Dr. Claudine Courey returns to the podcast in the second part of this three-part series to discuss CLEAN BEAUTY.
Aesthetic treatments and the use of cosmetics around the eyes are big topics. As patients are increasingly using potentially harmful products and getting treatments like lash extensions, it is vital for ECPs to get comfortable discussing the impact of these things on our eyes.
In this episode, Dr. Courey shares HOW we can have these discussions and WHY it’s important for both the patient’s eye health and the success of our profession.
Thank you to Thea Pharma Canada for supporting this series.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
How To Discuss CLEAN BEAUTY With Your Patients – Dr. Claudine Courey
I am in Quebec City for the 38th Congress of the Canadian Optometry Association. It has been an amazing meeting. Quebec City is beautiful. If you haven’t been here, you need to come and check it out. It is truly a gem. It feels like you are in an old European city here. You don’t feel like you are in Canada at all. It’s lovely.
I get to be here with my amazing friend, Dr. Claudine Courey again. I want to say right off the top, thank you to Théa Pharma Canada for supporting Claudine and I doing this three-part series of conversations. This is the second part. Now, if you miss the first part, make sure you go check that out. You don’t have to go and read it now because they are not in sequential order here. Make sure you check that out.
In the first part, we talked about Claudine and her journey as an optometrist starting her business, EyeDropShop, and all the other wonderful things that she’s doing. We are going to have our discussion about clean beauty, what that is, and why it’s important. The third and final installment is going to be specifically about all things dry eye, nitty-gritty, and detailed stuff because she is a dry eye expert. She is an entrepreneur and she is a world-famous TikToker. If you don’t follow her, please do. Is it @EyeDropShop on TikTok?
Yeah, it’s @EyeDropShop.
Now, she’s also an author. Claudine has written this children’s book and I have gone through the whole episode without letting you say a single word. We are going to talk about the book first, but Claudine, why don’t you say a couple of words so people know that you can speak?
I’m so happy to be here for the second one. The first one was honestly so much fun. We had a blast. I’m excited to be here again and be able to chat about all kinds of fun stuff and clean beauty, which is honestly a passion of mine. Over the past couple of years, I have dived into and gotten to know a little bit more. I’m excited to talk about this specific topic.
It’s something that I know very little about. I may be a little ashamed to say that as an optometrist. I probably should know a little bit more about it. I’m going to use this as an opportunity to learn more, but also to share the information with our colleagues who may want to learn more about it. First, Emma Goes to the Eye Doctor, tell me about this yourself, and your almost twin sister, Gabriella, have written this book. Tell us about what Emma Goes to the Eye Doctor. What inspired you to write it? Who’s it for?
We are so excited. My sister and I wrote this book together because we wanted to make sure that we prepped kids or gave kids the tools to be prepped for an eye exam. We noticed that when they came in, sometimes they might be a little apprehensive or nervous. It’s mainly because they just weren’t aware of the steps that were going to go on.
There were some books that had to do with getting glasses and eyeglasses and all that stuff, but there were none that went through the actual tests that an eye doctor does. There’s stereo in there, there’s color vision, and they are taking the vision in each eye so that kids can get used to what’s going to happen. I did it with my sister. That was the most fun, to be able to collaborate on something like that.
The images are nice. It’s a very child-friendly book. It’s amazing. It’s something that’s going to be valuable. Where do people get it?
It’s on Amazon. It’s going to be translated into French and Spanish. French for Quebec, which is fitting because we are here, also Spanish for the US on the US site. We are excited. Ultimately, we hope it helps a lot of kids. That’s why it was a fun project to do with her.
There’s a text that I sent you and the question was, is there anything you don’t do?
Yeah, thank you for that.
Honestly, you are amazing. You are an inspiration. We all enjoy watching you grow and do everything you do. Let’s talk about clean beauty. Where does the term clean beauty come from? What’s not clean beauty? Why do we need to know the term clean beauty?
Clean beauty doesn’t only apply to the eye care space. It’s the beauty industry as a whole. It came about so that people or companies would be more inclined to do products that had more safe ingredients, non-toxic, and would take away some of the bad stuff that’s out there. It’s also an all-encompassing word. Clean beauty or natural beauty, so this is also part of an effort for the beauty industry to go towards something that would be safer for people to put on their bodies.
