Do You See What’s On My Lashes? Tips for the Hygiene Talk

Whether you offer aesthetics services or not, it’s important to talk to patients about their eye care hygiene.
Photo Credit: Moment, Getty Images

I’m the Visionary Founder of BeSpoke Vision in Edmonton, Oklahoma. In our office, we see primary care patients, we have a dry eye center, and we fit specialty contact lenses, including myopia management and scleral lenses. We also offer aesthetics services, including neurotoxin, intense pulse light therapy (IPL), radiofrequency (RF), laser resurfacing, and microneedling. 

While much of aesthetics is focused on how the eyes or skin around the eyes look, how we take care of our eyes and our skin is equally as important. As an eye care professional, it is my responsibility to communicate with patients about their aesthetics services, as well as how they can care for their skin and eyes and maintain proper hygiene. All patients need to know how to properly care for the delicate eye area. The skin is only 0.5 mm thick around the eyes, so it needs to be treated differently. We don’t want harsh soaps or toxic ingredients migrating to the ocular surface and causing infection or creating any other health complications. That’s why it’s critical that we master these conversations with patients. 

Be the Resource for Your Patients
When it comes to talking with patients about eyelid hygiene, we need to wear our ECP hats to the fullest extent. Currently, there is no great resource for the public where they can ask questions and have an expert answer them. We’re their doctors, and we need to be able to provide that to them. I take this responsibility seriously in the exam room, and I make sure that I touch on all the most important parts of eye care, while also giving the patient time to ask any questions they have. 

It’s important to me to talk with my patients about proper cleansing and care habits, safe products that they can use around their eyes, as well as the things they’re currently doing that may be harmful to their eye health long-term. Sometimes patients only hear what they want to hear, but I still think it’s important for them to know the long-term risks associated with the choices they make. It’s not fair for our patients to continue to make certain choices when they don’t have all the proper information. I use this time to recommend products such as makeup removers, facial cleansers, eye creams, eyeliners, mascaras, and eyeshadows, that are created with our eye health in mind. 

Talk to All Patients About Eye Health
I like to have hygiene and care-related conversations with all patients regardless of age or gender. The younger the patients are the better. The earlier they start proper eye care and hygiene habits, the longer these habits will set in and become part of their daily routines. Typically, I’ll start talking about hygiene with patients as soon as they’re mature enough to handle the responsibility, understand what I’m talking about, and show an interest in taking care of their eye health. This can be as young as 9 or 10 years old.

The general information I share includes the importance of regular sunscreen use, wearing sunglasses, and proper cleansing practices. Eyelids are the most common place to get skin cancer, and most of us never put sunscreen on our eyelids. This is something I talk about with every patient that comes into my office. Similarly, if patients aren’t wearing polarized sunglasses, their eyes are overexposed. 

For my patients who wear makeup, we have a more focused discussion. This includes the proper ways to remove makeup, what ingredients to avoid in makeup and makeup removers, and more. I like to include things that are helpful and things they should avoid. Mild cleansers such as micellar water or hypochlorous spray are helpful for use around the eyes. Conversely, patients should avoid harsh cleansers that are aggressive, drying, and strip oils from the skin. In our office, we carry several eye-safe beauty brands, including Eyes Are the Story, Epionce, Twenty Twenty Beauty, ICO, and more. 

Lean on Your Staff Members
Getting comfortable talking to patients about their eye care and health is a critical part of our jobs as health care providers. However, this doesn’t come naturally to all of us, especially when it comes to hygiene-related products. My best advice would be to lean on your staff members if you’re really struggling to be effective in your patient communication. Find a champion in your office who is passionate about this topic. Once you finish the exam, you can hand off the patient, and the staff member can carry on the conversation where you left off. Think of this person as your optician who is filling the prescription you wrote, except in this case, this is your ocular hygienist who is educating your patient on what you prescribe for them.  

Patients are hungry for this information, and you’ll be surprised how grateful they are to see you as a resource. Lean on publications for the latest insights and research findings that can be helpful to share with patients in the exam room. One great resource I worked on with 11 physicians from around the world is the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society Lifestyle: Impact of Cosmetics on the Ocular Surface publication. This can be a very helpful resource as we’re thinking of improving our hygiene communication skills.

  • Selina McGee, OD, FAAO

    Selina R. McGee, OD, FAAO, is the founder of Precision Vision of Edmond in Oklahoma and is also immediate past-president Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians. To contact her: [email protected]

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