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Do Vision Improving Apps Work?

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Several years ago, while I was doing final sweeps through a book I’d just written, I began to notice that my eyes were having a hard time speeding through the manuscript. That didn’t really bother me, because the protagonist, a big-wave surfer named Greg Long, had such bad eyesight that he had trouble spotting giant waves on the horizon, and my situation wasn’t anywhere near that. Still, this was problematic. I’d always been a speedy reader who didn’t sweat small fonts, and I’d never needed glasses for navigating tricky terrain while mountain biking, surfing, or skateboarding. Yet one night, there I was, barely into my 50s, highlighting typos with a pair of 1.5x readers draped across my nose. I wondered, Is this my future?

What was happening to me—and will eventually happen to you, your younger brother, and Tom Brady—is called presbyopia. You don’t notice this condition initially, but presbyopia can start as early as age 30. Every five years after that, you’ll lose the ability to focus on one more line on the eye doctor’s letter chart. By 40, most of us will start noticing it, squinting here, moving the iPhone a little farther away from the face there, whether or not you’ve ever worn glasses. And right around the big 5-0, nearly all of us are afflicted.

Because I’ve never been hindered by a need to keep track of eyeglasses but I need to do a lot of reading for work, I dreamed of some outside-the-box solution to improve my eyesight rather than glasses or contact lenses. The first thing I learned is that presbyopia is correctable with surgery—monovision Lasik, corneal implants, or lens-replacement surgery—but I’m leery of having laser beams or scalpels etch my corneas.

Then one night while Googling the condition, I was led to an app called Glasses-Off. It promises to help you read type 50 percent smaller than you can right now and perhaps improve your reading speed significantly. There was even research indicating that the eye exercises it asked you to do could help you respond a few milliseconds faster to, say, a baseball flying at you, by improving a brain activity called visual processing.

What This App Requires You to Do

GlassesOff asks you to spend less than 15 minutes three times a week reacting by touch screen to tiny, blurry striped balls called Gabor patches as they flash across a featureless gray background. Early on, the patches are larger, slower, and better defined. As you progress, they appear and disappear more rapidly, eventually becoming mere ghostly dots that can be incredibly hard to see. And that’s the point.

The very idea that this app might be effective in improving my eyesight seemed suspicious, since nobody I knew who needed to wear reading glasses was talking about this $10-a-month app. And it seems even more far-fetched when you take biology into account. Presbyopia occurs when your eye’s flexible lens—which is the shape and size of a soft Skittle—isn’t so flexible anymore. To focus up close, you contract the muscles that hold the lens in place. As you age, that Skittle hardens. You compensate by squinting, but in time, not even that helps.

Presbyopia is a game of dominoes, and your lens is only the first to fall. The next is neurological: That blurring of everything you should be seeing hampers your ability to discern contrast and interferes with how smoothly your neurons stream visual data to your brain. Basically, presbyopia chokes visual processing, slowing down reading and even response times.

The History Behind These Eye Exercises

About 12 years ago, a neuroscientist named Uri Polat, Ph.D., director of the Visual and Clinical Neuroscience Lab at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Israel, wondered if he could get around that by harnessing the science of neuroplasticity—essentially training your brain to process what it is seeing faster and more clearly. This might have the benefit of enhancing not only near vision but also reaction times. Low image quality puts a load on your visual-processing abilities “and probably creates a bottleneck for the cognitive levels of the brain,” says Polat, now chief scientific officer of the company that developed GlassesOff.

In a recently published study, Polat’s app was tested on guys whose visual acuity really matters: Israeli fighter pilots. Their visual clarity improved by an average of 35 percent, and their responsiveness to visual cues went up 25 percent—crucial when trying to recognize a camouflaged enemy plane streaking toward you at 700 miles an hour. Research on American baseball players showed similar results. A study by Polat in Nature Scientific Reports found that users were able to speed through lines in the smallest font they could discern on a reading chart 25 words per minute faster than they could when they started using the app. People with the most advanced presbyopia had the greatest gains, raising reading speed from about 47 to 85 or so words a minute.

