Vision Quest

Protecting eyes from damaging blue rays emitted by smartphone screens has become the mission of fashionista and EyeJust founder Gigi Mortimer.
Photo by Craig Cutler

By Donna Bulseco

Some five years ago, Gigi Mortimer noticed her youngest son, Nick, seemed to be tired in the morning. “One night, I went in to check on him around midnight, and he was awake, staring at his phone. He said, ‘Mom, I can’t go to sleep!’” says Mortimer. Right around that time, she read an article in Harvard Health Letter entitled “Blue Light Has a Dark Side,” which described how the blue light from electronics can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion, throwing off the body’s biological clock. She experienced the proverbial light-bulb moment: “Being in the fashion business for over 20 years, I was always thinking about the future, and what someone will want next year,” says Mortimer, the director of design inspiration at Tory Burch. “I thought, ‘I need protection from my phone.’”

Two years in the making, EyeJust, a blue-light-blocking screen protector with a UV cut similar to what’s in sunglasses, entered the marketplace. The product and her new company were named after the entrepreneur’s favorite phrase: “I always say, ‘I just have to….’” notes Mortimer. “I just had to do this.”

As the screen protector was being developed, more information surfaced about the harmful health effects of blue light. Not only does it mess with our REM cycle at night, so we don’t reap the full benefits of a good night’s sleep, but over time, blue light can damage our vision, too, contributing to eye strain and early macular degeneration. Blue light affects the skin as well, says Loretta Ciraldo, MD, a dermatologist and co-founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare. Research has shown an increase in redness and swelling as well as more hyperpigmentation and aging in front of the ears and on the sides of the face.

“Smartphones weren’t designed for us to be staring at them from a foot away, 8 hours a day, every day,” says Mortimer. “It’s the cumulative effect that’s damaging.” All the more reason why she is excited about an idea in the incubator stage that will inspire people to put down their phones and connect with nature. She cites The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by journalist Florence Williams, who chronicles what happens to our bodies and brains when we experience nature and, say, step into a pine forest or head to the beach in the Hamptons. Mortimer represents a new kind of tech entrepreneur who is aligned with nature: In August, she hosts Celebration of Our Bays 2018, an event at her family’s Southampton house for Peconic Baykeeper, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting Long Island’s drinkable, swimmable and fishable waters.