Are Costume Contact Lenses Safe? Here's What You Need to Know
According to the CDC, about 45 million Americans wear contact lenses. These lenses are considered medical devices and the majority of people use them for vision correction.
But there's another class of contact that's becoming more popular: costume contact lenses. The main purpose of these lenses isn't to correct vision, but rather, to alter the way your eyes look.
You can get lenses to change your eye color or transform the shape of your pupil. There are even some that give cartoon or film character effects to your eyes!
You might think that it's a cool accessory to use for Halloween or cosplay. But before you run out and buy your own costume contacts, there are a few things you should know.
Risks of Wearing Costume Contact Lenses
Changing up the look of your eyes for an evening is a fun idea. However, you may have heard that wearing the incorrect lenses or cheap lenses that are poorly made can cause damage to your eyes. If you think wearing these lenses once in a while for only a few hours might not be long enough to be a big deal, we're here to tell you that's not true!
Ill-fitting and cheaply made contact lenses can cut, scratch and permanently damage your eyes. You probably know from cutting yourself on a knife, scissors or even paper that it only takes an instant to get cut. Scratching your eye, at the very least, is uncomfortable and unpleasant. Worst case scenario? Blindness.
We're not being dramatic; it's true. Cuts and scratches in your eye allow for dangerous bacteria to get inside. This can lead to keratitis, a serious and potentially blinding bacterial eye infection. Keratitis can destroy your vision in just a few days, depending on the type you develop. If you think you may have scratched your eye, see an ophthalmologist at once. Swift medical intervention may be the only way to save your eyesight.
How to Wear Them Safely
Now that we have your attention, you might be swearing off the idea of ever touching costume contact lenses. Not so fast! There are proper ways to use these lenses, have fun and still be safe. Let's talk about how to do it.
See an Optometrist
The first step is to see an optometrist. As we mentioned earlier, contacts are medical devices and should only be used as prescribed by a licensed doctor. It doesn't matter whether your intent is to correct your vision or simply change your eye color, this step is crucial.
The reason for this is that corneas come in different shapes and sizes. The scratching and cutting occur when contact lenses don't fit as they should. The best way to avoid this problem is to have a vision care professional measure your eyes.
Also, follow your doctor's recommendations for the type of lens you can use. Heavy dyes in some, poorly-made, non-brand name, colored contacts can stifle the flow of oxygen to your eyes. Not getting enough oxygen can raise your risk for eye diseases, such as macular degeneration.
Thus, there are some colors or types of lenses that many doctors won't prescribe because the risks are too high. Always follow their instructions. Those anime cosplay contacts might be cool, but they aren't worth the risk if your doctor says no.
Get a Prescription
There is another legal reason why you should see an optometrist first. There are serious dangers involved in wearing ill-fitting contact lenses. In fact, it's illegal in the US to sell contact lenses without a license.
You may see costume contact lenses in gag stores or online. They’ll claim to be “one size fits all” or “no prescription necessary.” Rest assured those contact lenses are being sold illegally. Some manufacturers have even been known to repackage used lenses. They may even sell them without following proper sterilization procedures.
What does that mean for you?
Note that those lenses will likely have a greater potential for scratching your eyes. It's also true that the lens itself can bring bacteria along with it and cause keratitis. What's the bottom line? Never buy contact lenses from a retailer that doesn't ask for a prescription.
Learn How to Care for Them
A crucial step in protecting your eyes is learning how to care for your lenses properly. Even lenses that fit well can cause damage to your eyes if they're dirty or not properly disinfected.
This is another great reason for seeing an eye doctor first. They'll teach you how to care for your lenses. Plus, they'll give you lots of contact lens safety tips that will dramatically reduce the risk of developing eye infections.
Don't Share Lenses!
Now you have your costume contact lenses. You obtained them properly and know how to store and care for them the way you should. Your friends get super excited when they see the amazing addition to your costume. One of them even asks to borrow your costume, contacts and all. What do you say?
For the same reason that you had to go through all the steps we mentioned, your friend should as well. Contact lenses that fit you won't necessarily fit your friend and may cause the damage we've talked about. Plus, passing around contacts is an easy way to swap dangerous bacteria.
Ready for Some Cool Contacts?
Once you've got your prescription for costume contact lenses in hand, you're probably excited to buy them! The next step is to get your lenses from a reputable seller. The retailer should always ask you for a prescription. If they don't, run far and fast! Get your lenses from somewhere else. For a great selection of colored contact lenses, be sure to check out our inventory!