How we choose our products
This is a small company. Very small. And pretty casual. We don’t even aspire to a business plan, let alone a formal product review process with focus groups and such. No, this shop evolves organically (my favorite euphemism for “chaotically”) in response to needs and feedback - sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, always constrained by cash, sometimes constrained by personal fastidiousness.
I tried to write a simple list of random products and a quick explanation of how they came to be added to the shop. But these things are so closely intertwined with our history… it’s really hard for me not to tell whole stories once I get started.
A random sampling of products and how they came to be in our shop
Dwelle, Dakrina and NutraTear (2004) a/k/a Dr. Holly's Drops. Trying to rescue these drops from extinction was what gave rise to The Dry Eye Company in the first place. I didn't really know what I was doing, and ran far short of being able to keep them going for more than a few years. I will always mourn the loss of these great drops - especially now, as a longtime scleral lens user... NutraTear, the pink drop, was not just the greatest little drop in the world but really the only really, really good drop for wetting the top of a lens. - I first came to know Dr Holly way back in the days of the SurgicalEyes forum, where all us LASIK and RK complications patients used to congregate. He was so kind with sharing his expertise at a time when no one was helping or bothered to try to understand dry eye patients. His science has, in my opinion, never come close to being rivaled in the world of drops.
Tranquileyes (2005): My then partner Cindy ran across Eye Eco’s booth at the SECO conference in Atlanta where we were debuting Dr Holly’s Drops - before the DryEyeShop had officially opened its doors. That was the beginning of a long relationship with Eye Eco's lovely founder, Suzanne. Eye Eco has been a key supplier and partner in the dry eye world ever since. No other company has come near pouring into the world of dry eye what she has.
Panoptx glasses (2006): This was way back before Panoptx became 7Eye, and years before the emergence of any glasses actually designed for dry eye. Foam lined glasses existed and were marketed for bikers and skiers. True, they showed up on a few obscure patient-run websites, and a few cornea specialists recommended them, but the growing niche of using protective glasses for dry eye was still mostly far under the radar. However, enough was known by those who do that the then-CFO of Panoptx had left to found her own company (Eye Eco) to help people with dry eye. And for a brief moment in time, Panoptx themselves employed someone specifically to form partnerships and market their glasses for dry eye (anybody remember Rosemary?) I invited her to Florida for a teensy one-of-a-kind dry eye patient conference, and after starting to use their glasses myself to venture outdoors, it was about that time that I started stocking their glasses. True, they gave up the marketing thing shortly after, but their sales staff matured into doing a great job supporting dry eye patients. They were later sold and re-staffed; the new company has developed some new Ziena Eyewear products specifically for dry eye.
Rebecca’s Rice Baggy (2007): This was in the relatively early days of Eye Eco’s Tranquileyes product and it was just barely starting to get the recognition it deserved. While many people loved Tranquileyes for its luxurious moist compresses, I was also hearing from shoppers who wanted to avoid petroleum products (foams, rubbers), and I wondered if we could come up with something completely natural and organic. I had no ambitions for sophisticated product design and rice baggies are the epitome of simplicity… but it did take us quite awhile to track down exactly the right dye-free organic cottons. At the time I first started selling them, we actually had a choice of slipcovers - the classic jersey knit we still have, but also “Sherpa”, a super thick fuzzy cotton, and some striped ones using natural greens and browns.
Eye Spa Pad (2007). 2007 was the year Dr Latkany, a visionary who specialized in dry eye quite some time before specializing in dry eye became a thing, brought out his book “The Dry Eye Remedy”. It was also a time when good solid information and advice was still quite scarce, and we were very happy to welcome him in a dedicated Q&A forum on DryEyeTalk forums where he participated for a long time. His book really was very helpful in educating people about meibomian glands - something that had hitherto been almost completely overlooked - and in general the practical, day to day aspects of caring for dry eyes. He had had the foresight to collect a lot of products in that process, including Dry Vites (anybody remember those? A fish/flax oil product) and the Eye Spa Pad which was a really nice, inexpensive, washable way to do microwavable moist warm compresses.
PROSE disinfection cases (2008): Actually this goes further back than 2008. Any of you remember the originals - about half the size (volume, that is) of the current ones? It was back before they were called PROSE, if I remember right. I began wearing PROSE in 2006, and have been a big fan of BostonSight ever since. Stocking the cases in the shop was a good thing all round, it meant that the nonprofit didn’t have to deal with all the logistics of supplying all their patients with replacements, and it opened a new little niche for me as soon after I started stocking other things like DMV plungers. Mind, this was way back before sclerals became “a thing”. In those days no one had ever heard of them, and they sure weren’t sold on Amazon.
