How decorative contact lenses could damage your eyes this Halloween



Halloween shoppers can buy decorative contact lenses online, in beauty supply and costume stores, and even at gas stations. But before you don a pair to complete your vampire look this weekend, health officials warn that they could damage your eyes.

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Ophthalmology caution consumers against purchasing decorative or cosmetic contact lenses without a prescription.

A recent study adds to their concerns, finding that several popular types contain chlorine and other chemicals that can harm the eyes. The authors also noted that colorants printed or pressed onto some decorative lenses create an uneven texture that could scratch the eyes.

Contacts are medical devices regulated by the FDA. Retailers that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them over the counter are breaking the law.

Contacts are not “one size fits all.” An eye doctor must measure your eyes to fit the lenses properly. A poor fit can lead to:

  • scratches on the cornea, which can lead to sores and infection
  • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • decreased vision
  • blindness from scarring of the eye

How to buy decorative contact lenses safely, according to the FDA:

  • Undergo an exam from a licensed eye doctor even if you have good vision.
  • Get a prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date.
  • Buy lenses from a seller that requires a prescription, whether you shop in person or online.
  • Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses.
  • See an eye doctor immediately if you experience signs of an eye infection, such as redness, persistent eye pain, or a decrease in vision.
Jackie Farwell

About Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and finding new ways to help you stay well. I live in Gorham with my husband Nick and our hound dog Riley.