Clean beauty or natural beauty is part of an effort for the beauty industry to go towards something that would be safer for people to put on their bodies.
It’s an overall thing that the beauty industry is moving towards or at least more conscious of now. Some of those ingredients you talked about have certain toxins or ingredients that we may need to avoid. Let’s say I pick up a bottle of something, will I be able to read something and say, “That’s bad?” How does that work?
That’s the hardest part of it. At the end of the day, once I dive more and more into this field, I realize that I’m not a cosmetic chemist. No, but that’s the truth.
You are not also that?
No, I decided not to. The more I try and read it and the more I get into it, I realize this is a whole other field. People go to school to become specialized in this and know this and know what’s going on. My whole goal is to take optometry and give them the tools to be able to propose things to their patients that their patients can use and be comfortable with, but also do it in a reasonable way.
We can’t necessarily read all the ingredients on every bottle and know exactly what’s going on and be able to understand. Maybe a few we could pick out, I could give you an example. I try and counsel my patients to use things that are fragrance-free. Fragrances could be either a synthetic component that makes it smell good or something like an essential oil. Ultimately, it’s just purely for the smell. A lot of people are very sensitive to it. Realistically, if we could take it out, I find that’s a positive.
These are the main ones that I’m like, “It’s not in there for a real purpose that’s going to serve your skin. If we could remove it and make sure that you are not going to be sensitive to that, then that’s something good.” Fragrances are also touchy in the sense that it’s a blanket statement because of these trade secrets and all kinds of stuff. A company can say fragrances and they don’t have to say what’s in it. There’s a whole world behind this cosmetic thing, and I’m diving deeper into it.
It’s a rabbit hole or a Pandora’s Box. The fragrance thing that you will see on some products will just say right on the front, “Fragrance-free,” so that makes it a little easier. We were talking about this a little bit. Companies are tricky with how they word things because it all ends up being marketing and it makes it even more difficult for the consumer, even for us as the doctors to know what’s what. Were we talking about chickens and being cage-free and free-run? You were giving me that.
That’s how I felt at the beginning. I felt like when we go to the grocery store and all you want to do is pick the best eggs, but then you are looking and there’s free-run eggs, omega eggs, organic eggs, and free-range eggs. You realize the free range is that the chicken was only out to run ten minutes outside. You are just like, “Can you just give me the best eggs?” That’s where I boil it down. I’m like, “Can you just recommend something that we know is the best and that’s going to be easy to recommend for our patients and you just simplify this for us?” That’s the idea.
That’s now becoming part of our job is to try to simplify it for our patients so they know. The companies are deliberately going the other way. They are almost deliberately complicating it so we can’t tell the difference. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Let’s say we step away from beauty but think about supplements. Omega-3 is probably maybe one of the more relevant things for us.
We recommend Omega-3 all the time and a patient is like, “I’m already taking Omega-3.” “Where did you buy it? What kind is it? Is it triglyceride? What are the EPA and DHA? What are all these things?” What you see on the shelf is, “High concentration, one a day,” and patients are like, “That seems good.” It’s false marketing almost. This is crazy in the beauty industry as well.
That hammers the point home so much about how it has to come from the doctor. Much of the Omega-3, it’s just that, “This is what I’m saying in my practice. This is the brand or these are the brands that I recommend because this is this reason.” The same thing goes for clean beauty. At least you could point your patients in a direction because if we are overwhelmed and we are sitting there trying to figure it all out, imagine how they feel trying to do something that’s not going to exacerbate their dry eye and that’s not going to make them feel worse in the middle of our IPL treatment. We trying to do so much good, but cosmetics around and on the eye can make things go back a little bit. That’s why it’s super important for us to be able to recommend the proper things to our patients.
This is the next part of the conversation is the part that I’m going to be listening to the most and this is going to be relevant for many of us and many of our colleagues. That is, so we know that cosmetics around the eyes and eyeliner, mascara, and all this stuff are bad for the eyes. We see our patients come in and we are looking under the slit lamp and we see all the gunk there.