Onion Goggles (2008). G. posted about these on DryEyeTalk. They’re a cheap knockoff of Panoptx, made for cooks, and great for dry eye on a budget. She ran across them in a catalog. I found they were distributed by RSVP, just across the water from us in Seattle, and I started stocking them. To me this was a super important product because it was a cheap way to introduce people to the whole concept of moisture-retaining glasses. By this time I was convinced that “moisture chamber” glasses were the simplest, most effective, lowest risk way of getting people in pain more comfortable quickly, regardless of whatever medical treatmens they were pursuing, and I was a huge fan, but most people didn’t understand and naturally didn’t want to invest in the brand names (and 7Eye glasses were actually more expensive then than they are now) - not to mention all those on fixed incomes who couldn’t have afforded them anyway. Till Onion Goggles, putting weatherstripping (or equivalent) on glasses seemed like the only workaround. Ever since Onion Goggles came out I’ve been keeping an eye out for others in low price ranges that provide some protect while, at least in some cases, looking slightly less ridiculous! Guard Dogs, another great small company in California, make some of my favorite outdoorsy ones, and we’ve recently had some great cheap ones from Global Vision. I live in hope someone will bring out cheap dry eye glasses that look more like glasses.
Onyix & Quartz (2009), EyeSeals (2014), EyeSeals 4.0 (2015): Since 2003, Eye Eco has been and remains the ONLY company out there dedicated to designing, making and promoting products to protect our eyes from overnight dryness, and it’s simply a matter of course that any new products they come out with, I will stock. Our job with these types of products then becomes helping people figure out which will is most likely to suit their particular needs, helping them jury-rig them for special requirements, and encouraging them to share the info with their doctors - because even after all these years, far too few eye doctors are aware of these types of products.
NITEYE (2014). I wish I’d written down all these stories when they happened… my memory for the details just isn’t serving me well enough. But somebody told me how much these bandages were helping them. I think maybe it was around the time of one of those company mergers and it was really difficult to find a supplier, and the manufacturer was trying to avoid selling them retail direct to consumers, so I picked some up to make them easier to find. It’s been really interesting since then watching the developments. I always thought of adhesive as something to be avoided - and that’s true where possible, but there are many people for whom a sealed bandage simply is the only workable solution. (Later, I started stocking Ortolux because the bubble is much lower profile so it can fit under glasses, but the adhesive is harder on the skin.) Once we started offering subscriptions, I’ve been surprised to see how many people get a box or two every month. In fact, NITEYE’s adhesive isn’t actually that bad. My ideal night bubble product would marry the lower height bubble of Ortolux with the practicality of NITEYE and the extremely kind-to-skin adhesive of Mepitac tape. Ha, speaking of which:
MEGs (2015-16). I happened to meet Dr Yee at a conference in San Diego a couple of years earlier when he was first considering prototyping some dry eye glasses. I was eager to stock his Micro-Environment Glasses when they came out. We had to discontinue stocking them for various reasons, but as of this writing, they're still around and worth a look.
Mepitac tape (2015): N. in Mississippi emails me, again, telling me what a great tape it has been for him and how much better than the other ones. (Incidentally, Neil is the same one who put me onto the Kind Removal - a/k/a NexCare Sensitive Skin - tape back when that was the first silicone tape readily available but before it was easy to find in drugstores. So all of you who heard about it here, it’s because of Neil.) I buy some on Amazon, try it out, enthusiastically agree with Neil, find a supplier and add it to the shop. Start to finish? About a week.
EZI lens applicator ring (2015): Sadly, I don’t remember who put me onto this one, but it really excited me because there were always people who had special insertion needs and difficulties and for just the right niche use, this proved valuable. (Speaking of which, for those who are wondering… I would be stocking those lighted inserter stands if I possibly could… been waiting years to be allowed :) Meantime, please visit dalseyadaptives.net for them.)
Purilens (2015): D. emailed me mentioning this product, at a time when I was starting to get concerned about Unisol but hadn’t really done much looking around for an alternative. I ordered some, checked out the labeling, talked to the makers, used it with my sclerals, and it seemed to me a perfect lookalike for Unisol except that the bottle was both better made (doesn’t squirt saline in all direction) and worse for my purposes (makes a bigger hole, so you run out faster) and was labeled for two weeks instead of 30 days. I started ordering some. In a pretty short space of time we went to larger, and larger, and larger UPS shipments till then we started getting it on pallets and the rest is history.
