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Are colored contact lenses safe?

Costume contact lenses also known as cosmetic or decorative contact lenses – are contact lenses that change how your eyes look. These contact lenses can make your eyes look different in many ways, from changing your eye’s color or pupil shape to giving cartoon or film character effects. Common examples are blackout contacts, black sclera contact lenses, cat eyes and zombie eye contacts. They can be made with or without vision correction.

The FDA warns that wearing contact lenses can irritate the eyes and lead to pink eye (conjunctivitis), corneal infections, and scratches on the cornea, possible impaired vision, and blindness. Allergic reactions are possible too.

Putting something into your eye can increase the odds for bacterial infections like keratitis. This can become serious and have irreversible consequences if not handled promptly and properly.

Colored contacts sit on top of your cornea just as other contact lenses do. As a result, they have many of the same possible risk factors.

Decorative contacts may be thicker or have more pigment than traditional contacts. They can therefore let less oxygen through into the eye. This can cause dry eyes and increase the risk for infection.

Here are some tips for preventing issues related to colored contacts:

  • Get fitted for colored contacts from an optometrist and obtain a prescription.
  • Buy your colored contacts from a source that requires a prescription and is approved by the FDA. Do not buy colored or decorative contacts from a beauty salon, convenience store, online retailer that doesn’t ask for a prescription, or street vendor.
  • Use only colored contacts that are prescribed for you directly, and don’t share them with others.
  • Practice good hygiene. Always wash your hands before touching your contacts or your eyes.
  • Clean and store your colored contacts exactly as directed. Use only the specialized contact solution recommended by the contact manufacturer to clean and store your contacts.
  • Replace your colored contacts at the scheduled times, and wear them only as directed. Take them out, dispose of them, and replace them when the manufacturer dictates.
  • Take out your contacts immediately if you experience any discomfort, irritation, redness, or discharge in your eyes. Contact your eye care professional right away.

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