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Are Colored Contacts Safe?

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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. 

Blue and violet colored contact lenses are typically safe to wear if purchased with a prescription

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

If you experience eye pain, seek help immediately. Also, be aware of the following potential symptoms of an eye infection:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Discharge
  • 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. 

If you’re interested in colored contacts, we’d be happy to provide you a contact lens exam and fitting. Book an appointment with Park Slope Eye today.


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  • Written by Justin Bazan

    Dr. Justin Bazan is a 2004 SUNY College of Optometry graduate. He established Park Slope Eye in 2008 with the goal of providing high quality eyecare and incredible eyewear for the neighborhood. He has a true passion for optometry and stay up to date with the current research and trends. He is active in the profession and holds several leadership positions on the local, state and national levels. Dr. Bazan is a Park Slope local and can often be seen out in the neighborhood so be sure to say Hi next time you see him!

    More Articles by Justin Bazan

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