Introduction: "Lotsa Lux" Pince-Nez of Winter Happiness
"So easy - I built it in bed!"
Dark as one's soul may be, one's body may still need photons to get it out of bed. Long dim winters can suck the will to live right out of you (witness the entire population of the gloomy polar-adjacent country of your choice). Being stuck in an old-school-fluorescent-lit office from "can to can't"* will often do the same.
These pince-nez are lined with LEDs around the inside. The LEDs shine light obliquely into your eyes, nourishing the llght-thirsty "rod" receptors all around the edges of your retina. They avoid the sensitive, cone-rich fovea to spare you the "spots before the eyes" you can get from "un-holey" therapeutic light-boxes. They don't make any noticeable heat when you wear them, but because they're up close to your eyes they provide enough lux to chase the winter blues away** (or make some emotional space for you to pick and choose what to mourn).
As a bonus, the ends of the pince-nez can be used to press acupressure points on and near the nose that help clear your sinuses and relieve some types of headaches.
But wait - there's more! The natural nose-pinching action of the pince-nez may reduce the aromaterroristic effects of bad smells in your vicinity. Some say the ceremonial masks of the Nez Pincé people, who once drove their vast herds of skunks across the Great Plains, had a very similar design.
Even if they don't do any of this for you, you'll get a good giggle from looking at yourself in the mirror, or observing others' reactions to you, while you wear them! Shortly after I took this picture, I got a suppressed double-take and a deadpan "The spice must flow."
Even wussing out and using store-bought electronics, as I did here, you can make one of these for under $30. People who can build their own power supplies for DIY LED strips can probably get away a lor cheaper. That's on my Learn-How list. But I really recommend variable color and brightness, so you can discover what kind of light makes you happiest each time.***
*i.e., from the moment you can see in the morning to the moment you can't see at night.
**I'm not a medical professional; I just read things they write. The Lotsa Lux has not been tested or approved by anyone but myself. I make no therapeutic claims for the Lotsa Lux; I merely point out that it shares some characteristics similar with devices sold as therapeutic.
***I was surprised at how little I liked green light on these. I generally like the color green. I like green-lit places such as forests and greenhouses and labs full of green lasers. Green is my absolute FAVORITE color for traffic lights. Maybe all my green-affinity is in my cones, and the rods that these lights aim at just process it as "ugh, more soul-sucking windowless-cube-farm illumination" or something.
Step 1: First Get:
- A cushioned "bendy" hanger. This one is based on wire covered with pool-noodle-type foam and has two smooth hollow hemispherical screw-on hanger-tips.
- A color-changeable LED strip with dimmable controller and power supply. This OLS kit is an example of a plug-and-play set. that includes them all.
- You might also need pliers and side-cutters, depending on how flexible the bendy-hanger is and how it's put together.
- Tape or soft (e.g. VelcroTM) tie-wraps to secure the power cable and free end of the LED strip
- A safety pin, brooch, lavalier clip, or small binder-clip to clip the power cord to clothes, hair, hat, etc. so it doesn't pull the pince-nez out of position.
- A tether or pouch for the remote-control, if there is one; OLS's is compact, cute, and easy to use, but really REALLY lose-able. Made of slippery black plastic, slides effortlessly off cushions or out of pockets to instinctively take refuge behind or under heavy furniture, or under things like throw-rugs that look safe to step on.
Step 2: Form the Frame
- Take the hook off the bendy hanger, along with any mounting it had that seems like it would be uncomfortable on your skin. Some pop right off; some might have to be cut off with something like a side-cutter.
- Bend the bendy hanger into the pictured most-of-a snorkeling-mask shape that will pinch the bridge of your nose and stay on your face.
- When you try it on like this, you ideally want your peripheral vision to see the foam padding all the way around the edges of your vision when you look straight through the middle.
Step 3: Add the LED Strip
- I only needed one of the 12"/30cm strips that came with the kit.
- Doing the steps in this order minimizes the stress on the LED strip, which should help it last longer.
- The LED strip from this kit is sticky-backed - piece of cake!
Position the strip so the LEDs will shine into your eyes at about a 45º angle. Don't fret too much about precision; you just want to be sure that when the frame is flat on your face, the lights will shine obliquely toward your eyes.
- Not completely past your eyes and directly onto your nose, as they would if you put the strip exactly around the inner curve. The ribbon-shaped strip I use here would look a lot neater if I'd done that, but then it wouldn't produce the result I'm after.
- Not completely past your eyes and directly onto your forehead, eyebrows, and cheeks, as they would if you put the strip on a line that would go against your skin. The ribbon-shaped strip I use here wouldn't let you do that anyway, but I've seen some DIY components that might.
- Figure out which end of the LED strip the power cord will plug into.
Then secure the OTHER end, insulating any exposed terminals from each other, to keep it out of mischief. Here I had some "male" pins on that end, which I simply stuck into the hanger-foam at maybe a 20° angle.
- The shallow angle won't put much strain on the LED strip wiring.
- The foam covers the sharp little points.
- The foam insulates the points from each other electrically so they can't short each other out.
Step 4: Get Wired
Remove the hanger-tip nearest the end of the LED strip where the power will plug in. Usually they unscrew. Try that first - turning while pulling gently - because those will go back on securely without glue.
(see second picture)
Attach the power cable. Again, this kit makes it really easy. There are arrows on the power connector and the LED strip that you just match up.
(see third picture)
Because the inside of the hanger-tip is hollow, you can route the cable into a gentle U-turn in there.
- Bending electrical cords too sharply, especially right where they go into a rigid piece like a connector, puts strain on the little wires inside that helps them break sooner.
