Welcome to ON BEAUTY, a monthly feature highlighting creative, like-minded people who inspire us.
The development of a new product is a long, winding road—it wouldn’t be complete without a few speed bumps, the occasional U-turn, and plenty of pull-offs to take in the view. On the journey to create our just-launched Vis Clair Suprême, we became more and more fascinated with the eyes—their ability to connect, to seduce, and to tell stories (of course) but also their overall health. And as we traipsed down this particular scenic route, we discovered Dr. Elise Brisco, a homeopathic optometrist who kindly made time in her busy schedule (between seeing patients at her Hollywood Vision practice, creating homeopathic formulas, and working on a patented high-tech solution to replace reading glasses), to give us a 101 on healthy eyes.
We love Dr. Brisco because, while she’s incredibly knowledgeable about eye health and a true wealth of information, she also understands that we want to be, you know, beautiful. She said it best: “Take care of your eyes. Dress up your eyes. Why do people spend so much money on their shoes or their nails—do you ever look at somebody’s nails when you’re talking to them? Your eyes are the connection.”
What draws you to the eyes?
We stay connected to the world through vision—eye contact, internet, social media, entertainment. Vision is a big part of how we make judgements in our world; we work, play, and learn through the visual system. There’s a strong relationship for children between vision and learning, and there’s a strong relationship as an executive between vision, productivity, and efficiency because we are a generation of visual laborers rather than physical laborers. We mainly sit at our desks and are physically pretty stationary, but our eyes are walking across thousands and thousands of words. That’s how we earn a living, that’s how we entertain, that’s how we stay connected to the world.
Optometry or homeopathy—which came first?
Optometry. I come from a family of physicians and I was an EMT. I would work in the ER, and we had a family friend who was an optometrist—he was so happy, and I thought, this is the life I want. He explained to me that people take their vision for granted. It’s not only how you look but it’s how you function. You want to see your best and you want to look your best.
I became more of an integrative or holistic practitioner as I grew older, especially once I became a mom. I did not want to give my son antibiotics and steroids—he had chronic ear infections and allergies and they just kept giving him stronger and longer doses of medication. We met an integrative pediatrician who took him off of everything and within a month of being on natural treatments, he was well. I thought, what is this stuff? What is homeopathy? I’d never heard of it before. I went back to school, and, long story short, I’m a licensed clinical homeopath and I’ve been incorporating that into my practice. It’s much safer and effective. Now I have two homeopathic medications that I co-formulated and I also have a patent on a health-tech device, so I’ve used my knowledge and 30 years of clinical experience to help more people than just the patients in my office.
What kind of patient seeks out a homeopathic optometrist?
Across the board, all ages. Parents bring their children in because they want a more natural, safer way, and then adults realize, hey, I can use natural and homeopathic medicine to treat the root of the problem rather than using pharmaceuticals to mask the symptoms. We use homeopathic medicine because it triggers a healing response in the body rather than masking symptoms. What people don’t realize is that natural medicine is actually more powerful because you’re using the body’s own immune system to self-heal.
When the eyes don’t look healthy, you don’t look healthy. That’s where beauty begins—eye contact.
What is the biggest thing people don’t know about eye health?
Most eye diseases don’t have any symptoms because there are no pain receptors in the eyes. So people have a false sense of security that their eyes are fine. You wake up, you see, and you just take your vision for granted. I have glaucoma, and you wouldn’t know that you have it until you start to lose vision—that’s the first sign. And we can’t restore that. That’s why it’s important to have preventative care. You don’t want to go to the dentist once you have a cavity—you want to go for your annual cleanings. People are used to that, but a lot of people aren’t used to an annual vision exam. So, by far, that’s the main thing—most eye diseases don’t have symptoms.
Another thing people don’t know is that what’s good for your body is good for your eyes. Exercising pumps oxygen and blood to the eyes and keeps the optic nerve healthy (80% of the brain is related to vision). The eyes are sensitive to nutritional imbalances—the macular pigment is so important to protect the eyes from blue light and UV, and it’s not something the body produces, so you have to have a healthy diet to give your eyes the nutrients to live a healthy life and see well for you. Eat a well-balanced diet, eat the rainbow.
