Certain aspects of a Halloween costume, like a wig, can make or break your look. What's a clown without red curls or Dora The Explorer without her chin-length bob? Makeup is just as important, but one costume puzzle piece that often goes overlooked is contact lenses.
A set of temporary gray or green contacts can elevate a basic cat costume, while novelty lenses (like red or white) can be the thing that makes you actually look like something ghoulish, like a vampire or skeleton. However, before you temporarily upgrade your eyes, know that you should proceed with caution.
We asked an expert about the safest way to wear lenses this Halloween and it turns out, buying a set of lenses online or in a random store without a prescription might be the scariest thing of all.
How To Safely Buy Coloured Lenses
According to Dr. Weslie M. Hamada, O.D., an optometrist at LensCrafters, wearing coloured contacts for fun is safe only if you have a prescription, since they still need to be fit to your eyes. "If you don't wear prescription glasses or contacts but just want to give your eyes a colour lift, you can absolutely wear coloured contacts," she says. "But, you should still get a prescription from an optometrist."
Dr. Hamada says that skipping a visit to a pro for a fitting "can cause negative ramifications including scratches to the eye, infections, decreased vision, or even blindness." Yep, all from wearing the wrong size and/or untested materials. Plus, if not purchased from an authorized retailer, contact lens could be made with materials or dyes that haven’t been FDA approved and can, in turn, cause major damage to the eyes.
If you are interested in altering your eyes, Hamada says purchasing from a legitimate source, like LensCrafters or your local optician, is the first step to safety. "Anything put near your eyes should always be medically safe and FDA-approved," she tells us. That means it's best to skip the contacts at your local beauty supply store because they might not fit your eye shape — or worse — might not even be sterile. "When wearing ill-fitting and unsterile lenses, you run the risk of an eye infection and could even lead to severe vision loss," she explains. Wearing unregulated contact lenses may also result in eye pain, allergic reactions, and decreased vision.
What About Novelty Lenses?
Scoring coloured lenses from your local eye doctor is easy, but novelty lenses — think cat or vampire-like eyes — are where the tricky part comes in. According to Hamada, lenses created to cover more than just the iris (like traditional contact lenses), are, usually, unregulated and unapproved by the FDA. They're also harder to get by way of doctor's prescription. Hamada's best advice is to do your research and, once you feel like you've found some that are safe, get a gut check from your eye doctor before buying. "Anything put near your eyes should be medically safe and FDA-approved," she says. "Stores that don’t require an Rx are selling the contacts illegally."
The FDA also warns against purchasing novelty lenses without a prescription. "Never buy contact lenses from a street vendor, a beauty supply store, flea market, novelty store or Halloween store, or from unknown online distributors," the FDA website reads. "They may be contaminated or counterfeit and therefore not safe to use."
Tips For Contact Newbies
So you purchased your lenses the right way — but that's just the beginning. For first-time coloured contact wearers, Hamada says that it's best to start slow. "If you’re a first-timer, it’s best to wear them for less than five hours or what your eye doctor recommends," she explains. "You can gradually increase the amount of wear time, but never sleep in any contact lenses," she warns, adding that keeping lenses in overnight can cause damage when you wake up. If you're a regular contact wearer and have consulted a doctor before use, Hamada says go forth your with your bright eyes.
Either way, never lend or borrow. "Never share your lenses — even if they've been cleaned," she warns, noting that sharing even for a moment can transfer bacteria and cause irritation and infection.
The bottom line, Hamada says, is to consider your health first. “Although costume contact lenses for Halloween may seem like a great addition to your look, it's important to be aware of the potentially permanent damage that can happen to your eyes while wearing them," she says. "Even if you wear these contacts for a couple of hours, it’s still not a good idea. Halloween comes and goes each year. Your vision doesn’t."
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