- OF COURSE the cord will LET you bend it way too much; the manufacturer knows that if it breaks, you'll have to buy a new one!
Plug in, turn on, try out!
Step 5: RTFI: Read the Fabulous Instructions (and Safety Info)
- Try beginning with blue or white; LED-based phototherapy lamps tend to come in those colors.
- Turn the brightness up until it just starts to bother you, then back off until it doesn't quite bother you.
Your eyes' sensitivity to light can be drastically different under different ambient-light conditions and for different LED colors! To avoid "Aaack!" moments, CLOSE YOUR EYES and then open them SLOWLY:
- When you first turn the light on, or
- When you change the color. Moving off blue toward green or purple can be particularly startling if you keep your eyes open.
To find and noogie the pressure points for sinus (and some other) headaches:
- Gently press and roll the plastic hanger-tips around, spreading them apart or squishing them together if necessary, until you find one or more tender spots. They feel like when a pimple is starting, only way under the skin.
- Press a little harder and roll or wiggle over the tender spots. This should temporarily hurt a little but not a lot; maybe 4 on the 1-to-10 pain scale. When you let go it should feel as good or better than before you started. Here; more pain WON'T give you more gain, just a bruise that you'll have to explain.
If it pinches your nostrils shut and that bugs you, you can either:
- Move the hanger-tips away from your face so they grip the skin or bone of your nose instead of right over the nosttril, or
Loosen up the hanger-tips and hold the pince-nez in place some other way.
- A goggle-strap: Ribbon, elastic, neckties, dressing-gown sashes, etc. may be pressed into service. If you sew it on instead of tying or gluing, avoid poking the needle into the actual LED strip, see below.
- Attach it to a hat or cap (please post a picture here if you do)!
Safety: Goes without saying, which means I better say it: I tried my best to make this reasonably safe, but it's still an electric thing, so:
Don't get it wet.
- Keep it away from tubs, showers, pools sinks, steam-rooms hot-springs, navigable waters, etc.
- Don't put wet gloppy cream on your face underneath it or spray/mist.your face while wearing it.
- Dry, or securely towel-wrap, wet hair before using it.
- If you spill your (or someone else's) drink on it, turn it off, take it off, and don't touch it again till it dries.
- If the light strip gets crushed, squished, spindled, or mutilated, don't use it again unless you know for a fact it's OK.
Unless you know exactly what the Hello KittyTM you are doing,
- don't breach the LED strip's plastic covering, especally with anything metal,
- disconnect the power supply before touching any exposed pins or leads on the LED strip or any other electrical component, and
- make sure no pins or leads are touching the same piece of metal or sticking out in the air when you reconnect the power supply.
- I spent years of my professional life trying to get UV light to come out of various light sources and transmit through various materials, and it's harder than it looks.
- I've had zero "too-much-sun-like" symptoms from fiddling with blue LEDs, even very close to my face.
- But some people might be more sensitive than me, so: IF YOU FEEL BAKED, ITCHY, OR ANY KIND OF "WORSE" IN THE EYES OR NEARBY SKIN AFTER USING THIS, PLEASE BE SENSIBLE: STOP USING IT AND SEE A QUALIFIED HEALTH PROFESSIONAL TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IS WRONG.
Step 6: Background in Case You're Interested
- Like many products eligible for a "therapeutic" label, they are priced to milk insurance companies dry (not that most people's insurance covers stuff like this anyway!). Over the past few decades they've come grudgingly down from kilobucks to "just" a couple hundred bucks. Wow. What if part of the reason you're depressed is that you're, I dunno, POOR?
- A lot of them are these big "light boxes" you have to sit in front of and do nothing for as much as 3 hours a day. Pretty depressing all by itself!
Sometimes they don't work because the light reaching your eyes is too dim.
- The research papers say ya gotta get at least 10,000 lux to get a good effect.
- Apparently most vendors and many prescribers have no freaking clue what a "lux" is. It isn't radiance (~how much light comes out of the lamp). It's IRradiance (~how much light reaches a target, i.e., your eye). It decreases very, very quickly with distance between the lamp and the eye.
- So a fairly weak light close to your eye can give you as much lux as a much brighter one that's farther away.
- Sometimes they give you headaches, "spots," and other eyestrain kinds-a stuff because the light going to the MIDDLE of the retina is too BRIGHT.
- It matters where in your eyeball the light goes!! You need it around the periphery where the rods are, not in the middle where the cones are. The cones will saturate and bug you about it at levels where the rods are still "thirsty."
- Makers of expensive but hamfistedly-designed boxes don't want to get sued when your cones saturate and you get up and walk straight into a wall. So some of them tell you to put the light way off to the side - and, oh, let's be really safe, quite far away! (where incidentally you won't get nearly enough lux!)
- As with anything brain-related, individuals' mileage varies all over the place.
- I got the best results when the light was up very close, but at an oblique angle.
- Leaving the light in the same position for 10-15mins, I would start feeling better, then it would level off. BUT if I moved it to a different oblique orientation (same elevation, different azimuth; think of nibbling around the edge of an ice cream cone) the feeling-better would start to ramp up again. I figured I was hitting a different set of thirsty retinal rods; they're arranged in a ring around the central mostly-cones area.
- I wanted a light source that could hit all the rods at once, spare the cones, and allow me to read, watch a vid, write, draw, tinker, or something during my photon-absorbing time if I wanted or needed to.
- I needed it to be inexpensive. You do NOT want to hear about my last couple of years.
- I wanted to be able to try different colors and intensities to see what worked the best and whether it sometimes changed.