LEDs vs Lasers

Which is better? LEDs or Lasers?

Depending on whom you speak with, the answer seems to depend on the product that person currently uses. Proponents of the laser therapy industry are adamant that lasers are far superior to LEDs, and those in the LED industry insist that LEDs are equal in effectiveness to lasers, but are safer and easier to use. So who do you believe?  Let’s look into this a little further.

According to Wikipedia, “A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation.” LASER is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers have been around since 1960, when Theodore Maiman made the first laser operate by shining a high-power flash lamp on a ruby rod with silver-coated surfaces.


Since then, they’ve been doing some really amazing things; lasers allow us to watch a DVD, print a document, access the internet, even get a speeding ticket, have surgery and heal our bodies.  Lasers are so much a part of our everyday lives that we take them for granted.  In terms of light therapy, the majority of the research available is based on laser devices. Lasers have been doing really cool things since the day they were invented.

Really Cool Lasers

LEDs on the other hand have had a much slower progression, despite being created 33 years before lasers, in 1927. Again, according to Wikipedia, “A light-emitting diode (LED) is a two-lead semiconductor light source. It is a pn-junction diode, which emits light when activated.[4] When a suitable voltage is applied to the leads, electrons are able to recombine with electron holes within the device, releasing energy in the form of photons. This effect is called electroluminescence, and the color of the light (corresponding to the energy of the photon) is determined by the energy band gap of the semiconductor.”

Whoa. What? Did you understand that? Neither did I. Let’s break it down into simpler terms. An LED, or Light Emitting Diode, is a semiconductor device that emits light when an electric current is passed through it. Light is produced when the particles that carry the current (known as electrons and holes) combine together within the semiconductor material. Make more sense now?

LEDs were not actually used in a practical sense until 1962; when they were used as the transmitter in remote control devices. Not so amazing.

Not so cool…
So on one side we have lasers that stepped onto the scene looking amazing and doing even more amazing things from day one, and on the other we have LEDs, which can kind of be viewed as Laser’s younger, dorky brother, complete with braces, suspenders & pocket protector. The most amazing thing LEDs ever did was make it so that we didn’t have to get up to change the channel on the TV.

Given this comparison, it’s very easy to see why common perception leads towards lasers being superior. But as technology improves, so do LEDs.


The main comparison between Lasers & LEDs is COHERENCY.  Coherency in physics is light’s ability to remain consistent. Lasers are coherent light, LEDs are incoherent light.  This video explains coherency much better than I will be able to.

When it comes to therapeutical light applications, the belief is that coherent light is more effective at penetrating the body, while incoherent light is only good for superficial applications.  However, this may not be entirely true. According to Darren Starwynn, OMD, Lac, in an article written for Acupuncture Today, incoherent light IS capable of penetrating the body because the body is actually capable of transforming incoherent light into coherent light.  And according to Dr. Harry Whelan, a professor of pediatric neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who utilizes the NASA LED technology, “So far, what we’ve seen in patients and what we’ve seen in laboratory cell cultures all point to one conclusion – the near-infrared light emitted by these LEDs seems to be perfect for increasing energy inside cells. This means whether you’re on Earth in a hospital, working in a submarine under the sea, or on your way to Mars inside a spaceship, the LEDs boost energy to the cells and accelerate healing.”


So essentially, LEDs are an equally effective light therapy alternative to Lasers. So how do you decide which is better? The chart below may help.  And be sure to check out our Research page for more info!


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Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be construed as such. Light devices are not intended to cure, treat, or prevent any disease or illness. If you have a disease or illness, consult with your physician or health care provider prior to using any light device. Use only as directed by manufacturer.