How can you protect your eyesight? Contact lenses require special care, and once you start wearing them, your eyes become more susceptible to irritation and damage than ever before. Not only must you handle and maintain your lenses carefully, but you must be aware that the environment you work in could be your eyes’ worst enemy. Dust, flying clippings, and chemicals pose a threat to your eye health and the safety of your contacts.

Beauty professionals deal with potentially harmful chemicals and processes every day. Yet, unlike workers in other potentially hazardous industries, they are not required to meet certain safety standards, such as wearing eye protection.

“The eyes have to be protected from splashes, flying clippings, and other debris,” says Doug Schoon, chief scientific adviser for CND.

It is important for nail technicians to be aware of potential hazards and be especially meticulous about keeping their hands clean when handling lenses.


Gas-permeable soft contact lenses are the most commonly worn type of contact lens. The lens material is very porous and actually attracts chemicals and dust.

“There is a tendency for these materials to associate chemically,” says Nellie Brown, director of Workplace Health & Safety Programs at Cornell University. “It’s just chemical nature.”

Because they are porous, soft lenses allow gases to pass through them to the surface of the eye, a function that is necessary so the lenses are softer, more flexible, and more comfortable. But they let chemical vapors, such as butyl acetate, toluene, and acetone, pass through to the eye as well, where they get trapped under the lens and cannot be easily cleaned away by the eye’s natural washing action.

Splashes and aerosols are also dangerous to contact lens wearers. Acid and alkaline solutions, found in primers, spray activators, and soaps, can do you harm wherever they land but are especially dangerous to eyes, where they may cause chemical burns and scarring. Acids sting and burn the moment they come in contact with your eye and most people will rinse them out at once just to get rid of the discomfort.

Alkaline solutions, on the other hand, may not irritate you at first, but they are dangerous and can cause damage if allowed to linger in the eye. Even if you rinse your eyes thoroughly, you should see an eye specialist immediately if you splash an alkaline or acid solution into your eye.

Dust is worse for contact lens wearers than for other people. Filings, clippings, and product particles that adhere to hands find their way into eyes, where they can irritate and scratch. No matter how much you want to, don’t rub your eyes. Rubbing can scratch the cornea or embed a minute particle in the eye. Abrasions and foreign matter can lead to infections and ulcerations of the cornea.[PAGEBREAK]

In terms of eye safety, the most dangerous parts of nail service for nail professionals are those that involve cleaning and disinfection, mixing and pouring of liquids, and improperly sealed or stored containers, says Schoon. The most dangerous substances are primers, adhesives, and disinfectants.

To protect yourself, he suggests using safety glasses, some of which can still be stylish. “Eye protection is important, but it doesn’t have to be safety goggles,” says Schoon. “There are wraparound-style safety glasses with sufficient splash protection for salon work, but they should be designed for this purpose.”

Eye doctors also recommend disposable (one-day-wear) or frequent replacement contact lenses. Since these lenses are replaced often, there is less time for substances such as protein, calcium, and lipids to build up in your lenses. The more frequently you replace your lenses, the healthier and more comfortable your eyes can be.

Eye doctors often recommend one-day-wear disposal lenses to keep eyes healthier.

Eye doctors often recommend one-day-wear disposal lenses to keep eyes healthier.


Dr. Lincoln L. Manzi Jr., an eye specialist in Fountain Valley, Calif., urges immediate and plentiful irrigation of the eye if you do get something in it. To irrigate the eye properly, first remove the lens, then rinse the lens and wash out the eye with plenty of sterile irrigating solution, such as sterile eyewash or a commercial sterile saline solution.

Look carefully in a mirror to see that everything is out of the eye. Inspect the eyelid, too, then inspect the lenses for damage. Keep eyewash on hand, even if no salon employees wear contact lenses.

Many of the problems contact lens wearers encounter in the salon can be tied to inadequate ventilation. Though there are far more ventilation systems available for sale today than 10 years ago, Schoon says proper ventilation hasn’t improved much over the years. “All nail professionals should work with proper ventilation. It’s mandatory in my opinion,” he says.

For now, technicians and salon owners must evaluate the level of risk that is acceptable to them and improve working conditions. Be aware of the proper way to care for your lenses and your eyes because, as Cornell’s Brown notes, “The eyes are more easily damaged than the rest of our skin and a lot harder to replace.”

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