Those figures were impressive enough for me to be intrigued. GlassesOff is not the only vision-improvement app on the market, but it’s the only one with any serious scientific study. (One competitor, Ultimeyes, was fined by the FTC for claiming that it could improve vision without having published data to back it up.) But to believe it, I had to test it myself.

The Experiment

Since I wanted to know whether I was just imagining things or my eyes had really improved, I visited Hugh Wright, M.D., a lead ophthalmologist with the Roper St. Francis Hospital System in South Carolina, where I live. He measured both my distance and near vision at around 20/25. My near vision is better than average—on a par with that of a person in his late 30s—but now that I’m 52, my presbyopia is likely on an accelerating path.

I devoted the recommended ten minutes to GlassesOff almost daily and used it for eight weeks, the minimum required time to see results. The app is at first novel and challenging, but the repetition becomes monotonous. A month in, though, I was squinting less. Headlights and road signs seemed sharper. I stayed with it, and three months after my first visit to Dr. Wright, my chart vision remained pretty much the same, but I was now reading without glasses again. What was tough for me to decipher before—the five-point fine print on a Dale’s Pale Ale can—was clear to me now.

It could be because, according to the app, my contrast sensitivity had increased by 51 percent and what Polat terms my “brain processing speed”—the rate at which I’m able to recognize a Gabor patch onscreen—shot up by 80 percent.

Dr. Wright wasn’t ready to fully endorse GlassesOff, saying the evidence is too limited to wholly support enhancing neuroplasticity to reverse presbyopia. But he didn’t dismiss it, either. “Standard vision screening in clinics typically doesn’t assess for contrast sensitivity or visual response times, which GlassesOff does,” he said. “If patients see improvement in these areas, then I see it as a plus.” Those two measures are critical when dropping into a steep wave or skating vert, and that may matter to me more than what a static eye chart says. “Neuroplasticity is a very real thing,” Dr. Wright added. Making more connections is good for your brain performance, regardless of what it might do for your eyes. But, doctor that he is, he warned that the app shouldn’t be used in place of getting your eyes checked regularly or wearing glasses if you need them.

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Ultimately, both men agreed that nothing will completely halt presbyopia. Polat, of course, suggested that sticking with the program’s maintenance regime (12 minutes a day once every two weeks) would help prevent my vision from declining significantly.

Even if it’s not perfect, I’m still a writer and need to continue reading. And despite a skateboarding-related broken shoulder I wrote about for this magazine, sharing runs at the skate park with my ten-year-old son is about as rewarding as life gets. I need all the help I can find, so I’m going to stay with the app.

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12 Best Soaps for Men 2020

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You may not have thought about bar soap in a while, except when you’re suddenly confronted with it in a hotel room shower or a guest bathroom. It seems retro, like something you used when you were taking baths as a kid, but we say it’s time to re-examine the power of the bar.

Body washes may be exceedingly popular among men, especially those who struggle with dry skin, but the kind of clean you get from a bar soap is second to none. While they are not self-cleaning as Joey Tribbiani once claimed, they get the job done with less mess and can last longer than a bottle of wash.

Plus, in our current age of sustainability and eco-friendliness, bar soaps come with less waste. Think about it: they’re smaller, you can use them till they’re completely gone, and there is no plastic bottle to throw into the recycling bin when you’re done. Many soap companies are even changing their packaging to make bar soap an even greener option. In short: there is no way Greta Thunberg uses body wash.

Bar soaps are versatile and can be great for you no matter what your skin type. You can find a soap for oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, and everything in between. Check out the 12 best bar soaps and we promise, you won’t go back to the bottle.

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Baxter of California Vitamin Cleansing Bar

baxterofcalifornia.com

$18.00

One of the biggest complaints about bar soap is that they can make your skin feel too dry; not this one. It contains sunflower oil and glycerin to keep your skin hydrated and smooth all over. Plus, the citrus and musk fragrance is one of our favorite men’s scented soaps.

