Are Colored Contacts for Costumes Safe?

Rainbow Contact Lens

Not very long ago the question of contact lens safety would hardly be on anyone’s mind, let alone a matter for concern. Ever since the advent of ‘soft’ lenses in the early 1970’s the general public has enjoyed some truly beneficial choices. What’s more, if someone sought the option to correct their vision without wearing eyeglasses things were very straightforward. One could arrange a convenient appointment with an optometrist, have their vision checked and receive a written prescription. Then, it was a matter for your local qualified optician to have the lenses made and fitted. Nothing could really have been more easy, simple or safe.

Well, the world of contact lenses has changed, and most of this has been due to a relatively new interest in the way that some people choose to accentuate their appearance. Whether for costume, entertainment, or in sports, this latest of trends regarding ‘special effects’ and other colored contact lenses has ignited as much controversy as it has rising consumer enthusiasm.

Perhaps it’s time to take a good look at just what so many people now want to look through, and what vision care professionals have been seeing for themselves out in the real world.

Watch Dr. Bro's Interview on KKTV
KKTV interviews Dr. Reed Bro regarding the safety of unregulated colored contact lenses.

Is It a Trick or a Treat?

Special Effect Contact Lenses

About fifteen or so years ago, a new phenomenon emerged when some television and movie characters, particularly in the Goth and Zombie genre, began to appear with truly strange and exotic eyes. Some had wild colors like amethyst, magenta and chrome. Other lenses displayed various ‘special effects’ like grids, prisms and spirals. This accent on eyes also emerged in various superhero movies, as well as in some characters popularized in the video game industry.

Of course, on TV and in film, the characters were professionally fitted with various lenses to achieve the desired stage results. Some professional athletes in sports like baseball and football have also been clinically fitted with special types of colored contacts. These lenses have been used to assist them in dealing with glare, enhance their ability to spot the movement of the ball or another player’s uniform colors…and even to intimidate their opponents with ‘scary stare-downs’ on the playing field!

It did not take very long, however, before many enterprising businesses in the Halloween costume, theatrical supply and beauty salon industries began to offer cheap, readily available colored and ‘special effects’ contact lenses to their customers. In the aftermath of this rather recent trend, there have been marked spikes in the number of eye-related infections, injuries and vision damage. Not surprisingly, these incidents have elevated the public discussion.

Lately some serious questions have been raised about the general safety and overall wisdom of purchasing and using ‘over the counter’ colored and ‘special effects’ contact lenses. Let’s look at the bigger picture and discuss a few of the safety aspects behind all of these little bits of colored plastic that have so suddenly become such a worldwide phenomenon.

What Do We Really Need To Know?

First of all, when it comes to colored or specialty costume lenses, some practical sense is probably the best overall advice. With our eyesight being such a precious gift, a few things should be mentioned that most Halloween, costume store, theater supply houses and salons might conveniently not be telling you. So, before making the leap into the colored contacts craze, here are a few thoughts to ponder regarding what to know and how to buy, wear and take care of these lenses.

  • Colored and ‘special effects’ contact lenses can be prescription lenses to correct vision, or Plano, which are non-corrective types.
  • Before looking for any colored or specialty contacts always make sure to schedule an exam with an optometrist to get a written prescription.
  • With a prescription in hand you can visit any qualified, licensed optician to select your lenses and be professionally fitted.
  • Always wash your hands before handling any contact lenses.
  • Clean and store the lenses in a sterile multi-purpose lens solution.
  • Never re-use the same solution to store or to clean these lenses.
  • Don’t share your contacts with anyone or use theirs, this can spread various eye diseases or lead to unnecessary injury.
  • Avoid swimming or using hot tubs while wearing such lenses due to the possibility of salt water and chlorine contamination.
  • Remember never to sleep with contact lenses because severe irritation or permanent eye damage could result.

How Can I Best Get the Look I Want?

Holding a Color Contact Lens

First and foremost, remember the old saying; ‘It’s always better to be safe than sorry.” This couldn’t be more important than when it comes to our eyes and precious sight. Also remember that all contact lenses are classified as medical devices by the FDA. This requires that you secure a written prescription from an eye care professional. You can’t put a price on your eyes, so never purchase colored or ‘special effects’ contact lenses online, through the mail or from costume shops and salons.

If you’re an aficionado of Halloween, costume or theater wear or simply wish to change or enhance the appearance of your eyes, the choices today are almost limitless. What’s even better, there are plenty of qualified eye care professionals who will be more than happy to assist you with your selection and to provide you with lenses that are as safe and comfortable as possible. If you’re considering colored contacts for a child’s Halloween costume, there are other pertinent Halloween safety issues to keep in mind as well.

So what’s the bottom line? Colored and ‘special effects’ contact lenses to accentuate Halloween and theatrical costumes can be very inventive and lots of fun. Just remember, they’re your eyes, so common sense and safety should always be on the sightline…not the sideline.