Are there any supplements you recommend for healthy eyes?
Omega-3s help with the oily tear layer, they help you produce better quality and quantity of tears, and they also have a mild anti-inflammatory effect.
Modern life (specifically modern work) does not seem to be particularly eye-friendly…
With this generation, it’s rough. There’s heavy visual demand and the eyes work hard for you. Digital devices are harder on the eyes than hard copy, because hard copy is solid and the contrast is better. Your screen’s pixels are being refreshed. When you take a picture of your screen you see those bars because it’s really scrolling, but your brain is filtering it out so it looks stationary. With the screen moving, your eyes slow down your blink rate by 67%. You need to blink to spread tears over the eyes to flush away debris, pollens, and allergens, so they dry out.
Because the oily tears are hanging out at the edge of the lid and not being spread with a blink, eventually those oily tear glands get plugged and you have layers of coagulated oil, and then you have bacteria that’s gotten trapped, dead cells, and skin—another layer compacted in there—and it damages your ability to make tears. That’s why a lot of people say their eyes feel like they’re fried at the end of the day—they’re really dried out.
You also have the blue light which is a very short energetic wavelength. We use blue light for medical lasers, so it actually can penetrate the eyes and cause tissue damage. Blue light is a shorter wavelength than UV, and it’s more harmful to your eyes.
So, what’s the counterbalance?
Programs like Flux shift the spectrum of color a little, but they don’t really filter out blue light. You can get a glass protector on your phone that filters out 100% of blue light. They don’t really make them for computer screens so patients will wear blue light-filtering glasses.
What’s a big eye-care no-no?
I see a lot of girls put eyeliner on their waterline, inside their lashes. That is a big no-no! Pigment and wax clog up those oily tear glands. Any hole that you plug on the body is unhealthy—it’s a hole to open up and release tears, and it’s there for a reason. I’ll press on the lid and see all this makeup coming out. And use mascara that doesn’t flake, because that gets in the eyes, too.
How important is it to use natural products around the eyes?
Oh gosh, well, think about the skin—it absorbs everything—it’s an organ. I mean, we deliver medication through the skin, like a nicotine patch, or estrogen and progesterone. So natural and organic is a must. The eyes are an even thinner area. You see all the little blood vessels—it’s going right into your bloodstream. And your eyes are close to the brain. Be careful. Choose products with the most quality ingredients you can get, conscientious companies that worry about that and care about their customers.
What are the biggest causes of red eyes?
There are a lot of reasons for red eyes. A couple of the main ones are allergies, dry eyes, not enough sleep—now that pot is legal, pot. Ha!—an unhealthy immune system, and computer use. So, it really depends on the reason. If you’re healthy, usually your eyes won’t be red. When you’re not healthy and your immune system is run down or you’re tired, the bacteria around your eyes take over and live and grow there until your eyes become red. So, you would need to have that treated. If you’re staring at the computer too much or you’re run down, your oily tear glands can get clogged. You’re not making enough tears to lubricate, moisturize, and keep the eyes white and bright.
What people don’t realize is that natural medicine is actually more powerful because you’re using the body’s own immune system to self-heal.
The Moistureyes Dry Eyes Spa takes eyelid hygiene to the next level. Tell us about it.
We’re one of the few offices with a spa for eyes. We can help your eyes look whiter and brighter and feel more comfortable, and also help the lids to be flatter, because a lot of times, if they’re clogged with oily tears because you’re tired, or you’re staring at the computer, or you’re run down, it clogs layer after layer. They are 30 oily tear glands along the lids called the meibomian glands, so if those are clogged, you’re not releasing healthy tears, and then the eyes get dry and red. Also, there’s bacteria trapped with the clogged oily tears, and that’s an unhealthy environment.
So we use a heated massage—it’s very luxurious, it feels fantastic—and we raise it to 110 degrees, which is when oil melts. We liquefy, unplug the oily tear glands, get the tears flowing, evacuate the bacteria, and that’s how we keep the eyes healthy and white. We have celebrities who come in every month and do that. If we do one eye and leave the other eye, you can see that the water line is nicer and the lid’s flatter—it’s not puffy and swollen, it’s not congested.
