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From dry eyes to tension headaches, eyestrain-related ailments can permanently impact your vision and ultimately limit the longevity of your career.

Forget monomer, nippers and even your e-file—your eyes are two of the most important tools that you use for your job. Unfortunately, spending long periods of time staring at your clients’ nails can result in eyestrain. Also known as asthenopia, eyestrain is a condition that occurs after extended use of the eyes, resulting in symptoms including blurred or double vision, redness, tension headaches, and burning, dry, watery or sore eyes. “Because nail professionals perform a significant amount of close-up work, the natural lens of the eye must constantly refocus and use a tremendous amount of power to see up close,” explains Dagny Zhu, MD, a Rowland Heights, California-based ophthalmologist and cornea, cataract and refractive surgeon. Though symptoms may only be temporary at first, eyestrain can have lasting effects, namely, vision problems. The good news? You don’t have to sacrifice the quality of your work in order to avoid straining your eyes. Read on to learn some easy ways to recognize the symptoms of eyestrain, along with efficient solutions to protect your peepers throughout the workday.

Spotting the Symptoms

Have you ever experienced a pounding headache or dry eyes after a day of back-to-back appointments? You’re not alone. Unfortunately, thanks to endless hours spent prepping nails, building meticulous acrylic extensions and creating detailed designs, eye irritation is extremely common, yet most nail artists write off any discomfort as “part of the job.” Ashland, Virginia-based nail artist Kenny Vo didn’t realize how much he was straining his eyes until a fellow tech pointed it out to him. “In order to see my clients’ nails, I was constantly moving the nail closer to my eye, to the point where it was only 6 inches away from my face,” admits Vo. Other often-overlooked symptoms include itchy or watery eyes, tension headaches and fatigue. Celebrity manicurist Mar y Sol Inzerillo admits that it wasn’t until she ultimately lost a client that she realized her vision was in trouble. “At a press event, I noticed one of my clients waving her hand at me to show off her nail art,” recalls the New York-based tech. “I started squinting to see her nails, but the client mistook my expression as a dirty look and no longer wanted to work with me.”

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Setting Up Your Space

Implementing a few changes into your workspace may drastically reduce eyestrain. “The eyes see best with light, so it’s imperative that your workspace has ample illumination,” stresses Dr. Zhu. Selecting the right type of lighting is critical. “Natural lighting is best, or opt for LED lights that mimic outdoor lighting,” suggests Los Angeles-based tech Nidia Guzman. Avoid bright fluorescent tube bulbs or yellow lighting, which may cause even more eye discomfort. Another factor to consider? Blue light, the type of light emitted from smartphones and tablets, can also irritate the eyes. To reduce its effects, limit screen time and turn down the brightness levels.

To minimize squinting, position the client’s hand as close to your eyes as comfortable. “Opt for a chair with lumbar support that allows you to sit straight up and see the client’s nails without leaning over the nail table,” suggests Los Angles-based nail artist Karen Rivas. Inzerillo also suggests using a hand rest to prop up your client’s hand. Don’t have a hand rest available? Follow Inzerillo’s lead and get creative. “On set, I’ll use a paper towel over a gel lamp and put my client’s hand on top, or I’ll even place the hand on a paper towel roll,” she says.

Relaxing the Muscles

Much like you wouldn’t lift weights for hours on end without taking a break, you must rest your eyes as well. Dr. Zhu’s top suggestion for relaxing the eyes is to follow the “20-20-20 rule”: Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. A few other easy exercises to implement regularly during your workday: Close your eyes, raise your eyebrows or massage the pressure points between your eyes. To relieve dryness, apply one drop of artificial tears or lubricating eye drops to each eye every few hours. You can also apply a cold eye mask at the end of the day to relieve any pain or discomfort.

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Next Steps

Still noticing eyestrain after an eight hour day? Glasses or magnification lenses may be the way to go. “If you’re in the presbyopic age range (over 40 years old), try using over-the-counter reading glasses within the range of +1.50 to + 2.50 power to enhance your vision while working,” advises Dr. Zhu. “The older you are, the higher power you need.” Traditional reading glasses not your thing? Invest in a freestanding magnifying lens or magnifying loupe glasses similar to what dentists or surgeons wear. (Bonus: Glasses or goggles can also protect your eyes from flying debris when filing.) Regardless of the state of your current vision, yearly eye exams are crucial for techs. “Annual eye exams can rule out any eye diseases that may contribute to eye strain, especially dry eye, which is frequently under-diagnosed,” stresses Dr. Zhu. “Nail professionals must take the proper measures now to prevent their vision from worsening,” agrees Guzman. “If we don’t, we could damage our eyes in a manner that prohibits us from working in the future.”

Eyestrain Facts*

Approximately 80% of all vision impairment globally is considered avoidable.

An estimated 1.3 billion people globally live with some type of vision impairment.

Roughly 61 million adults in the United States are at high risk for serious vision loss, but only half visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months.

Approximately 80% of American adults report using digital devices for more than two hours a day, with 59% experiencing symptoms of digital eyestrain.

Nearly 1.8 million Americans aged 40 years and older are affected by age-related macular degeneration, an eye disorder associated with aging that results in damaging sharp or central vision.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov; Vision Council, visioncouncil.org; World Health Organization, who.int

–by Taylor Foley

 

[Image: Getty Images]

This story first appeared in the July issue of Nailpro magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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