I wrote the following lightly edited article for VisionAware.org. (B&VI stands for blind & visually impaired).
Editor’s Note: The week of March 11 was World Glaucoma Week. Peer advisor Steph McCoy, Founder, and CEO of Bold Blind Beauty, has written eloquently about her journey with this eye condition. As a real fashionista, in this post, she shares her thoughts on fashion trends, an important topic as Spring approaches.
Does Loss of Vision Equal Frumpy?
There’s a misconception that sight loss equals frumpy and unfashionable. Likewise, there’s a silent societal expectation where people with sight loss shouldn’t be fashionable.
The truth is, there are people with sight who either aren’t interested in or have a lack of fashion sense. Also true, there are people who are blind or have sight loss, and they love fashion.
Thankfully, maintaining a sense of style and keeping a finger on the pulse of trends isn’t wholly reliant on eyesight. Like anything else, we can continue to enjoy and immerse ourselves in the world of fashion if we desire.
While the fashion industry still has a way to go where inclusion is concerned, the Internet has improved access to information. The Internet has made it possible for individuals with disabilities to become mouthpieces for change.
Fashion Trend Resources with Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired In Mind
Today, there are many blind and visually impaired fashion content creators with plenty of room for more. With this in mind, here are few tips to help a person who is blind or visually impaired remain connected to fashion.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
When you know your style, stick with it.
Keep it simple and classic.
For trendsetters, taking risks is part of the fun in fashion, continue doing what you do.
Expand Your Fashion Resource Network
Follow and engage with fashion bloggers, vloggers, and writers. You can find them on blogging platforms, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
Read about and discuss the latest trends, styles, and seasonal colors with friends who have similar tastes and interests.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone you trust who will give you honest feedback.
Testing new looks? Take photos and share with your trusted online community or friends and family for feedback.
Easy Low Tech Fashion Resources
QVC does a remarkable job in describing their merchandise. Following is a small sampling of their fashion segments.
Morning Q Live – Style Edition
Amy’s Closet (Amy Stran)
Denim & Co.
Susan Graver Style
Seek Professional Assistance
Professional consultants develop in-depth personal profiles to suit individual needs
Personal Shopper/Styling Service
As blind and visually impaired people, we face our share of barriers. We are not what’s happened to us, and we have the power of choice. Thankfully, we can choose how to move forward with our lives and allow fashion trends to play a role.
Fashion Trends Featured Image Description:
Tri collage of “yours truly” posing in front of my counter with my white cane wearing a black off the shoulder choker top, white jeans, black suede chunky high heels and silver jewelry.
I wrote the following article on Alzheimer’s for VisionAWARE. November is National Awareness Month for Alzheimer’s and Caregiver appreciation month.
Twenty years ago Alzheimer’s took my grandmother. And now my mother has been diagnosed with it. Though the contrast of how the disease manifested itself between my grandmother and mother was significant, after consulting with my mother’s physicians, it seems that 13 years ago, the clock began ticking for my mother.
While my grandmother lived with the most severe symptoms of Alzheimer’s for roughly five years prior to her death, the disease progressed slowly in my mother. Fear, denial, and disability, contributed to mom’s stubborn refusal to be assessed and ironically enough these factors allowed her to live independently up until three months ago. Continue reading…
In recognition of Women’s Eye Health Safety during the month of April I wrote the following article that was published on visionaware.org.
Oh, the wonders of makeup. It’s one of those things that from the time we are young girls we cannot wait to get glammed up with cosmetics. The use of lipstick, blush, mascara, and eye shadow is not only transformative; it’s almost magical. But did you know there are dangers lurking in your cosmetics arsenal, especially when it comes to your eyes?
The Past and Present of Eye Makeup
“Eyes are captivatingly beautiful. Not because of the color but because of the words they hold within them.” This quote from an unknown author speaks to the powerful mystique of the eyes. From as far back as ancient Egypt women and men enhanced their eyes with makeup for cosmetic, medicinal and religious purposes.
Today, we’ve come a long way from just using colors and liners to beautify our eyes. We have choices like mascara, eyeliners, false eyelashes and eyelash extensions. We also use eyelash enhancer serums, eyelash dye, permanent eye makeup and colored contacts. All of these intensifying enhancements of our eyes can have a dramatic effect on our overall appearance.
Cosmetic Secrets You Need to Know
Damaging our eyes through the use of cosmetics is not something we typically associate with makeup but harmful bacteria, ill-advised application techniques, some types of cosmetics, and certain procedures can have harmful and lasting effects on our vision. Below we’ll look at four cosmetics/procedures, associated risks, and what can be done to remain safe.
1. Eyelash extensions are individually glued to each natural eyelash to increase volume and length to lashes.
Formaldehyde is one of the ingredients used in many of the glues for false eyelashes and extensions. Allergic reactions, swelling, inflammation, infections and even the loss of natural lashes are some of the issues that can arise from the use of extensions and false eyelashes.
Careful consideration and research should be done prior to using false eyelashes or eyelash extensions. Reviewing the list of ingredients in the adhesive for potential red flags could help avoid eye injury. Going to a reputable establishment is highly recommended.
