Influence of skin type and wavelength on light wave reflectance

Bennett A. Fallow, Takashi Tarumi, Hirofumi Tanaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Purpose: A new application of photoplethysmography (PPG) has emerged recently to provide the possibility of heart rate monitoring without a telemetric chest strap. The aim of this study was to determine if a new device could detect pulsation over a broad range of skin types, and what light wavelength would be most suitable for detecting the signals. A light emitting diode-based PPG system was used to detect changes in pulsatile blood flow on 23 apparently healthy individuals (11 male and 12 female, 20-59 years old) of varying skin types classified according to a questionnaire in combination with digital photographs with a skin type chart. Four different light wavelengths (470, 520, 630, and 880 nm) were tested. Normalized modulation level is calculated as the AC/DC component ratio and represents the change in flow over the underlying constant state of flow or perfusion. Results: In the resting condition, green light wavelength (520 nm) displayed greater modulation (p < 0.001) than all the other wavelengths analyzed regardless of skin types. Type V (dark brown) skin type was significantly lower in modulation than all other skin types. In the exercise condition, both blue (470 nm) and green (520 nm) light wavelengths displayed greater signal-to-noise ratios than red (630 nm) or infrared (880 nm) light wavelengths (p < 0.001). Conclusions: We concluded that a PPG-based device can detect pulsation across all skin types and that a greater resolution was obtained using a green light wavelength at rest and a green or blue light wavelength during exercise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-317
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Exercise
  • Heart rate
  • Photoplethysmography
  • Pulse rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of skin type and wavelength on light wave reflectance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this