We just did one lady, and from the first time I met her to this last treatment, her eyes look so much wider, whiter. When we first met her she was in so much pain. She’d been to six different doctors in Boston, finally came out to Los Angeles, and found me. She’d been suffering for a couple of years and everybody was throwing antibiotics or steroids at her, but not treating the underlying issue that her oily glands were clogged full of bacteria. So once we opened them up, after about a month of treatment, she looked like a different girl.
Another patient had lid lice. Which once you reach 70 years old almost 100% of people have it. She’d been misdiagnosed—she had seen a bunch of doctors, she was so uncomfortable, her eyes were raw and chapped, and she was a beautician. She said, “Elise, I can’t see clients this way.” We treated her and she looks like a whole different person. When the eyes don’t look healthy, you don’t look healthy. That’s where beauty begins—eye contact.
How does adrenal fatigue affect the eyes?
It leads to the eyes being more yellow, grayish—when you’re fatigued, everything’s run down, that includes your body and your eyes’ ability to fight off bacteria. We’re being bombarded by pollutants, which are toxic. When your body can’t detox, it shows. No amount of makeup or lash extenders can cover up when you’re not healthy. I go crazy when girls want to spend so much on the outside and they’re not investing in the underlying health.
Will you please give us an excuse to buy fancy sunglasses?
It’s worse to wear cheap sunglasses than to wear no sunglasses because it’s dark so the brain thinks, oh, it’s dark? Pupils: dilate, let in more light. But they let in more ultraviolet because the pupils are smaller. Cheap sunglasses don’t have the correct ultraviolet protection. You want UV 400 UVA/UVB. And there’s no controlling body or policing organization—anyone could write UV 400 on their glasses, so you have to buy a reputable brand.
80% of sun-related damage occurs before the age of 18. I had sunglasses on my son when he was in the stroller. Think about how you lather kids up with sunscreen—the eye tissues are more delicate than their skin. Whenever my patients have a baby I send them a pair of the infant sunglasses.
What’s your favorite beauty food?
Salmon. It’s good for omega-3s. Good for your skin, good for tears and eyes, good for hair, and it’s also good for your mind.
Do you have any tips for long flights?
If I have a good moisturizer and a toothbrush, I’m happy. I need a lip moisturizer, I need a skin moisturizer for my face, and then, for the eyes, so many people’s eyes get really raw and dry on the plane, so we have this moisturizing eye mask—one you use a USB charger for—and you place it on the eyes. It’s warm, it’s moisturizing, and it’ll get the tear glands open and flowing a little bit, too.
Be careful. Choose products with the most quality ingredients you can get, conscientious companies that worry about that and care about their customers.
What drops do you recommend? I love Natural Ophthalmics. They have tear stimulation eye drops. Instead of just wetting your eyes with artificial tears, this is a homeopathic drop—so there are no preservatives in it—and it’ll send a message to your brain to release more tears. Disclaimer: I am their chief medical officer—I formulated some of the different drops they have.
What are some quick tips to promote healthy, beautiful eyes?
Allergies affect the appearance of your eyes, so if you have any allergies, you should treat the underlying issue there. You can use a cold compress—that makes the blood vessels constrict so the histamine is not released. If your eyes are a little swollen and puffy in the morning, a little itchy (itchiness is the hallmark of allergies), use an eye wash before you go to bed every night. I love Zocufoam—it’s an okra-based foaming cleanser and moisturizer, so you’re getting the antibacterial effect without putting an antibiotic on. They have a lid wipe that a lot of celebrities use as a makeup remover. It’s a little expensive but it’s fabulous.
Make sure your oily tear glands are producing healthy quality tears and then releasing tears (so they’re not clogged). An infrared eye mask promotes healing in itself, it increases circulation, helps with inflammation—all sorts of things.
And getting enough sleep is so important for beauty! I used to stay up really late doing work, but since I started doing more research about sleep, I get up early but make sure I get my seven, eight, sometimes nine hours of sleep. I’m so much more productive and I look better.
Learn more at Hollywood Vision.
And follow @HollywoodEyes on Instagram.