2. Eyelash enhancer serums help promote natural lashes to become longer and lusher.
The side effects to some of these serums are itching, redness of the eye and darkening of the eyelids and iris.
Consultation with your doctor prior to using any eyelash enhancer serum is recommended, especially if you are currently on a treatment plan for glaucoma or any other eye condition.
3. Permanent eyeliner is a tattoo application that replaces the need for liquid, pencil or gel eyeliner. It can be done on the upper/lower or both lids.
Irritation or infection can result from the use of pigment applied to the delicate skin around the eye.
This procedure is relatively safe if done by a reputable salon. I checked with my ophthalmologist who said that there is no danger of sight loss from the use of permanent eyeliner. However if you are considering this for yourself I recommend following up with your doctor.
4. Colored contacts for cosmetic use are packaged under different names (decorative, Halloween, doll-eyed, theatrical, etc.) but they all change the appearance of the iris. To learn more about colored contacts read Maureen Duffy’s post titled “Halloween,Lady Gaga, and Cosmetic Contact Lenses.”
In the U.S., all contacts (corrective or non-corrective) are considered medical devices and require a prescription. The risks on the use of these contacts are the same as with prescription contact lenses. Some of these risks include: corneal scratches, conjunctivitis, infection, decreased vision and blindness.
Always get a prescription for cosmetic contacts. Wash your hands before handling lenses, never share contacts with another person, only use contact lens solution for cleaning and storing lenses, follow the doctor’s instructions.
Cosmetic Eye Safety Tips
In addition to all of the above, being aware of harmful ingredients in cosmetics is a key step in preventing allergic reactions or infections in the eyes. Dangerous ingredients such as parabens, petrolatum, formaldehyde, fragrance, phthalates and many others can be found in mascaras, eyeliners, and glues. I have heard it said that if you can’t pronounce the name of the ingredient it probably isn’t safe for use in or on the body. In addition, contrary to what many believe, the FDA does not approve any tints or dyes for eyelashes and eyebrows. Though the FDA takes a strong stance on the use of color additives, they do not regulate the ingredients in cosmetics. In view of this the burden is on us, the consumer, to become personal product safety advocates. We have to do the necessary legwork to ensure that the cosmetics we are using, especially those that we use on our eyes, are safe. So, I have listed some resources from the FDA below for further information.
Follow Good Eye Safety Tips
Even though you’ve done your homework, and learned how to properly apply makeup as a visually impaired person choose eye makeup deemed safe, avoid specialized procedures like eyelash extensions or permanent liner. Unfortunately, These steps still don’t make you immune to allergies or infections, so follow these steps to minimize these situations:
Always wash your hands before applying your eye makeup
When applying eyeliner do so at the lash line and not inside the eye
Throw away mascara at 3 months (perfect breeding ground for bacteria is the dark, moist container)
Throw away dried out mascara do not add liquid to it to extend its life
Throw away liquid eyeliner at 3 months
Throw away eyeliner pencils at 2 years and frequently sharpen them
Do not store makeup in the bathroom (heat and humidity contribute to the growth of bacteria)
If you notice eye irritation from the use of any eye makeup throw it away
If your eyes are irritated or you have an eye infection do not put on eye makeup until it clears
Never share or borrow makeup
Always remove makeup before going to bed
Educate Yourself and Be Safe
Undoubtedly a person’s eyes are the focal point and as history has shown us women have and will continue to use products to enhance their eyes. Even so just ask anyone who has lost their vision to inappropriate use of cosmetics or through a cosmetic procedure gone awry and they will tell you that no amount of beautification is worth the loss of eyesight. The final message is to educate yourself on the products you are using, ensure that you are using the correct tools and techniques in makeup application and protect the health of your eyes by following safe practices in storing and discarding cosmetics.
FDA and CDC Resources on Eye Makeup and Decorative Contact Lens Safety:
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. The leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years of age damage caused by glaucoma is permanent and cannot be reversed. The good news is if caught early glaucoma can be treated and controlled.
The silent thief of sight, most people don’t notice they’ve lost vision to the condition until it’s too late which is why prevention is so important. In recognition of World Glaucoma Awareness Week March 12-18, 2017, I will share information each day on this topic.
Being diagnosed with primary open-angle glaucoma a few years back I had no symptoms but I’m very fortunate because of my other eye issues my retina specialist and ophthalmologist monitored my situation very closely. Initially I was diagnosed with ocular hypertension which meant my intraocular pressure (IOP) was high. While most eye care professionals define the range of normal IOP as between 10 and 21 mmHg, which is a pressure measurement, my range was running around 30 to 40 mm. I’m a little fuzzy on when my condition went from ocular hypertension to glaucoma but I wasn’t surprised by the diagnosis since my grandmother also had the disease. Even though it took quite a bit of time to get to the diagnosis it wasn’t the end of treatment because in addition to seeing my ophthalmologist every four months, to maintain my remaining eyesight I have to take Latanoprost (eye drop prescription) everyday for the rest of my life.