A new splash of color in your eyes can be a fun way to change up your look day to day, or to bring serious impact to a costume.
Colored contacts can absolutely be safe when they’re prescribed and fitted by your eye doctor. But, unfortunately, illegal and unsafe contact lenses are sold online and even in some stores. These lenses can harm your eyes and cause permanent vision loss.
Learn how to get safe, prescribed, vibrantly colored contact lenses and keep your vision safe and your eyes stunning.
Are Colored Contact Lenses Bad for Your Eyes?
It’s absolutely safe to wear FDA-approved colored contact lenses that are prescribed to you and fitted by your optometrist.
They’re just as safe as your regular contact lenses, as long as you follow essential basic hygiene guidelines when inserting, removing, replacing and storing your contacts. That means clean hands, fresh contact solution, and a new contact lens case every 3 months.
However, even experienced contacts-wearers take risks with their contacts sometimes. One study found that more than 80% of people who wear contacts cut corners in their contact lens hygiene routines, like not replacing their lenses regularly, napping in them, or not seeing their eye doctor regularly.
It’s important to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk of an infection or eye damage by handling your contacts unsafely.
Illegal Colored Contact Lenses Are Not Safe
Unfortunately, some online shops, and even some gas stations or salons, sell dangerous, illegal colored contact lenses. It’s illegal to sell these lenses in the United States. They aren’t FDA-approved and can cause serious damage to your eyes within hours.
Your eye has a unique shape, so these one-size lenses won’t fit your eye correctly. This isn’t just like wearing the wrong shoe size. Poorly fitting contacts can scratch your cornea, potentially leading to a corneal ulcer, called keratitis. Keratitis can permanently damage your vision, including causing blindness.
And as impressive as costume contact lenses may look on Halloween, the paints used in these illegal contacts may let less oxygen through to your eye. One study found some decorative contact lenses contained chlorine and had a rough surface that irritated the eye.
There are some scary stories out there about vision damage from illegal colored contacts. One woman found herself in severe pain after 10 hours wearing the new lenses she bought at a souvenir shop. She developed an eye infection that required 4 weeks of medication; she couldn’t drive for 8 weeks. Her lasting effects include vision damage, a corneal scar, and a drooping eyelid.
Can I Get Non-Prescription Colored Contact Lenses?
You need a prescription from your eye doctor for colored contact lenses, even if you don’t need your vision corrected.
Contact lenses are a medical device, and they must be custom-fitted. You need an optometrist to measure your eye—from the curve of your cornea to the size of your iris and pupil and the health of your eye—to get a comfortable, safe contact lens fit.
According to the FDA, anyone who is selling you colored contacts must request your prescription and verify it with your eye doctor. That means they need your prescription and contact information for your doctor.
Types of Colored Contacts
Once you’ve got your prescription for colored contacts from your eye doctor, you can shop safely for FDA-approved lenses. Colored contacts come in a few different varieties. These include:
- Enhancement tint: These lenses will change or enhance the natural color of your eyes. They’re generally effective on lighter colored eyes, but not dark eyes.
- Opaque tint: These lenses will completely change your eye color, including dark-colored eyes, and come in a variety of popular colors including red, blue, black, and purple. Costume, cosplay, and theatrical contact lenses fall into this category.
- Sport tint: Some athletes looking for a performance edge might choose tinted sports contacts that provide more contrast or reduce glare for their sport.
How to Tell if You Have an Eye Infection From Contact Lens
Even if you’re wearing prescribed and fitted contact lenses, it’s possible for your eyes to become irritated or infected from unsafe wearing habits. These risks are higher for people who wear poor-fitting colored contacts bought from disreputable, non-FDA approved sources.
Signs You May Have an Eye Infection From Your Contacts
- Watery eyes
- Blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
Colored Contact Lens Dos and Don’ts
- Don’t share your contacts with a friend, even if you clean them between wears. They’ve been fitted and prescribed especially for your eyes.
- Don’t wear your contacts if your eyes are red, tired, or swollen
- Always wash your hands before and after handling your contacts
- Don’t wear your contacts for longer than directed by your eye doctor
- Don’t swim or shower in your contacts
- Dispose of your contacts as directed; don’t wear them after they’ve been stored for more than 30 days
- Don’t buy colored contacts from anywhere that doesn’t request your prescription
Buying Safe Colored Contacts
With a contact lens prescription and a fitting from your eye doctor, you can safely switch up your eye color with a stunning new pair of colored contacts.