Cosmetic Contact Lenses: Are They Safe?

Cosmetic contact lenses, also known as decorative or costume contact lenses, are contact lenses that change the appearance of your eyes. They include colored contacts, fashion lenses and lenses that make your eyes look like vampires, animals, or other characters.

Online and in-store advertising market decorative contact lenses as cosmetics, fashion accessories or toys. With whimsical packaging and names, their target market is often teens and young adults. But the question remains: are they safe?

With Halloween just days away, decorative contact lenses may look cool but can lead to serious health issues and potentially (and permanently) damage your eyesight. Here is a guide to what to know and how to safely wear and choose cosmetic contact lenses.

What are Cosmetic Contact Lenses?

Much like regular contact lenses, cosmetic contact lenses are classified as medical devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and require a valid prescription, whether they correct your vision or are worn for special occasions like Halloween or costume parties.

Many people buy cosmetic contact lenses to enhance their costume, and shops, as well as many online retailers, actively market and advertise these lenses to consumers unaware of the risks. These risks include dangerous infections that can lead to permanent vision loss.

Non-prescription cosmetic contact lenses can also cause injuries such as cuts and open sores in the protective layer of the iris and pupil, and potentially invite bacterial infections. These injuries can lead to serious eye surgeries such as corneal transplants.

Novelty products, like circle lenses, are not FDA-approved. Circle lenses are particularly harmful because the lens covers more of the eye than regular corrective lenses, which inhibits oxygen to get through to the eye.

If you want to complete your Halloween costume or change your look to include cat, glow-in-the-dark or colored eyes, get your cosmetic contact lenses prescribed by an eye care professional. It’s crucial that your lenses fit properly, and your individual prescription is updated by an eye exam. Skipping this step and buying lenses online or over the counter can set you up for risks of eye infection and vision loss.

What are the Risks?

Wearing cosmetic contact lenses can cause serious damage to your eyes if the lenses are obtained without a prescription or not used correctly. These risks include:

  • Allergic reactions like itchy, watery red eyes
  • Decreased vision
  • Infection
  • Blindness or vision loss

If you develop an eye infection, accompanying side effects may include:

  • Redness
  • Pain in the eye(s) that doesn’t go away after a short period of time
  • Decreased vision

If you have any of these symptoms, consult a licensed eye care professional (optometrist or ophthalmologist) immediately. An eye infection could become serious and cause vision loss if it’s not treated.

How to Reduce the Risks

You can reduce the risks associated to cosmetic contact lenses by consulting your doctor for an accurate prescription and directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Get an Eye Exam. A licensed eye care professional will examine your eyes to make sure the contact lenses fit properly. The fit of your contact lenses is crucial to eye health. The wrong fit can cause damage to your vision.

Get a Prescription. Your eye doctor will write you a prescription for all contact lenses, including cosmetic contact lenses. The prescription should include the brand name, correct lens measurements and expiration date.

Follow the Contact Lens Care Instructions. Your eye care professional will provide specific instructions for wearing, cleaning and disinfecting your contact lenses. If you do not receive instructions, ask your eye doctor for them.

Seek Medical Attention Immediately and Remove Your Contact Lenses if Your Eyes are Red. Eye pain, discharge or redness from the eyes are signs of an eye infection. If you think you have an eye infection from your contact lenses, remove them and see an eye doctor immediately.

Don’t Share Your Contact Lenses with Anyone. All eyes are not the same size and shape and your contact lenses are fitted just for you. Think toothbrush for example — you wouldn’t share your toothbrush, would you? If you, you shouldn’t be doing that, either.

Don’t Buy Any Contact Lenses Without a Prescription. See your eye care professional to get a prescription. This will ensure proper fit and minimize risk of damage to your eyes. Sometimes wearing contact lenses can damage the top layer of your cornea. By having checkups and buying contact lenses with a prescription, you will reduce the chances of any undetected damage to your eyes.

Schedule a Consultation

Cosmetic contact lenses are not excluded from the standard eye care instructions and follow ups. Reduce the risks associated to wearing cosmetic contact lenses by consulting your eye care professional. Join our many satisfied patients, and schedule an appointment at Advanced Eye Medical today.