I don’t know much about makeup and how to make a recommendation to a person coming from the perspective of not knowing anything. How do I have that conversation? What types of things should I be saying that are going to be relevant and making the right recommendations, talking about clean beauty, and all of this? How do I even start that conversation?
That’s very common and valid, and probably a ton of people reading feel the identical way that you feel. It’s just the way I have approached it and tell me if this is a good and helpful way to start, but for me, the eye doctor’s job is to point out the problem. If the eye doctor is interested in it, they could take it as far as they want. If not, the goal is to train a staff to be a dry eye champion or an ocular hygienist to make someone who’s interested. No matter what the field is in your practice, if the person who’s conveying the message is passionate about it, you are sure that the person receiving the information is going to love it more and it’s going to just go well.
To me, let’s say you see a patient who has lash extensions. They look down and that’s it, between the eyelid margin and the lash extension, you just see. It’s full of demodex and whatever else lodged itself there. To me, the job is to say, “I noticed that inside your lash extensions, there is a lot of debris. I’m going to mark this down and there are solutions so that you can wear your lash extension safely. Alice will be able to follow up on this,” and then Alice follows up on it. As an OD, they are not looking at their eyelashes in high res or high mag, so we have to tell them. It’s our rule. It’s like seeing SPK and saying nothing. We need solutions, but it doesn’t necessarily mean if this isn’t what you love to do, that you have to sit there and start learning about mascara.
In my office, we don’t have that dry eye champion or ocular hygienist yet. My business partner is good about it. She knows how to have these conversations and she has them, but I need to get a bit better. Let’s say I have that patient who has the eyelash extensions and the gunk. I know that I see it, and I say, “Those eyelash extensions.” What do I say about that to the patient? What maybe do I recommend as how do you clean it? How do I make sure I don’t wreck the eyelash extensions?
Here are the three things you need to know about lash extensions. You need to recommend something to clean that doesn’t have oil. Lash extensions go on the lash with glue. If you put oil on it, it’s going to melt off the glue. They just spent $200 getting lashes and you are like, “Use this oil-based cleanser,” and then all their lashes come off. They won’t be happy. It just has to have no oil.
There are a bunch of examples out there that are made for lash extensions. There are even tools that you can get. It looks like a little brush fork and it will go and mechanically remove it. The third thing is you could always go for HOCL. It’s your trusty spray to make sure it stays clean. That’s the main thing to know about lash extensions and taking care of them. Blephagel has no oil like a hypochlorous.
Don’t burn your eyes, guys. Hydrochloric acid.
Just a little bit of that, you will kill anything that’s on the eye and the eyeball as well.
The spray, is that more of a maintenance thing after it’s been cleaned?
The lash extensions should be cleaned every single day. They are conditioned to this as well. A good lash tech will prep the person and say, “You have to clean your lashes. You have to brush through them,” but it’s more the products. There’s a wheel of eyes pink bottle of foam that says, “For lash extensions.” It’s created for that. I recommend it a lot. That will go and clean the lashes morning and night and you are done. That’s a lash extension.
Now, I got that patient in front of me with the lash extensions. I can comfortably say to that person, “I see you have lash extensions. Here’s how we can make sure they stay clean and you avoid potential complications. 1) Use this product oil-free to clean your lashes. 2) There are pitchfork-shaped things and brushes that you can put in there to clean them. 3) If you spray this hypochlorous acid on your eyelids, that will help to keep the bacteria and things off of it to prevent buildup.”
If we rewind a bit, I still have the discussion. My ten-second discussion is like, “If you were to ask me, is putting lash extensions the best thing on the planet? Is glue good to put on your eyelashes?” My answer as an optometrist has to be no. If you are going to do it, let’s do it the safest way possible, and then whatever. The key is not to be like, “You are wearing lash extensions? Take them off.” They are doing it regardless. You might as well do it under the supervision of an optometrist who could follow them up and make sure. Worst case scenario, we are there if there are complications.
Like the parents who say, “If you are going to drink, just drink with me.”
You want to be the cool house.
“Don’t go drink with your buddies.”
Exactly. If you want to wear eyelash extensions, do it with us. This is a safe lash extension space.
