The other day, I walked into a Best Buy store and noticed a huge rack of what looked like prescription eyeglasses. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the entire section was dedicated to “Eyewear for a Digital World,” all of the frames from GUNNAR Optiks, a company that just so happened to have sent me a pair of its blue-light reduction computer glasses to try out.
If the gentle nudge for the GUNNAR PR rep had not been enough motivation to get around to reviewing my new blue-light blockers, then practically running into the point of sale display was another major reminder.
The sales fixture showcased “blue light gaming & computer glasses,” “sunglasses,” “sleep,” and “reading and RX,” also touted such benefits or goals as, “block blue light,” “reduce digital eye strain,” “prevent dry eye,” “minimize glare,” “improve sleep.” In the upper right-hand corner of the display was the declaration, “Save Your Eyes – 70% of U.S. Adults Suffer from Digital Eye Strain Due to Daily Screen Use.”
That message certainly resonated with me. I stare at a computer screen for at least four hours a day (but in case my boss is reading this, I meant to say “for more than eight hours a day.) I’m also prone to headaches, and on my worst days my eyes do dry out a bit, and I find myself squinting at my computer screen as I edit text or respond to emails. I already have a pair of non-glare very mild prescription reading glasses that I often wear when I’m working. However, when the following pitch hit my in-box this past September, I felt like maybe I needed to try an alternative approach that kept me from squinting so much:
Spending hours on end reviewing a new TV can take a toll on your eyes, then having to sit in front of a computer screen to write your review only exacerbates things… turning discomfort into blurred vision and a full-blown headache. Sound familiar? You’re not alone!
Eye fatigue, dry eyes, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and headaches are something millions of people who sit in front of digital screens all day experience – it’s called Computer Vision Syndrome, but you can even get it staring at any screen.
I know this pitch isn’t the kind of pitch you get often, but if you’re open to it, I’d like to send you a couple different pairs of GUNNAR Optiks glasses to try out during your workday. Designed for prolonged viewing of digital screens, these glasses block harmful blue light, prevent eye fatigue and maintain comfortable levels of humidity to prevent dry eyes. Got an Rx? No prob! We’ll have custom Rx lenses created for you.
Although, “Computer Vision Syndrome” came across as more than a tad bit hyperbolic, the pitch definitely resonated with me, and I was further drawn in by the abundant selection of designer-style frame options. I responded to the PR rep that I was interested in trying out a pair for review. Then, as I waited a few days for the shipment to arrive, I dug further into the company’s website to learn the backstory of the brand.
So the story goes: In 2003, Matt Michelsen was plagued with nagging headaches caused by long days spent viewing computer screens. Seeking help, Matt visited his optometrist and was soon diagnosed with Digital Eye Strain. With technology use on the rise, Matt and his wife, Jennifer, foresaw Digital Eye Strain affecting families around the world. They teamed up with Joe Croft, an optical engineer and began developing a product to address this growing issue. Together, the three visionaries [pun intended??] set out to provide protection for all eyes.
When the GUNNAR PR rep asked for my preferred frame and lens combination, I eagerly selected a pair of Enigma Gray Crystal frames with amber-tinted lenses. They looked cool in the picture, I was fully confident that they would make me look cool as well. Oh, and they might reduce eye fatigue! Yeah, that.
I know the original PR pitch offered a “couple of different pairs,” but I’m not greedy. After all there was probably a video game reviewer somewhere who needed that other pair more than I did. Also, while I was offered a prescription version, I felt that my minimal ‘script made that option unnecessary for the review.
When I received the glasses and put them on, it was obvious from the jump that they were a high-quality product and a comfortable fit. But, I’m not sure I hit the mark with my frame and tint combo. Frame selection is so hit or miss. I think we all could use a fashion consultant when it comes to choosing eyeglasses. The GUNNAR Enigma Gray Crystal frames with amber-tinted lenses looked OK, but not nearly as good as they did on the fashion model wearing them on the website. The frames were just a bit too big and dark for my face and gray hair, and I may have gone wrong with the amber-tinted lens.
I couldn’t stop thinking of John Goodman’s character in The Big Lebowski. Then, I asked my high-school-aged daughter for her thoughts, and she nailed it when she said, “You kinda look like an X-Wing fighter pilot from the original Star Wars.” Ha! The orange goggles! I took that with a grain of salt considering that teenagers are prone to exaggeration. That being said, had I tried them on in a store, I’m convinced that I would have selected from one of MANY better options that would have correctly fit my face. I also would have gone with a subtler lens color. None of this is a knock on GUNNAR, just me trying to become a fashion icon.
For my review, I traded off wearing my prescription computer specs, the GUNNAR glasses, and nothing at all (on my eyes… I remained fully clothed). I found that, at first, I was slightly uncomfortable by the amber tint. However, my eyes quickly adjusted to the color of my computer screen, and I completely forgot that I was wearing the GUNNAR frames at all. The frames were very light, and my eyes were noticeably less dry and less strained after about an hour of staring at my computer screen. I also realized that I didn’t even miss my prescription thanks to the work that the GUNNAR glasses were apparently doing to help me focus better on the computer screen.
The experience with my prescription frames is similar, with the ‘script taking on the roll that the tinting apparently did with the GUNNAR glasses. I did need to reduce the brightness of my computer monitor a bit again when switching from the GUNNAR frames back to the un-tinted prescription lenses. Then, during the times when I wore no glasses at all, I was even more aware of my tendency to squint and feel eye dryness and fatigue.
I would definitely recommend GUNNAR for anyone who spends a lot of time in front of a computer screen, is an active gamer, or just someone who stares at their phone or tablet for lengthy periods of time (isn’t that all of us?) GUNNAR glasses and lenses are manufactured in the USA, and with distribution through Best Buy and direct online sales from the GUNNAR Optiks website they are easy to find, affordable (less than $100), offering many frames and lens options from which to choose.
My biggest piece of advice is to go somewhere where you can try on the frames in person before you buy them instead of using “the Force” like I did. Not that looking like Luke Skywalker is a bad thing…