Working Healthy

Healthy Living: Eye Health

Focusing on the tiny details of manicures and pedicures all day, not to mention the intricacies of nail art, can eventually take a toll on vision and eye health. If you’re experiencing blurry vision or other symptoms, find out what to do to alleviate the problem and what preventive measures you can take now to protect your eye health in the future.

Expert Opinion: Nail techs spend long hours each day performing very close, detailed work on their clients’ hands and feet. According to optometrist Jeffrey Anshel, founder of Ocular Nutrition Society, and author of Smart Medicine for Your Eyes, near-work of any kind can be a visual stress. This is true with students, artists, computer users, as well as nail techs. “The eyes are meant to do mostly distance viewing with occasional near-work during the day,” says Anshel. “Excessive close detail work can lead to the eyes ‘adapting,’ or relieving the stress by becoming ‘near-sighted.’ The two best ways to prevent or relieve this situation is to take breaks (look far away every half hour or so) and to using reading glasses to take over some of the focusing effort so the eyes are more relaxed.” Anshel cautions against drugstore reading glasses. Your eyes are invaluable, so invest in a prescription pair.

Nail techs also have concerns with chemical exposure in the salon. Anshel says the fumes from these chemicals can irritate the front surface of the eye and actually “dissolve” a part of the tear film that protects the eye, so good ventilation is absolutely critical.

Because eye problems are painless and slow to develop, people often don’t realize they have a visual issue. The only way to be sure that everything is going well is to get a comprehensive eye exam. “In general, every year is a good idea and easy to remember,” says Anshel. “Younger children (early school years) and older adults (over 50) need special care, but since eye problems are easier to prevent than resolve, an ounce of prevention goes a long way. Our vision is more than just 20/20, so be sure the doctor knows that you are doing intensive close work for long hours so that tests at this working distance are performed. Also, ask your eye doctor about nutrition recommendations for eye health.”

Tech Tips:
I went to the eye doctor because when I would look up after doing detailed work on nails, my vision was blurry. The doctor said my eyes need time to adjust before I could see clearly. I was focusing so hard on such a small canvas that my vision was locked-in at that distance. He suggested lubricating drops to keep my eyes from drying out and reading glasses so my eyes wouldn’t have to work so hard.
Eva Jenkins, , Extraordinary Nails by Eva, Bellevue, Neb.

I have been doing nails for 25 years, and now in the last year or two my eyes are really straining. I have to concentrate harder because of it sometimes. Thank goodness I can do nails in my sleep! By the end of the day when I look up, after focusing on such a small area all day, my eyes have to readjust again. My advice is to take frequent visual breaks if you can remember to do it. Nails are so small — I never really realized that until lately.
Perri Torres, Head to Toe Beauty Salon, Barstow, Calif.

Suggested Reading:
Smart Medicine for Your Eyes:
A Guide to Natural, Effective, and Safe Relief of Common Eye Disorders.

Optometrist and founder of Ocular Nutrition Society, Dr. Jeffrey Anshel, provides a comprehensive guide to eye disorders and their conventional and alternative treatments. From an overview of eye function and treatment methods, to a directory of eye disorders and their therapy options, to recommended procedures, this book is a valuable resource to keep on your shelf. 

For more information about Dr. Anshel and eye health, visit

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