Eyelash extensions are a common one. Thank you for explaining that. Now, I will comfortably be able to have that conversation with my patients about, “If you are going to wear lash extensions, let’s make sure they are clean.” If somebody’s going to ask me yes or no, “Should I get them?”
Be honest. You have more risk if you put lash extensions. You have more risks if you do certain things, but then everybody gets to decide in their own life what risk tolerance they have, and then we are there to accompany them along the journey without judgment.
The next thing is actual makeup being applied to the eyes. What do you say to somebody who’s got eyeliner on their eyelid on the waterline?
You must have this picture. We all have that photo stuck to our wall with the eyelid margin and then the meibomian glands. I literally will show them like, “These little spaces are where the oil comes out. When you are coloring on them, you are blocking the opening to oil coming out. Even if I give you the best Omega-3 on the planet, it has no chance of leaving because that’s where we are blocking.” It’s education at that point to explain what they are doing. A lot of them are like, “Okay, I get it,” and then they could do it a little bit under. Just explaining what they are doing.
Do you have the images where it’s like, “Here’s what a clean eyelid looks like and the oil coming out is clear. There’s the one with the gunk in the eyelid. It’s inflaming and all this stuff.”
It’s 0 to 100. They don’t have any moderate person.
There was the commercial that, “This is your brain on drugs.” It’s like, “This is your eyelid. This is your eyelid on drugs.”
How funny would that be as a poster in your office? “This is your eyelid. This is your eyelid. It’s terrible.” We will find something. It’s not a fully formulated idea.
It’s not a good idea.
Maybe we drop it.
It was a good thought, but then it wasn’t. The other thing is mascara. That was an obvious one but don’t put eyeliner on your waterline. Don’t block those glands.
I just educate in that case. Let’s say if that’s sitting in my chair, I will be like, “I ideally come to the appointment without makeup.”
That’s such a seemingly obvious thing.
It’s not. We added it to our recall like when we called to confirm.
You can’t see what their makeup habits are.
You are right. Maybe either/or. I guess I do that in my dry eye practice when they are coming for a treatment.
What about making recommendations now about the makeup itself? Let’s say you see that they wear eye makeup, eyeliner, mascara, or something like that. Would it be appropriate for me to say, “I see you wear mascara, can I make a recommendation as far as a product that would be more safe for your eyes?”
You could. I find the reason this whole thing fell into my lap is because the patients usually ask. The chief complaint was, “I cannot tolerate mascara anymore. My eyes are red.” They are prompting the question as opposed to every single patient switching their mascara, which is a hard battle to do. To start with the people who come to you and say it. They will be like, “I’m just sad that I had to stop wearing makeup because I reacted to everything,” or, “I have my daughter’s wedding. I wish I could wear something that will stay on and that I could do and just look like myself.”
We think of cosmetics as this fluffy thing, which is fine. We are dealing with more intense problems in our clinic. At the end of the day, it does have a very strong correlation with self-esteem and people’s mental health and how they feel, so it isn’t so fluff after all. If you could get someone to feel better mentally, that’s huge.
In dry eye, that’s a big thing in general. Dry eye has a big psychological impact on a lot of people, but that’s another aspect of it. If that patient comes in, I can say, “Your eyelids are just inflamed. You have blepharitis and all this thing. We got to treat that.” I do get that patients come in fairly regularly and they say, “I can’t wear makeup anymore.”
Full disclosure here, I haven’t been making any recommendations for products that could be better or more comfortable for them. Maybe we can offer something. Are there certain brands or products out there that you would suggest or recommend that people could look at? 2 questions, 1) Recommend some brands and products, and 2) Should we carry them in our office or should we just suggest like, “There are products out there. Go to EyeDropShop and you can find them.” What’s the right way to approach that?
It’s important for eye doctors to carry it themselves to be able to offer it. It does show that you are always on the cutting edge, you are always getting the new stuff, and you are addressing their main concerns. It’s also fun to be in a waiting room. It’s nice to see the glaucoma and the retinal detachments on the screen in your waiting room, but it’s also fun to look at makeup options and things like that. It’s a different demographic that you’d hit. It’s important for a clinic in general. The clinic should retain those sales and they should be able to retail it in their practice.
