Updated on  February 22, 2024
4 min read

5 Steps to Safely Remove Contacts With Long Nails

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It’s important to remove your contact lenses each night before you go to sleep and after wearing them for the intended length of time. But removing contacts with long nails can be complicated and pose several eye risks.

It’s painful to poke yourself in the eye with long nails, and bacteria can live under them. 

If you wear contact lenses and have long nails, it’s important to take extra precautions when removing your contacts from each eye.

Here are the steps to safely remove contact lenses:

1. Wash your hands.

First and foremost, it’s always important to wash your hands. Keeping your hands clean is critical when it comes to contact lens removal. You don’t want to put your fingers anywhere on your face if they’re dirty, especially in your eyes.1,4

2. Dry your hands.

Make sure that you dry your hands with a clean, lint-free towel. You don’t want to get any fuzz on your fingers before putting them in your eyes.

3. Open your eyes in a well-lit mirror.

Ensure that you have a clean mirror and a well-lit space. You need to see the contact lens in your eye. Use one hand to pull your eyelids open gently.

4. Pinch or roll the contact lens.

Using the flat part of your index finger and thumb (on the opposite hand), softly pinch the contact lens to pull it away from your eye. Try the rolling method if you have trouble with this method because you wear long nails.6

Tap the top of the contact lens with the tip of your index or pointer finger (not your nail) and slide it to the white of your eye. From there, you can roll it over your bottom eyelid.

If you still have trouble removing the contact lens, try using a saline solution to lubricate it.5

5. Store your contacts properly.

Once you’ve taken your contacts out, properly store them in contact lens solution and in a safe, enclosed container for contact lenses.6

Risks of Removing Contact Lenses With Long Nails

Removing contacts with long nails can be difficult.

Long acrylic nails and even long natural nails pose many risks to your eyes:

  • Long nails can poke you in the eye
  • Your nails could scratch your eyes
  • Bacteria can build up beneath your nails
  • With press-on nails, water, residue, and germs can build up underneath
  • Long nails can spread infections like pinworms
  • Long nails can make it difficult for you to reach your contacts
  • Long nails can disrupt your view when removing your contacts

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General Safety Guidelines for Removing Contacts

Whether or not you have long nails, there are some general safety guidelines that you should always follow when removing contacts from your eyes.

  • Keep your hands clean.
  • Store your contacts in a contact solution.
  • Don’t sleep with your contacts in your eyes.
  • Take your contacts out when you’re supposed to.
  • Make sure to change your contacts when you’re supposed to (extended-wear contacts can be worn longer than dailies).2

What to Do If You Scratch Your Eye 

Wearing contact lenses means regularly putting your fingers in your eye to place and remove them. It’s easy to scratch your eyes if you have long fingernails and wear contact lenses.

If you scratch your eye while putting in or taking out contact lenses, there are some home remedies and treatments you can consider.3

  • Use a wet, warm compress on your eyes to help soothe any pain or swelling.
  • Rinse your eye with clean water or a saline solution.
  • Blink to get rid of any debris stuck in your eye that might scratch you more.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your injured eye from harmful ultraviolet light.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes. You can worsen the pain if there’s anything stuck in your eye.
  • Stay away from contact lenses while your eye heals. Wear eyeglasses instead.
  • Don’t use over-the-counter eye drops, which may irritate a scratched eye.

Most corneal abrasions are minor. They typically heal on their own within just a few days. 

If you badly scratch your eye, call your eye doctor. Your eye doctor may treat your eye scratch with antibiotic eye drops or an ointment. They may also give you steroid eye drops to reduce any inflammation.

How to Put in Contacts With Long Nails

Putting in contact lenses with long nails requires many of the same steps as removing them:

  1. Always make sure to wash your hands1
  2. Dry your hands with a lint-free towel
  3. Place the contact on the tip of your finger
  4. Gently hold your eye open with your opposite hand
  5. Place the contact lens on your eye
  6. Slowly blink or move your eyes back and forth to ensure your lens is in place


Taking out contacts with long nails can be difficult but not impossible. The steps above can help you safely remove your contacts without scratching your eyes.

If you scratch your eyes, carefully clean them and be gentle with them. Call your doctor if you have any serious eye pain from your contacts or a scratch. Rest assured that most corneal abrasions will quickly heal on their own.

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Updated on  February 22, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on  February 22, 2024
  1. Cantor, Louis B. “How Do I Get a Contact Lens out from the Top of My Eye?American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  2. Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Types of Contact Lenses.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA.
  3. First Aid for Eye Scratches.” American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  4. Germs & Infections.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. MD, Omar R Chaudhary. “Why Can’t I Remove My RGP Contact Lens?American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  6. Team, Warby Parker. “How to Take out Contacts.” Warby Parker, Warby Parker.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.