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Keep trick-or-treaters seeing 20/20

There’s nothing like shopping for Halloween costumes with kids and teens. They love the spooky and comical designs, and often want to perfectly emulate their favorite stars. But when their dream costume calls for colored contacts, there is a lot to consider.

Also called novelty, decorative or fashion contacts, these lenses do not correct your vision but mask your iris with a different, often colorful pattern. 

“Proper contact use can be difficult for many people, and the added risks of an improperly manufactured product can be very dangerous for any person, whether they are a child, teen or even an adult,” said Dr. Daniel W. Upton, a board-certified comprehensive ophthalmologist

Here’s what you need to know about “getting the look” safely this Halloween.

Ask the Optometrist
Not all colored contacts are dangerous. Many are made by the same manufacturers that design vision-correcting models in facilities overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, even the highest quality contacts come with risks if purchased from an unauthorized retailer. 

In fact, any contact lens wearer can tell you stories about the difficulties of learning to use contacts. 

“It can be very tricky for patients to get lenses in and out of their eyes at first,” said Dr. Upton. “For that reason, we always recommend that new users sit with their optometrist and practice application and removal together before leaving with your new lenses.” 

This learning curve is one of the major reasons novelty contact lenses are so dangerous. Our eyes are delicate; proper technique will keep you from scratching your eyes while working with the lens. It’s also vital to learn proper cleaning techniques to prevent infection. 

“Lenses purchased in a costume shop or drug store don’t come with invaluable professional instruction on application and cleaning,” said Dr. Upton.

Potential Risks 
With contacts, one size doesn’t fit all. Eyes come in many shapes and sizes, and FDA-approved lenses come in a variety of models to provide the perfect fit. 

“If your contacts don’t fit properly, even a seamless insertion can’t protect your eyes from cuts or scratches,” said Dr. Upton. “Plus, novelty packaging may not list all ingredients in the product, putting you at risk for an allergic reaction.”

Issues with non-medical-grade contacts can lead to infection, visual impairment or even blindness. 

Reputable Manufacturers 

Traditional contact lens manufacturers do offer Halloween-approved options with full FDA oversight, but you will still require a prescription. These are often more costly than novelty products.  Contacts meant to expand the look of your iris, commonly known as “doll” contacts or anime eyes, do not have an FDA-approved equivalent. 

“Remember, contacts were developed as a medical device, and retailers who treat them as such are the most trustworthy,” said Dr. Upton. “FDA-approved contacts are made from a light, flexible material which is breathable for your eye without drying them out or introducing unsafe materials.”

David W. Upton, M.D., is a board-certified comprehensive ophthalmologist. His clinical interests include small-incision cataract surgery, neuroophthalmology and eyelid surgery. To schedule an appointment, call 800-275-6401.