As far as the initial question, going back to the whole clean beauty thing at the beginning. This is this huge monster that, initially, I will just talk about my personal experience I was trying to tackle. Once you get into it, you notice that there are all these words and everything like that that’s placed there that’s hard to understand because everything is under.
For example, if you use fragrance again, you are like, “What’s in there?” This is full disclosure, EyeDropShop brings in three clean beauty brands from the US. This is what I did initially just for my patients, is I said, “If I can’t figure out every single brand on the planet, let me contact the people who made these specific product lines. Let me ask them what was their motivation, what did they do, how they made sure it was eye-safe, what ingredients were out, or what ingredients were in.”
In that sense, I was able to have personal contact with the formulator. Those products are the ones that I recommend because I know that they were made either by an optometrist or ophthalmologist in conjunction with a cosmetic chemist. They were able to go through all those steps and create something that would be the safest possible for eyes.
That’s good that you have done all that research. It’s nice to know that you are carrying things that you have done the research and are relevant and important and not just because it’s out there and like, “We will just sell every product that’s out there.” It’s only the ones that you have deliberately or intentionally selected. The thing you mentioned about being created by optometrists and ophthalmologists, we were also talking about sometimes they will slap a thing on, “Ophthalmology approved,” or something like that. Oftentimes, it’s not what we think it is. I remember we were talking about that before.
Sometimes, they will write, “Dermatology tested,” or, “Ophthalmologist tested.” When you look into what that means, it means that the ophthalmologist tested one parameter of that product on we don’t know how many people. It’s like going back to my Master’s. My programming is to always look at who funded the study, how many people are in the study, the validity, the strength, and the power of the study. Not being able to know that in that statement makes it hard. That’s why I called the actual ophthalmologist myself.
That’s when you know you got some program.
I was like, “What did you test and how did you test it?”
Sorry, Latisse, for picking on you specifically. We still sell in our office. Latisse if patients come in and they ask for it. It’s just in the back. I have been hearing a lot and talking to a lot of colleagues about why we should not be using these serums on our eyelashes and our eyelids. Can you tell us a little bit about what serums are out there and why they are not so good?
The prostaglandin analogs like Latisse and the like can have secondary effects on the eyes, which we all know about, so the darkening of the skin, the changing of the color of the eyes, and irritation on the ocular surface. Ideally, those have an amazing effect. The lashes will grow and the patients will be happy, but in the long run, it could affect the ocular surface.
The truth is, I have been saying, instead, we try and find solutions that are a bit more, I don’t like to use the word natural after this whole thing, but that is softer and gentler on the eye that will go and work for the body to generate its own healthier lashes. The alternative is castor oil. It’s not going to work like Latisse. It’s not going to make your lashes grow and be long, luscious, and everything like that. It’s important in the messaging.
It’s important that when we do propose an alternative that we don’t say like, “This is just as good. This is the same.” If we explain, this is what I will say, “Latisse is great and everything like that. I see that you are having a reaction,” but that person doesn’t want to go to nothing. They want a solution. Castor oil, I will say, is a good alternative, but it demands effort. It’s consistency. You have to put this every single night. You won’t even see an effect until three months down the line.
What it’s doing is it’s strengthening the root of the lash so that you have thicker and healthier lashes that your own body is creating. That’s the alternative and that’s the difference. By explaining, “This is an alternative. It’s not the same,” Then they understand and then they can make their choice based on what they want to go with.
That’s a nice thing also you are not just taking it away completely. You are replacing it with something. You are giving them an alternative. Also, as always, setting those expectations in general is very important. We have covered a lot of bases regarding clean beauty. You defined what is clean beauty. We have talked about what are some of the products out there. Clinically, what are we doing and looking for? What about the business side of things? Me, as an optometrist adopting and understanding clean beauty, how can that help the bottom line?
You will retail it to your patients in your practice. Ultimately, you will notice that once you present it as an option and the patients want it, then it’s just an added revenue stream for your clinic. To me, there’s no reason not to. It’s not like you have to buy in huge quantities, but you start with the main ones and then see how they go and build. Everything should start small and manageable, and then you go with that.
