Have you ever wondered why doctors’ scrubs and surgical gowns are always blue or green? It’s not a random choice. According to the experts, those colors help surgeons see in the operating room. Stay with me here: 

Scrubs, gowns and drapes used to be white – because white is the color of cleanliness. But surgeons eventually realized that blue and green would be easier on the surgeon’s eyes and save lives. Why? Because the human brain processes information from the optic nerve on color-specific circuits. In other words, we have a red channel, a blue channel, and so on. And when we stare at one color for too long, that channel gets over-stimulated, and our ability to distinguish between different shades of that color drops dramatically. 

Which brings us to surgeons. Everything inside the human body is some shade of red or pink, and when a doctor’s eyes become desensitized to red, it’s harder for them to distinguish between veins, arteries and tissues – which puts lives at risk. But having another color nearby to gaze at for a few seconds gives surgeon’s eyes a break from the red, and it rests their red-wiring circuits. 

And the best colors are those that are on the opposite side of the color wheel from red and pink – namely, blue and green.

So, why not just use white scrubs and drapes?  Because if you stare at something red for too long – then look at something white – you see a ghostly-green after-image, a distracting image that shows up wherever you look – kind of like the bright, floating blobs you see after someone takes a flash photograph. Which means, the surgeon will be distracted every time they look away from the patient, say, to consult with the anesthesiologist. But if they look at blue or green scrubs, the ghostly after-images blend in so well that they’re not visible, and they won’t distract your surgeon in the middle of the operation.