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How to build an eye spa


Like most good ideas in eyecare, the innovative focus of Janelle Davison, OD, on ocular aesthetics at her private practice was born from a patient suggestion.

At the end of every eye exam, Dr. Davison asks patients if they have any other questions. She was surprised at how often the questions were related to makeup suggestions, eyelash growth, and cosmetic treatments around the eye.

“Why don’t you have a place in your office to offer cosmetic services so I could get treatments done and still be under your care and supervision?” came the suggestion from a dry eye patient who she was helping to manage and find better alternatives in her cosmetic routine to reduce ocular surface irritation.

From this suggestion, Premier Dry Eye Spa and Cosmetic Eye Care was born.

Dr. Davison had considered her private practice, Brilliant Eyes Vision Center in Marietta, GA, to be an oasis for her patients to relax and focus on personal care and relationship building. Over the years she has spent in private practice, she found herself gravitating toward dry eye and ocular surface disease as a specialty focus because her patients were in need of guidance, treatment, and education. Building out an ocular aesthetics specialty felt like a natural extension to her dry eye focus.

Previously by Dr. Lyerly: Rethinking what we know about glaucoma in 2019

Building an eye spa
For Dr. Davison, the initial decision was easy: She had the space, and she knew she had the patient interest.

But how could she execute her vision?

It started with creating a true spa-like space in her clinic, apart from her patient exam rooms. She selected soothing colors for walls and furniture and outfitted the room with a real spa chair complete with built-in massage abilities. Patients at the spa are treated to diffused water with lemon or strawberries, and she uses Amazon Alexa to play calming music or even let her patients pick their own soundtracks during their treatments.

Because she is busy seeing patients in her private practice, Dr. Davison partnered with a licensed aesthetician a few days a week to use the space and provide services to her patients.

The treatments offered were carefully selected by Dr. Davison to both meet her patients’ requests but also respect the ocular surface. She currently offers facials, anti-aging masks, lash growth consultations, and individual false lashes. Her patients are able to purchase custom-blended makeup, an organic, paraben- and sulfate-free option that blends tinted moisturizers and built-in ultraviolet (UV) protection.

In future, she is considering expanding her services to offer radio frequency technology for eyelid tightening, microblading, and eyebrow tattooing/permanent makeup.

Related: Costmetic dangers: Part 1 - Popular cosmetics patients use

Integrating spa with practice
The eye spa part of Dr. Davison’s practice has grown exponentially since it was first launched, and Dr. Davison says that many patients now couple their annual eye exams with a visit to the eye spa afterward.

She has even been contacted by ophthalmologists in nearby states looking to learn from her model and create something similar in their own practices.

“Most of the cosmetic services my patients were seeking are around the eye, and this is something we should own,” Dr. Davison says.

Patients want to have these treatments, she says, and if patients are going to get such treatments at a nail spa or a hair salon anyway, patients would be better served to have them under a doctor’s supervision at her office.

Related: 7 tips for safer lens wear with cosmetics

As a dry eye specialist, she is very aware of the potential ocular surface side effects of many cosmetic procedures. This is how she balances offering cosmetic services with her dry eye specialty:

• All patients must first be screened for ocular surface disease. If they have underlying dry eye syndrome, it needs to be managed before any potentially compounding cosmetic procedure is performed.

• Instead of using strips of false lashes when her patients ask for lash extensions, Dr. Davison’s aesthetician applies only individual lashes to reduce exposure to harsh glues and adhesives. Patients are educated on the importance of daily cleaning of the lids and lashes (their office uses We Love Eyes products), and they receive in-office lid cleansing procedures every third visit for lash extensions to help reduce chronic irritation.

• Every patient is routinely screened for ocular surface disease and meibomian gland dysfunction before and after their cosmetic services. Dr. Davison refers her patients to a local provider for LipiFlow (Johnson & Johnson Vision) when indicated.

• When considering adding permanent makeup, a big consideration for Dr. Davison was that research had shown eyeliner tattooing could promote meibomian gland dysfunction and dry eye.1 If she decides to offer this service in future, it will be only for eyebrows in her clinic.

Related: Optometry Podcast: Dr. Walt Whitley disccuses optometry 

“I don’t want women to feel that because they suffer from dry eye they have to live life in bare face [without makeup or cosmetics],” says Dr. Davison.

Empowering her patients to make better decisions about their cosmetic routine and providing them a safer place to have treatments performed under her supervision seemed like the healthiest solution. Instead of pushing her patients to salons or the Internet, she embraced her expertise and decided to start the conversation about the concerns around cosmetic treatments with dry eye syndrome and what steps could be taken to minimize her patients’ risks.

Reach Dr. Davison @brilliant_eyes_vision_center on Instagram or via email at dr.davison@brillianteyesmarietta.com.

Read and listen to more Defocus Media podcasts here


1. Lee YB, Kim JJ, Hyon JY, Wee WR, Shin YJ. Eyelid tattooing induces meibomian gland loss and tear film instability. Cornea. 2015 Jul;34(7):750-5.

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