Glasses or contacts in the kitchen?

These days, it seems, most people need vision help. Close up, far away, maybe even both! Glasses or contacts, which one is better for kitchen work?

I have used corrective lenses since the 6th grade. When I started in the industry, I had been wearing contacts full time for about 7 years. It was a no brainer for me to wear them to work. There were definitely mornings through the years, however,  that waking up early after a long night out and putting contacts in my eyes was just not an option. So, I would wear my glasses. Having the privilege of switching back and forth when necessary was great.

I have talked quite a bit about the choice to wear glasses or contacts with cooks in the kitchens I have worked in and I have found a pretty split field. What do you prefer?

I know a lot of cooks who think glasses are better for work, because they provide eye protection. I can understand this argument, but the constant cleaning, pushing them up, worry about them falling off or getting broken? I can’t imagine how they would be easier. When working a splatter station, like the grill or saute, your glasses can be a hazard. They gradually get more and more opaque as the film of cooking builds up over your shift, and you can’t just wipe them on your shirt to get it off. When you go in and out of the walk in and freezer, your glasses fog up! Waiting for them to clear is not helpful when you are in a hurry.

There is also the argument that glasses are cheaper, and this is a valid, important point for a lot of people. You get an eye exam, buy a cheap pair of glasses, and wear them for years without having to spend another dime. Contacts aren’t incredibly expensive, but you do have to buy more every 6 months or a year. And you need a new eye exam every year before they will sell them to you. That adds up. Cost has to be a part of this conversation, because it is a huge part of life in kitchens. No vision care plan, and not a lot of spare cash. Glasses are the only option for a lot of cooks.

They can also be the only option because of a slew of eye conditions. People with dry eye syndrome, certain eye shapes, or extreme nearsightedness are destined to wear glasses for the long term, at least until technology advances. Other factors could include houselessness, or other kinds of transitional housing- no sanitary bathroom for contact care means eye infections or worse.

That being said, contacts are freaking awesome. The freedom that they provide is incredible. They are, without a doubt, the more popular option for kitchen workers. If you can afford them, and take care of them, switching to contacts can be life changing for a lot of people.

They do require a high degree of care, and risk of infection is great when you do kitchen work. The same grease and spatter that builds up on glasses is building up on contacts and your eyelids are cleaning it away into your face. Making sure that you spend enough time with them out of your eyes, and cleaning them thoroughly is vital to your eye health.

I made the  switch to using clear care ( or the store generic) type cleaner and have seen great results. It is a peroxide fizz cleaner, which comes with a special case and requires 6 hours to work. You cannot take them out of the case and put them in your eyes for at least 6 hours, and you cannot put the solution straight into your eyes, as it needs the special case and the hours to neutralize. It has done wonders for how my eyes feel, though. They don’t dry out like they used to, and they don’t ever hurt. I can definitely tell the difference since starting to use it every day. My eyes feel better, my contacts look cleaner, and they last longer. If you are a contact wearer- check it out.

I suppose this post wouldn’t be complete I if didn’t throw in a mention of laser surgery. Every time I go to the eye doc, they tell me that I would be a great candidate for laser surgery. I have two very distinct memories that come to mind when I think of laser surgery. First, my aunt got it done when I was a kid and one time she rubbed her eyes, apparently forgetting about the surgery because for some reason you can’t rub your eyes after you get it? And she screamed in pain. Second, there was a preview for a horror movie a bunch of years back where a person gets strapped in and the surgery starts and then the doctor gets murdered and they are stuck under the laser for so long that it burns through their brain. These two memories, coupled with the fact that you have to be AWAKE during the procedure so that your eyes are facing forward, mean that I am actually a terrible candidate for laser surgery.

Maybe you are not a wimp like me, and you should check into it. It costs around $5000, but they probably offer payment plans, like everything these days. It would be so, so, so amazing to not worry about glasses or contacts or anything ever again. I have heard from people who have had the surgery who love it. I have also heard that it may not be permanent, and your vision could slowly deteriorate further. Do your research! If they ever figure out a way to perform the surgery on unconscious people, I will probably get it done.  Would you?

Laura McwilliamsComment