Erika Mabus, OD, Takes Readers into the World of Organic Products

NEW YORK—On Instagram, Organic Optometrist is an airy page, with carefully curated posts whose color schemes mostly feature green, blue and white. Curated by Erika Mabus, OD, Organic Optometrist is not just a page made to please the eye, it was made purposefully to educate its viewers on some of the skincare products in the ever-changing organic product market. Created in January of this year, Organic Optometrist has garnered over 1,000 followers in just 10 months.

“I started Organic Optometrist after being diagnosed with periocular and perioral dermatitis (PD) as a way to share what I was going through, but also as a way to find more joy in my career,” said Mabus, who own two practices in Muncy and Laporte, Penn. “I wanted a way to share what I was learning about organic products because I was completely changing everything I used in my home. I also wanted an outlet for my passion for optometry that didn’t have to be tied to a physical location.”

Mabus has used the process of learning about organic products as a way to teach her patients and readers about different nuances within the organic product market. Because so many people are going green, there is so much misinformation going around that Mabus wanted to do her part in giving appropriate and helpful information to her patients, as well as the average person aiming to make a change in their life.

“I wanted to share the information I was learning, because a lot of it was blowing my mind,” she told VMail Weekend. “People think that if there is a product on the shelf then it is safe, but the FDA doesn’t review products or ingredients (aside from color additives and active ingredients that are considered OTC drugs). Also, most personal care product claims like ‘natural’ or ‘hypoallergenic’ are unregulated as well, and lead to one huge problem that I don’t think many people know about called greenwashing; there are people that choose to purchase something because they believe it’s a healthier product (because of claims on the packaging), but in reality, there are hidden harmful ingredients.”

All products that she showcases on her page are products she uses regularly. Through apps such as Think Dirty or the Environmental Working Group, as well as recommendations from other Instagrammers, Mabus scouts for products that work for her and don’t irritate her skin. Occasionally, she has accepted products from companies but with the exception that they are products that she can actually use, as opposed to mere endorsements.

“The products I have been gifted have also had clean, organic ingredients so I have been happy to try them,” Mabus explained. “If a company with products containing ingredients that wouldn’t work with my skin sent me any samples, I would certainly not have tried them and I most definitely wouldn’t endorse them on my page.”

Her life as a practitioner also serves as easy inspiration for the content she posts. Mabus said, “The topic of ocular aesthetics is on the rise, because I can’t go a day without someone asking me about lash lengthening serums, dry eye/MGD prevention and treatment, or seeing someone with eyelash extensions on. Even my sister-in-law and best friend have been getting eyelash extensions nonstop this summer and I never thought they would be the kinds of girls who cared about that kind of thing. I also have had more questions about hordeolums and chalazions from patients this summer than any year before.”

Because the average person interacts with their eyes more frequently than they notice—whether it’s applying fake lashes, using mascara or merely scratching—it’s important that they be educated on ways to prevent infections or other eye-related issues. “Patients are increasingly struggling with ocular surface disease, contact dermatitis, and periocular dermatitis, and I can’t believe that the products we use around our eyes do not play a part in that,” she said. “If patients can minimize any irritation that may occur by just making a few small changes to the mascara, make-up remover, eye liner, eye shadow, face wash or soap, laundry detergent, etc. then I think most patients would happily try healthier products.”

Because she is a full-time practitioner, keeping the page updated can present its challenges. “I know I should be pre-planning posts so they’re ready to go when I am ready to post, but sometimes life happens,” Mabus said. “The actual photo-taking process can take forever. I try to use the weekend as a time to catch up on taking pictures, but I purchased my private practice on Sept. 6, so there was a lot of time leading up to that and then afterward where my focus was definitely not on my Instagram page.”

Despite having to manage her packed schedule and the page, according to Mabus, the most rewarding aspect of having Organic Optometrist is all the connections she’s made. From fellow optometrists, optometry students, opticians, optometric technicians, to women in medicine, and green beauty enthusiasts, Organic Optometrist has allowed Mabus to be in contact with people interested in all the topics she cares about.

As she continues to grow Organic Optometrist, Mabus is hopeful that her page will remain a place where people can get accurate and helpful information regarding green products they use not only around their eyes, but in their day-to-day lives as well.

“First and foremost, I hope people find joy from my Instagram page. I post about products because I use and love them, and they have helped me heal my own skin. But I also like sharing my life at home and at work because it produces greater opportunities for me to engage with the people following this account. I hope people find value in the educational things I choose to post because I really care about the health of everyone’s eyes, as well as their overall health,” she said.