Method Men Sea + Surf Exfoliating Bar Soap

Exfoliating bar soaps have a little grit in them to help smooth away dry, dead skin cells and leave your body feeling clean and fresh. This one contains minerals, instead of microbeads (better for the environment) and the scent is fresh without being overpowering. 

Dove White Beauty Bar

This dermatologist-endorsed bar is one of the best for your face, but here’s a secret: you can use it all over your body, too, especially if you have sensitive skin. It’s contains gentle moisturizing ingredients that hydrate and clean skin without overstripping it.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Gentle Cleansing Bar

Another soap bar that can be used on your face as well as your body, this one includes colloidal oatmeal, which is known for its skin-soothing properties. It’s ideal if you struggle with sensitive or dry skin and other skin issues like eczema.

Beekman 1802 Goats Milk Bar Soap

Beekman soaps are hand made from natural ingredients. The brand says goat milk is a natural anti-inflammatory agent, which means it may help calm irritated skin while cleansing. All we know is that it smells damn good and leaves you feeling clean AF.

The Rich and Clean No 09 Bar Soap

therichandclean.com

$12.00

For guys with oily skin or who sweat a lot, the charcoal in this soap helps soak up excess oil and leave you fresh without that telltale tight feeling. The Japanese peppermint is said to help curb oil production, but also gives this soap a bite of fresh, but not overpowering, fragrance.

Caswell-Massey Cold Cream Luxury Bath Soap Set

Triple milled soap is known for its silky-smooth texture and it cleans effectively with less lather (which can strip away your skin barrier). The natural vegetable base of this soap is gentle enough for all skin types and the subtle almond fragrance smells fresh, without being in your face.

Ursa Major Morning Mojo Bar Soap

It’s called Morning Mojo, because the peppermint and eucalyptus fragrance in this soap gives you a jolt of clarity in the morning, even before you have your first cup of coffee. It has grit to it, but doesn’t feel rough on your skin, thanks to moisturizing honey and coconut.

PLANT Apothecary BE GENTLE Organic Bar Soap

This soap is heavy on the shea butter, which is great news if you have dry or sensitive skin. The ingredients are naturally-derived and sulfate-free, but still gives enough lather to adequately clean your whole body.

Oars + Alps Natural Moisturizing Alps Bar Soap

Want to smell like you just got back from a hike through the Rockies? This soap delivers a woody, outdoorsy scent that says “I’d rather be exploring.” It also contains shea butter, so it’s gentle on even dry skin.

Ethique Pumice, Tea Tree, & Spearmint Bar Soap

Ethique has every kind of bar you could imagine (even shampoo and conditioning bars), but we like this exfoliating and clarifying bar because it helps get rid of dead skin cells and excess oil at the same time. It’s ideal to keep in your gym bag for a refreshing post-workout shower.

Lush Karma Bar Soap

This handmade soap sounds like it would be overpowering, but it also has citrus which helps temper what could otherwise be a heavy fragrance. Bars are made fresh with natural ingredients and last for months.

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‘The Goop Lab’ Review – Inside Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix Series

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A few weeks ago, I passed along to a friend some CBD lip balm that had come across my desk. “Sure, I’ll take it,” the friend said. “And remind me—why would I want CBD in my lip balm?”

The best I could come up with was a shrug, because the mountain of evidence that backs up what it could do in a lip balm is pretty much flat ground right now. But people buy it. It’s trendy. They’re curious. They want to feel better, look better, be better.

Which is probably one of the reasons people are also tuning in to The Goop Lab, a 6-episode Netflix show that launches today, billed as a series “guiding the deeply inquisitive viewer in an exploration of boundary-pushing wellness topics.” It’s by Gwyneth Paltrow’s “lifestyle brand” Goop, of course, and the 30-ish minute episodes feature its staffers trying trends like psychedelics, cold therapy, energy healing, anti-aging, and psychics. It also explores female pleasure (hopefully not just a trend).

