Light years ahead |

4 mins

Light years ahead

Patrick Johnson, the CEO and inventor of LED light therapy device Celluma, discusses how he developed the company and emerging trends within the industry

Patrick Johnson developed Celluma after contemplating his professional legacy during the lead-up to his 50th birthday. Wanting to move more into the wellness sector, Johnson quit his job and spent 15 months studying clinical literature in and around low-level light therapy before founding the company in 2011.

“We went looking for a different path up the light therapy mountain and discovered that the key to efficacy is how much energy is available at the surface of the skin for absorption, not how powerful the device is,” Johnson says.

Taken aback by the vast amount of literature, Johnson was surprised that, from his perspective, no one had successfully commercialised the technology. However, he believed that this was due to the cost of the technology.

“We figured out that if you could make a device that contoured the surface of treatment, it didn’t need to be as powerful, and therefore it could be a lot less expensive and more accessible to the masses. It was the fundamental charter of the company since it was founded,” he adds.

Reverse engineering

When developing the Celluma, Johnson opted for somewhat of a reverse engineering approach to help maximise the efficiency of the device. “We looked at every indication for use that the FDA had cleared for an LED device, and we applied for all of them”, he says.

“We initially got some of those indications, and the FDA came back and said that they needed to see a clinical study. Where they required studies, we did studies.

We started with the clinical literature and identified what was best practise. Then we designed that into the Celluma, rather than designing the device and doing clinical studies to figure out if it worked.”

Celluma has a range of devices to cater to practitioner and client demand, with the flagship device, Celluma PRO being the most popular device as it tackles anti-ageing, acne, and aches and pains.

Celluma ELITE helps with precise positioning that might be desired following surgery and deep ablative procedures, and features treatment of acne, wrinkles, and pain.

Celluma SKIN is ideal for skin professionals and home use tackling skinrelated concerns like wrinkles and acne, and Celluma LITE is perfect for use on the move or at home.

“From a therapeutic standpoint, we started with acne and muscular skeletal pain indications, including rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Then we moved into antiageing and got FDA clearances and medical CE mark for all of that,” Johnson explains.

Last year the Celluma was FDA-cleared for hair restoration, developing a programme that the target cells are most receptive to.

Challenging misconceptions

One of the main challenges Johnson found whilst developing the Celluma was trying to rid the professional markets misconception that LED light therapy is a ‘poor man’s laser’.

“I think one of the burdens we took on with being a lower-price product is ‘Does it actually work?’. But the science is the science and we’ve undertaken studies at the University of California, Irvine, that shows that Celluma as an LED device is equivalent in efficacy in wound healing as a surgical cold laser, with the same technical parameters,” he says.

When it comes to the most rewarding part of the job, for Johnson, it is seeing the positive effects that the Celluma can have on people’s lives.

“We get some of the most fantastical and heart-moving testimonials from the parents of acne sufferers because that can be so debilitating emotionally for kids.

“We do a lot of work with the Wounded Warrior community in the US. We offer the Celluma to rehabilitate either injuries or wounds sustained in military service as they transition back into civilian life. And it’s pretty cool when somebody says, ‘You gave me my life back’.”

To help maintain business during the pandemic, Celluma started campaigns suggesting that if clinics couldn’t see patients or clients face-to-face, renting out Cellumas out for home use would be a great way to stay afloat during the lockdowns.

“That resulted in us selling more Celluma’s to those practitioners who rented more of them and then ended up leasing them. Then ultimately, a lot of them became authorised resellers.”

Not only did this help boost business for Celluma and give practitioners a revenue mechanism, but it also helped practitioners keep in touch with clients whilst they were unable to meet in person.

“We literally had doctors dropping off Celluma’s devices in bags at doorways and knocking and running. It was good, it turned out good for everybody.

Then we created a campaign called Skinposium. Our sales reps got our professional clients to set up zoom meetings with their patients, where we would talk about light therapy as a way of promoting the sale of the device by the practitioner, to create a revenue mechanism for the practitioner, but get the patient care while they couldn’t see them.”

Looking to the future, Johnson believes that the pandemic has irreparably changed people’s approach to aesthetics, resulting in people switching up their pre-pandemic habits.

“In aesthetics, I see people moving more towards non-invasive, at-home and earlier in life. I think those are three major market drivers that we’re all going to have to pay attention to in aesthetics, and it probably relates to other markets, but particularly in aesthetics. “

“People want the convenience of home treatments, and they want to start younger, they don’t necessarily want invasive treatments. I think the pandemic afforded people the opportunity to step back and look at themselves and say, ‘Is this who I really want to be?”

This article appears in September 2022

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September 2022
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