Everything should start small and manageable, and then you go with that.
We have noticed that in a lot of practices, it’s been well received and patients are happy to have that option there. Instead of going to Sephora and sifting through themselves, they get to get it from their eye doctor. Like when you go to your dermatologist for something and they are like, “This is the cream that would be best for your skin,” you walk out with the cream because you trust your dermatologist.
What types of products would you recommend if I’m starting small? What should I start with sunscreen? Should I start with eye makeup? Should I start with clean cleansing products? Where is a good place to start?
The number one seller that everyone wants to know and go to is mascara. That’s an easy one to sell. Eyeshadow sticks are also a good one. There are twelve colors. You pick the first 2 or 3 best sellers. Something manageable, so that it’s there, that it has a presence in your clinic, and that your whole staff is on board, so everyone is interested and excited and motivated by it. That’s why it’s cool to have one go-to person who loves it, and then that person will be able to learn and pick up from there.
You might be the doctor who’s into it and you want to do it. That’s great. For me, it’s more likely that I just need to have one of my staff who is into it. We have staff who have previously worked at MAC or Sephora, so they are into it. Maybe I will have to get them upskilled a little bit and they can take care of that. Any other final words you want to share on clean beauty and why we should be thinking about this differently?
I think at the end of the day it’s our role as optometrists to broach the topic and be knowledgeable on everything that goes on and around the eyes. This is going to always evolve. As we learn more, as we research more, and as more and more studies come out, then we are going to learn more and be able to adapt. At the moment, I think we are in a good position to be the people who know what’s going on for our patients. If it’s not us, it’s going to be their TikTok, it’s going to be the nail tech, the lash tech, or somebody else giving this information when in reality, it should come from their eye doctor.
At the end of the day, it’s our role as optometrists to broach the topic and be knowledgeable on everything that goes on and around the eyes.
That’s such a great message to end this on. If I can take it in a couple of different directions, one, as the industry and profession evolve, we need to start to own these things. Anything around the eyes, we need to own it. Now, it doesn’t mean that every single one of us is going to be able to own it and rock it. If it’s something that you are into, this is another way to distinguish yourself, differentiate yourself and your practice from the big box and the bigger brands out there that won’t be paying as much attention to these things. That’s another way for us to differentiate.
Two, we have amazing colleagues who specialize in these areas. We should be doing these interprofessional referrals, so sending patients that maybe I’m not comfortable seeing or I’m not as well-versed and sending them to Claudine or sending them to somebody else who’s maybe more of an expert in a certain area. Getting comfortable referring to each other versus to those outside of our profession is important too.
Let’s talk to each other. Let’s see who’s specializing in different things and share our patients. It’s going to give our patients the best experience. It’s a win-win. It makes us look good and the patients feel good. It’s the right way to do it. Where can people find you and follow you and learn more about you? Is it TikTok?
I guess, but that’s only if you want to see the side of me that’s ridiculous.
It’s so good. It’s not ridiculous.
EyeDropShop is more curated. On Instagram, that’s the more professional. TikTok is where I lip-sync to Cruella de Vil and Ursula. Our website info is at EyeDropShop.ca or EyeDropShop.com and then you just message me if you want to reach me and they forward it to me. Other than that, it’s my pleasure. I love it. This is my favorite thing. Optometrists across Canada know, anything that has to do with ODs, I speak to personally because I just find that it’s so fun to connect with ODs across Canada and the US. I love doing it.
You are amazing at it. It’s always so much fun to talk to you and have you on the show. It’s been amazing to see everything that you are doing and the growth, whether it’s social media or businesswise. Number one, check out Emma Goes to the Eye Doctor available on Amazon. Make sure you get in touch with Claudine and follow her for different reasons. One is to learn a bit from her, see what she’s doing, but to connect with her, maybe have conversations. It is something that we can all do to benefit ourselves.
I want to say thank you again to Théa Pharma Canada for supporting this episode. This is episode 2 of 3 that we are going to do in this series. Make sure you go back and read the first one. Stay tuned for the third one that’s going to be coming out pretty soon as well. Thank you, everybody, for reading the show. It’s Canada’s number-one optometry show. I will see you in the next episode.