There are plenty of jabs you can take at the series, especially given Goop’s history of being slapped with penalties for making false claims about the products it sells (the essential oil that claimed to help prevent depression and the infamous Jade Egg). But passing on egregiously bad “facts” isn’t really one of them. In what’s probably a smart move for the company but a less helpful one for viewers, there aren’t a lot of them. In the first episode, staffers fly to Jamaica to take psilocybin—magic mushrooms—after a brief interview with the executive director of MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) Canada, who outlines some legit findings about psychedelics (sure, it could go deeper, but it’s not claiming to be an investigative show). Their experience is interspersed with testimonials (positive! Whaddya know!) by other people whose lives have been transformed by psychedelics.

The trouble is that when the Goop starts—with the cast in the mushrooms episode imbibing and then crying, hugging, wow-ing over the clouds—you just don’t care. All you see is a bunch of willowy superpeople trying this trend as if it were another hoodie from Supreme. The crying, the writhing, the exaggerated comforting hugs feel like an endless scroll through the narcissistic Instagram feeds that make you say, “Oh, congrats! You took another picture of yourself!”

Which can turn the very real quest for feeling better and doing better into a potentially exhausting try-the-trend circuit—or a potentially expensive buy-the-trend circuit, conveniently available on Goop.com. Which may be why, no matter how many times her elegant wrists get slapped, people keep coming back for more Gwyneth, more Goop, more stuff.

Maybe so many people love/hate The Goop Lab and Gwyneth because it’s the symbol of the thing we want to deliver but never quite does. It’s the thing that left us with an empty wallet and an empty spirit but a smoldering desire to have abundance in both. There it is, the empty tube of CBD lip balm (or roll of CBD toilet paper, or CBD hair products) that’s still making you scratch your head about what it does. Meanwhile, you’re suffering under your workload, your mom has dementia, that pain in your back keeps getting worse, and you can’t afford PT.

For a moment, The Goop Lab might take your mind off all that, if you can stand the Goopy patina of perfection, the peek into “real” experiences that feel as authentic as reality TV does. But at the end of the day, or the end of the episode, you’re still left wondering, “now, why do I need this?”

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James Corden Doesn’t Always Drive During Carpool Karaoke

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  • A behind-the-scenes video revealed that James Corden doesn’t actually drive during his Carpool Karaoke segments.
  • The fans are betrayed. The fans are angry. The fans feel lied to.
  • This is their story.

    Update: January 23, 4:28 pm

    The Late Late Show has released a statement about Corden’s Carpool Karaoke segment: “James always drives during Carpool Karaoke. However, on the rare occasion when there is a stunt component and the producers feel it is unsafe to drive, we will use a rig (tow).”


    January 22nd was a pretty nice day, full of promise and hope—until Twitter user @zolihonig revealed that James Corden is NOT actually driving during the ever-popular and Emmy-winning TV segment Carpool Karaoke, and he actually just pretends to drive while his shiny black Range Rover is actually pulled around on the road by a truck in front of it.

    But how could this be? We’ve seen Corden turn the wheel. We’ve seen him put his foot on the brake. We’ve even seen him, like, swerve out of the way of some unseen obstacle. Well, my dear reader, it turns out that Carpool Karaoke is Corden’s finest acting job since his role as Bustopher Jones in Cats.

    Fans were shocked at the news, and they made sure that betrayal was heard online:

    But even in the midst of all of this outrage, there were a number of people that were like “dude, why would you ever think he was actually driving?”

    While they are actually 100% right, and safety should always comes first, it still stings to know that Mariah Carey wasn’t really driven around by Corden, or that Michelle Obama had to smile and laugh through a fake car ride. And poor, poor Paul McCartney. Doesn’t Sir Paul deserve to be actually chauffeured around?

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