LacriPure (2016). I think I came across this on in a news release though I can’t actually remember (sad as it was relatively recent… but then it was during a super crazy, sleep deprived period of our history). This was my first contact with Menicon, a really nice company in MA. They brought out this preservative free saline shortly after the discontinuation of Unisol 4, at the height of the Purilens shortages, and when the market was screaming for preservative free salines and the only other alternatives were products sold for respiratory therapy (still popular, because of the lower pricing, with scleral lens users). They were the first saline labeled appropriately for the purpose, and specifically referencing the filling of scleral lenses, which was a breakthrough. Their vial design, while unusual and not everyone’s favorite, is the only 5mL type that is arthritis friendly!
ClearCare (2017): This is more of a commodity… and it motivated me to overcome a longstanding grudge and start talking to Alcon about setting up an account. The reason was that many people were coming to rely on us for almost all of their other products related to their PROSE and sclerals, and it just made sense that we would also offer this staple so that they could get everything in one place. ClearCare was our last holdout. (Actually, for a time, I stocked Ocusoft’s generic, till they quit making it.) - I finally buckled, and then one thing led to another - they have many products our customers also want, like Genteal Gel. It’s a slippery slope. It’s handy for people to be able to throw in a box of this or that when they’re ordering other things, and we’re trying to oblige.
WeLoveEyes lid hygiene & makeup removal products (2017): The optometrist in Seattle who fitted my EPP lenses, Roya Habibi, had great things to say about them. That was enough for me.
This is what happens when I start reminiscing - I go on and on and on…. I will stop now, I promise. Well, maybe just one more:
Drops, then (2005) and now (2018):
The Dry Eye Company was originally started to rescue some little known drops (Dwelle, Dakrina and NutraTear) from obscurity. The effort was ultimately relatively short lived and unsuccessful, but those of us who knew and loved those drops will never forget them.
Since then, by and large, I’ve eschewed sales of eyedrops in general, with just a few exceptions - generally it’s been drops that aren’t sold in drugstores and I’ve always liked stocking things that people might not hear about otherwise - as well as, of course, stocking things made by small companies, in general. (Actually, I just checked and it looks like I started stocking Oasis Tear & Tears Plus way back in 2010. This was at the invitation of an old friend, actually an industry rep who worked for them for awhile but whose wife has severe dry eye and he was a really helpful advocate-and-answerer-of-questions, especially about plugs, in our forums for a long time.)
Fast forward to 2017, which became a watershed year for us in terms of setting up accounts with pharmaceutical companies and stocking ordinary “name brand” drops, something I’d diligently managed to avoid for years. When I finally buckled, true to form, it was mostly accidental and happenstance in each case, but some of them took forever for me to get an account set up because these companies don’t sell to companies like mine, only to large distributors - who only sell to pharmacies! So I basically had to persuade them that I’m serving an underserved market and couldn’t they please just treat my account like their physician accounts? Thankfully all those I pursued eventually said yes. Though that also means I get doctor pricing, which is unrelated to wholesale pricing… doctor pricing assumes the doctors are able to mark it way up to sell in their practice, something we obviously can’t do on the internet, so the financial reasoning (or lack thereof) behind stocking these is questionable, but I’ms till glad we have them as there are so many people that wanted us to. Examples -
Alcon. When I went after Alcon it was because I wanted ClearCare (preservative free and the best, in my opinion, disinfection regimen for PROSE and sclerals) because so many PROSE & scleral lens customers were asking for it - they wanted to be able to ‘bundle’ it with plungers and saline and such to save on shipping. But… Alcon also has all the Systane products, which I’ve never personally liked but there are many who do… and also the Genteal Gel product which I’ve always felt was - at least for many people - a reasonably user friendly grease-free alternative to ointments. So one thing led to another.
Bausch & Lomb. B&L was the first (and, as of this writing, only) company to bring out a buffered preservative free saline in the wake of the Unisol 4 discontinuation. While it’s predictably pricey, its 10mL sizing is very travel friendly and it’s a personal favorite. I added it to the shop on principle (we want all PF salines in one place so people can see and compare them all) and to give it more visibility (very unlikely it will show up in drugstores anytime soon).
Allergan. Ahhh the makers of Restasis. Sigh. I finally caved on Allegan too, and not just because people were always asking for Refresh. It was actually scleral lens and PROSE users’ needs that I was thinking of most - so many of them are using Refresh Celluvisc “off label” as a partial filler for their lenses, as it seems to help prevent fogging and/or mucous for some users. This has been explained, and will continue to be explained, repeatedly, in the forums and facebook groups, but I thought it would be helpful to have it listed online too, albeit wrapped in all the obligatory “off label usage” language. Once again, the slippery slope! Once I had an account set up and saw the entire Refresh line right there, well, one thing led to another. - Actually, it probably would have been sometime down the road for us yet if it weren’t that our team did an exhibit at the GWCO conference in Portland this year (mostly for fun) and I happened to pick up a flier from the Allergan booth guys about their new online ordering system.