What You Should Know About Buying Colored Contacts For Halloween

When it comes to nailing your Halloween costume, the details can totally take it to the next level. Which is why colored and special effects contact lenses can help you perfect your look. But acquiring your lenses is not always as simple as finding the rest of your costume. To find out why, I emailed with Ilyse Haberman, MD, assistant professor at the Department of Ophthalmology at New York University Langone Medical Center. Dr. Haberman let me in on why you shouldn't purchase special effects lenses from just any retailer, and what else you should know before you buy colored contacts.

But just because it can be a little more complicated to find the right lenses for your costume shouldn't dissuade you. The only reason it takes more time and effort is for your safety. As Dr. Haberman explains, "Contact lenses are classified as medical devices by the FDA." So even if you're only after decorative and not corrective lenses, it's still important to make sure your contacts won't cause any trouble. After all, you only get one set of eyes. So you don't end up with lenses that will damage your eyes, here are six things you should know before you purchase a pair:

1. You Need A Prescription

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Whether you need corrective or cosmetic contact lenses, legally, both require a prescription. Dr. Haberman explains that this is because even if special effects lenses don't have a corrective prescription, they still come in a variety of shapes and sizes which requires a professional fitting to each individual's eyes. Without a prescribed fit for color or SFX contacts, there is no way to know what lenses will be safe to wear.

2. Vendors Should Require Your Prescription

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Because you legally need a prescription for color and SFX contacts, Dr. Haberman instructs that you should never purchase lenses "from a vendor that claims you don't need a prescription." She explains that not only is it illegal to sell contacts without a prescription, but cosmetic lenses can also "have all the same complications as corrective contact lenses if not fit and handled properly."

3. Do Your Research

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Dr. Haberman also warns that certain brands of colored contacts have pigment that can more easily rub off, and therefore have significantly higher bacterial adherence. Because this could lead to possible infection, it is always important to research different brands and styles of lenses before wearing.

4. Dailies Might Be Better

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For those who are not used to caring for contact lenses, or are looking to wear them specifically for Halloween or with another costume, Dr. Haberman recommends using a daily disposable cosmetic lens. This way, you won't have to worry about properly cleaning and disinfecting the lenses.

5. What You Should Avoid

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Because wearing contacts can put your eyes at risk, there are certain things you should do and certain things you should avoid when wearing them. Dr. Haberman stresses to never sleep in your contacts or expose them to water (including tap water, pools, hot tubs, lakes, and oceans). She also recommends always washing your hands before putting in your contacts. By following these precautions, you will lower your risk of contracting a vision-threatening bacterial infection.

6. Signs You Should Remove Them

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If you got a prescription for the correct fit and handled your lenses properly, you shouldn't feel them in your eyes. However, Dr. Haberman notes, "If you experience pain, irritation, eye redness, sensitivity to light, [or] decreased or cloudy vision," you should remove your lenses and see your eye doctor immediately.

The only thing scarier than how SFX contacts look is what they could do to your eyes. But as long as you consult with your eye doctor and follow directions for wearing and caring for your lenses, you shouldn't run into any trouble.