I don’t use nighttime mode, I sleep with my phone under my pillow, and never have I ever flirted with doing a digital detox. But as my once-full life of after-work drinks and mid-day gallery visits has been reduced to a steady diet of Zoom, Slack, and DMs, I’m beginning to see the effects of my screen time, literally. My eyes—off-green, assisted by contacts, and (optimistically) the window to my soul—are now a reflection of a harried work week tethered to my computer: they’re dry, red, and tired, textbook symptoms of Digital Eye Strain, Caryn Nearnberg, M.D. a practicing ophthalmologist in Manhattan, tells me. “When we’re on the computer, we’re not blinking as much,” Nearnberg explains, which means the tears we are producing to maintain an optimal moisture balance are evaporating. According to a 2016 report from the Vision Impact Institute, nearly two-thirds of Americans suffer from this 21st century affliction—a staggering, pre-pandemic figure that might explain why people have been flocking to the eye doctor since remote became our new way of life.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” reveals Chaneve Jeanniton, M.D., a Brooklyn-based ophthalmologist and plastic surgeon who specializes in eye augmentation. In addition to patients seeking relief from blurry and double vision, a function of ultra bright LED displays and plasma monitors, Jeanniton is also fielding requests about increasingly popular eye aesthetics. “I’m doing more injectables around the eyes than ever. Now that all this is covered,” she tells me, gesturing at her mouth, “You need the rest of your face to pop.”
I think about this all too often these days as I squint to make eye contact with strangers on the street. Not quite ready for filler, I lean on advice that floods in from friends. A magazine editor proselytizes for Lumify, an over-the-counter wonder eyedrop. The formula, a diluted concentration of a medication originally used to treat glaucoma, constricts the blood vessels and eradicates all redness in 15 minutes. “A model patient of mine uses it before shoots to help with whiteness,” Nearnberg mentions off-handedly while warning against popular drugstore brands that promise to get the red out. “There’s a rebound effect with these drops that can actually make the problem worse,” she explains. I am more intrigued by Collyre Bleu anyway, a rarified blue tinted eye drop from France that is sold out at every fancy pharmacy where I try to procure it. When I finally score a bottle via Amazon, I am shocked by the potency. Blue tears drip down my face, like some kind of SciFi sob story, while the formula neutralizes any hints of yellow or redness. Similarly Blade Runner in feel is the pair of bluelight-blocking glasses I pick up at the MoMa Design Store. Prescription-free, and librarian-friendly, Izipizi’s tortoise frames purport to filter out damaging blue light emitted from my devices. “Blue light is right next to UV on the electromagnetic spectrum,” Nearnberg explains of the newly buzzy, potentially damaging rays that have made similar styles must-have COVID-era accessories. The glasses lend my laptop screen a sunset filter. “Life’s a beach!” I tell myself from isolation at my West Village apartment as I practice Nearnberg’s 20-20-20 anti-fatigue exercise—“every 20 minutes, stare at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.” But outside, on the street, my eyes still betray me.
“Get the eyelash trilogy,” Ann Weathersby, the Brooklyn-based artist whose work often touches on female experience, suggests, advocating for eyebrow specialist Carrie Lindsey’s post-lockdown special. A three-part pairing of eyebrow shaping and tinting of the lashes and brows, the treatment is a revelation—the equivalent of slipping out of sweatpants and into a pair of heels. Lindsey also recommends the rising trend of brow lamination, which semi-permanently keeps your eyebrows shaped upward with a chemical setting lotion that can lock hairs in place for up to six weeks. Like Lily Collins in Emily in Paris, I ask? “Exactly,” says Lindsay.
When you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.