approaches. More than a decade ago, they found an answer with laser skin resurfacing systems. This technique was introduced to the dermatology and skin care industry as the most effective, non-surgical approach in reducing deep lines and wrinkles caused by years of sun damage and the natural aging process.
The first laser skin resurfacing device, the CO2 laser, became the obvious choice among skin care professionals to treat aging skin. But there were also some drawbacks that had physicians questioning this new laser technology. This approach not only required intravenous sedation or general anesthesia, but there were a number of complications that included depigmentation, delayed healing, erythema, and occasional scarring. Soon after, less aggressive, non-ablative lasers and IPL devices were introduced but they also carry certain risks and are still considered a medical procedure in most states.
The ablative approach, long recovery period, expensive cost, and potential side effects of the aggressive skin resurfacing method called for a different and less invasive procedure. This demand paved the way for light-based skin rejuvenation systems that stimulate collagen production and regenerate aging skin without the inflammatory response and complications associated with laser skin resurfacing devices. Of the many different types of light-based skin rejuvenation systems on the market, LED's have become one of the more popular and leading technologies used by industry professionals. This non-ablative, risk-free treatment safely improves visible lines and wrinkles on the face with little or no recovery time and can be used on all skin types. Aestheticians can also treat different parts of the body, such as the chest, neck, décolleté, and hands.
Dr. David B. Vasily, a leading dermatologist in Bethlehem, PA, knows firsthand the value of using LED devices to rejuvenate skin. "The ultimate test of a good device is word-of-mouth referrals. The word of mouth about LED Photomodulation Technology is spreading so quickly in the community that we are overwhelmed by the demand. Patients have a beautiful glow to their skin and complexion. In many cases pore size has also been reduced," he said.
Just like the multitude of lasers available today, not all LED devices are the same. With an increasing number of light-based skin rejuvenation technology to choose from, it can be confusing finding the right device. Below are some things to keep in mind while shopping for an effective LED unit for your spa.
FDA Clearance and Claims
One of the first and most important things to look for when comparing light-based technology is their FDA clearance and legal claims. You should want to find out just what the device is FDA cleared for and what allowable claims it can make. Only a distinct few of the non-laser, LED devices have true FDA clearance for collagen stimulation and wrinkle reduction, yet they all claim remarkable new collagen production benefits. In fact, most of the LED devices, if FDA cleared at all, are cleared for treating pain or for wound healing. What does pain management or wound healing have to do with softer, smoother or healthier-looking skin? Unfortunately, the FDA does not have the resources to police the plethora of unethical aesthetic companies that are making these illegal and unfounded claims. Ask for the company's FDA credentials and documentation on the specific device they are marketing. If no official FDA documentation can be produced, you may only be purchasing slick marketing that is void of true science and credible outcomes.
Clinical trials are crucial in measuring the effectiveness of LED devices. They help researchers determine the pros and cons of the invention and verify specific uses of the device. The conclusions drawn from clinical studies aid the manufacturer in deciding if improvements are needed or if the device meets their own standards and are ready to be marketed to aestheticians and physicians. Check to see that the specific LED unit has been tested in a clinical setting and results are published.
Length of Research
To obtain adequate results, data is gathered from years of intensive scientific research and studies. Findings drawn from research performed over a reasonable amount of time narrow the margin of error and provide more accurate information. Find out how long the LED device was researched before being marketed to aesthetic professionals.
Many LED devices do not have any papers published on clinical studies by skin care experts or board certified dermatologists using their brand. Instead, they cite studies that were performed years ago by NASA or other university centers on LED technology, which is a different technology than that used in the aesthetic industry. Insist on seeing results from a clinical study performed by a skin care expert who is associated with a major university. Valid credentials for LED devices include papers published in peer review journals with results and outcomes of controlled clinical studies done under the approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB).
Before and after photographs from clinical trials are great visual tools for seeing actual results. But images can easily be altered with advanced computer software like Photoshop to obtain the desired results the device claims to achieve. Some manufacturers also claim their 'after' photos of study subjects are taken without make-up. Before purchasing an LED device, find out if the before and after shots meet the FDA photography requirements and if the subjects are wearing any make-up. If marketing photos look like professional Glamour Shots, be suspect!
It's important for leaders in dermatology to perform clinical studies and to publish their findings, but it is just as important for them to incorporate the technology into their clinical cosmetic practice. Take some time to check out the device's track record and that it has been used to treat patients in a clinical setting. Also, look for articles, editorials and testimonials on how the device has been incorporated by skin care practices. Dr. Robert A. Weiss, an Associate Dermatology Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Director, MD Laser, Skin and Vein Institute in Baltimore, MD, has noticed the benefits of using LED devices in his practice. "Over the past two years, LED Photomodulation Technology has become the most utilized and indispensable light source in our clinic… patients are noticing enhanced, faster results for skin smoothing."
Receiving coverage in current fashion and beauty magazines and on television news segments are also good indicators of effective LED devices. Both editors and physicians are very particular about recommending the latest skin care products and equipments. Beauty editors are always in contact with top dermatologists and plastic surgeons to find new cosmetic procedures that will benefit their readers. The media are also a good resource for aestheticians and spa owners to stay up-to-date on the newest procedures and devices.
Company History and Experience
Although some companies have a long history of producing notable and worthwhile products, their expertise in LED technology may be limited. Find out who manufactures the device and what experience they have in laser or light-based technology.
It is necessary to receive some extras with the purchase of an LED device. With regular updates and improvements in laser and light-based technology, it is important to receive on-site training and educational materials. Marketing materials may be available at an extra cost, but it's a worthwhile investment in helping to promote your business.
Unbiased testimonials from top professionals in the industry should be a key factor in purchasing a proven LED device. Respected aestheticians and physicians who have no financial interest in the brand are reliable sources in giving an objective point of view on the effectiveness of the machine.
"LED Photomodulation Technology represents a novel approach to skin aging. We find it to be a nice adjunct to other non-ablative treatments, and in the scheme of anti-aging procedures, it's relatively inexpensive. Our patients like the results and tell us it nicely complements their ongoing routine of microdermabrasions and glycolic peels," explains Dr. Jeffrey Dover, director of SkinCare Physicians of Chestnut Hill, MA.
"I prefer LED Photomodulation Technology to Retin-A for skin rejuvenation without irritation," said Dr. Tina Alster, director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington D.C.
Renowned celebrity dermatologist Dr. Pat Wexler from New York said, "With LED Photomodulation Technology, skin looks smoother, taut, and more radiant."
By far the most important reason to invest in a new light based device is to offer true skin rejuvenation benefits and results to your clients. Why would you take a chance and offer your clients false hopes from unfounded claims and marketing hype? Look for a product that you can stand behind and one that will give you and your clients measurable results and allow you to expand your business.
Your clients are looking for credentials when they place their skin and their trust in your hands. Take your time and look for a product that has true science, FDA credentials, endorsements, and a strong track record in the skin care industry.
Marcel Besse is the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Light BioScience® LLC. Besse is a 25-year veteran in the medical device and pharmaceutical markets with specialized experience in aesthetic laser dermatology. Prior to joining Light BioScience, Besse was part of the executive team at CoolTouch Corporation that introduced the first non-ablative skin rejuvenation laser technology. During his career, he has held various senior management positions for medical device and pharmaceutical companies. Besse also has extensive background in LED science and technology from his experience with Light BioScience, the first company with FDA clearance for using LEDs in the treatment of wrinkles.