Advertisement
Health

Blue-Light Lenses Are a Scam

There’s no scientific evidence that the light emitted by phones and computers causes eye problems.

by Katie Way
Nov 22 2019, 7:59pm

Photo by zhuyufang via Getty Images

Welcome to Wellness Lies, our list of the most pervasive misfires in the effort to feel and look better. We asked the experts and consulted the best science on all the questions you have about each of these wellness fads. Read the whole list and share with your most misinformed friends and family members.

It feels like staring at a computer screen all day is physically bad for you. And in some ways, it definitely can be. Doctors have coined the term “computer vision syndrome” to describe the ways in which marathon screen sessions can lead to blurred vision, eye irritation, headaches, and neck and back pain. These issues likely stem from the fact that people staring at a screen blink less often, leading to dryness, and from the intense, frequent eye-muscle movements required to process information on a computer screen. One thing we have no proof contributes to eye strain is blue light emitted by computers and phones. But this information somehow hasn’t stuck with the general public, with app developers, who still tout “dark mode” as a safer way to browse, or with the companies that peddle “blue light glasses” and “blue light lenses” as a necessary, preventative step against serious eye problems.

A recent CBC Marketplace investigation found that sales material from Canadian eyewear chains like Vogue Optical and Hudson’s Bay Optical, as well as international chains like Lenscrafters, aggressively pushed blue light lenses as a health imperative for anyone spending long stretches of time in front of a computer. The report pointed out that both Vogue and Hudson’s Bay distributed false information to customers that linked blue light to increased cancer risk, as well as other eye problems like macular degeneration and cataracts, none of which have actually been linked to blue light exposure. It also found that opticians at these chains pushed blue light lenses in-person using similar claims, along with other bluntly fear-mongering language.

“One optician said blue light has ‘very sharp rays, penetrating at the back of the eyes,’ while another salesperson said ‘it tears the eyes right out of you,’” according to hidden camera footage captured by CBC Marketplace. Blue light in general has been linked to eye issues, and too much exposure to computer- or phone-generated blue light can disrupt one’s circadian rhythm. But those effects might have something to do with the fact that a major source of blue light is… the sun.

Blue-light lens marketing isn’t just limited to Canada. The American version of the Lenscrafters website has multiple pages dedicated to promoting the benefits of blue-light lenses and the dangers of blue light, although it does at least have the courtesy to let customers in on the whole sun factor. Zenni Optical offers Blokz™ lenses to combat something it calls “FryEye,” or eye fatigue caused by blue and UV light exposure. Even Warby Parker offers “blue-light-filtering” lenses, although its site doesn’t make any outright claims about what the benefits of those lenses might be.

All in all, blue light lenses exist to prevent a problem that we have no proof actually exists, so you’re better off steering clear. If you’re really hankering to spice up your look via eyewear, you can just buy some fashion shades, pop the lenses out of an old pair of 3D glasses like it’s freakin’ 2009, or just enjoy your eye health while you still can.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

Follow Katie Way on Twitter.

Tagged:
computer vision syndrome
blue light
warby parker
blue-light lenses
lenscrafters