How Good Are Your Blue Blockers? An Easy Test To Tell + One Mistake To Avoid
As people spend more and more time staring at screens throughout the day (thank you, Zoom calls), many turn to blue-light-blocking glasses as a way to mitigate exposure to, well, blue light. Short disclaimer: Blue light isn't inherently bad (in fact, the sun's blue light helps regulate our natural sleep and wake cycles1 and boosts alertness!). It's the constant exposure from screens that can cause eyestrain and mess with melatonin production2.
That's where the glasses come in to filter the blue light from your surroundings—and if you're like us, you may be wondering whether all blue light blockers are created equal. Can any old pair protect our orbs?
According to functional medicine doctor Leland Stillman, M.D., there are, in fact, important factors to look for when selecting a pair of blue light blockers. On the mindbodygreen podcast, he shares a simple way to test their effectiveness, as well as the most common mistake he notices when it comes to selecting a pair.
A test to measure the effectiveness of your blue blockers.
Stillman, generally, is a fan of blue blockers: He deems them a solid solution to screens whose color temperature we can't necessarily control (like the blue light from televisions or laptops, as opposed to the bulbs in your home). With an overwhelming number of options on the market, he offers a simple guideline for choosing a good pair: "The easy test for [finding out] how good a pair of blue blockers is: Do they make blue lights disappear?”
Seems obvious (shouldn't blue light blockers, um, block blue light?), but he says many options do not knock out the hue completely. You can test this by identifying a source of blue light in the environment, like those from a fire truck or police car. When you put your blue blockers on, the blue color should disappear entirely. "I have a pair of Ra Optics on my desk in front of me," he notes. "I can look at a police car, and the blue lights disappear when I'm wearing these glasses."
The most common mistake to avoid.
This test leads into the most common issue Stillman notices with certain pairs of glasses: "The biggest mistake I see people making with blue blockers is that they buy the ones that have a slight blue tint," he shares. "They reflect [only] a little bit of the blue light—like 10 to 15%. That 10 to 15% is not adequate to protect your circadian rhythms. You really need a dark red pair of blue blockers."
Some people find that 10 to 15% is all they need to keep eye strain at bay, and that's fine! We're not going to tell you to toss your chic pair of blue blockers. But if you're staring at screens well into the night, you might want to slip on a pair of true, amber-hued shades.
If you're curious about how much protection your blue light glasses are really providing, consider trying out Stillman's quick test. And if you want another layer between you and the blue light, consider downloading some helpful apps to counter any flicker and change the color temperature on your screens, too.
Olivia Giacomo is mbg's Social Media Associate. A recent graduate from Georgetown University, she has previously written for LLM Law Review.