Putting In Contacts: Step by Step Process

The biggest hurdle that you will have wearing contact lenses is learning to handle them, especially putting them in. Long time wearers make it look easy, as if they could flip the contact lens into the air like a coin with their thumb and catch it on their eye perfectly without much work. And, truth is, when you complete a task once every day of your life, you tend to eventually get really good at it. But everybody starts somewhere, and nobody is skilled on their first try. 

Video Guide: Putting in Contacts

Pro Tips Before Inserting Your Contacts

Here are a couple of tips you need to help you develop good contact lens insertion habits:

1: Sanitize

Always wash your hands with antibacterial non-lotion soap and rinse thoroughly before handling your contact lenses. The biggest transfer bacteria and viruses to your eye is your hands.

2:  Keep your lenses moist

Think of your contact lenses as fish – “fish die out of water”. Your contacts will dry and warp and ultimately not feel right when they are out of your contact lens solution or your eye for too long. So, if a minute has gone by and your contact lens is still not in your eye, remoisten it with the proper contact lens solution.

3: Use your fingertips

Use the skin of your fingers to handle the contact lenses. We tend to use our fingernails for scooping and picking things up, even if we don’t realize it. But with contact lenses, think of your fingernails as little razor blades – if your fingernails (even short fingernails) touch your contact lenses, they may slice your lens. New wearers like to blame the contact lens as being weak or defective, when, in reality, the poor handling technique of using your fingernails is the likely cause for ripping lenses. And think about this: What if you are in the habit of taking your contacts out of your eye with your fingernails, and your contact is not actually there? You may end up scratching your cornea, and that may require an emergency visit to your doctor.

4: Position the lens

Make sure that the contact lens is not inside-out before you insert it. Put the contact lens on your finger, and look at it from the side. The correct shape of the lens before insertion is “bowl-shaped” – the rim of the contact lens does NOT flare out. The incorrect shape is more “saucer-shaped” – the edges DO flare out.

5: Keep your eye wide open

Don’t blink when the contact lens is going in. This is the toughest part of inserting a contact lens for the first time. We have trained all of our life to blink when a foreign object comes near or touches our eye. Our eyes are great at the blink reflex. With contact lens insertion, you need to not blink to get that lens in. Not an easy task. So you are going to have to predetermine what needs to be done before you even start… Don’t Blink. It’s the old cliche, “Mind over Matter.” Until you can get over this part, the contact is NOT going in, unless you get lucky. But, developing a good technique cannot rely on luck, it must be earned with intended purpose. So, get over it, and DON’T BLINK!

6: Look straight forward

Don’t look away. Even the most skilled wearers can have a hard time putting a contact lens in without a mirror to see what they are doing. As a new wearer, you have no business trying to put the contact lens in while looking away. Okay, here’s what happens… if your eye isn’t allowed to blink, you will want to move your eye out of danger by looking up and away from the lens, therefore, losing sight of your goal of inserting the contact lens properly. Again, this a natural response that we have been ingrained with our entire lives. So, you have to consciously refuse to look away. Put it in your head early, “I have to SEE the contact lens go onto my eye correctly.” If you don’t SEE the lens go on your eye, then you’re not looking in the right spot, and you’re probably looking away.

Take the Time to Get Used to Putting in Contacts

There are many different techniques for inserting contact lenses, especially as you become more skilled. You will eventually develop methods that work for you, and that’s just fine. However, if you receive tips as a beginner from other skilled wearers, quite often they are telling you how THEY do it and the methods that THEY have developed, and are really not thinking of YOU as a beginner.

As a new wearer, the first thing you need to understand is your goal. Your goal is for the contact lens to align directly onto the cornea (the clear dome over the color part, the iris, of your eye). In order for the contact lens to unstick from your finger, you will need to create a “seal” with the contact lens on your eye. To create this seal, the entire rim of the contact lens has to come in contact with the eye, and you need to watch that seal form (therefore, don’t look away or blink). 

Think of it this way, if you are trying to get a suction cup to stick onto a window, and one edge is not touching the window, will it create a suction? No, of course not. The entire rim of the suction cup must touch to form a seal first. And so it goes for inserting a contact lens. The lens will depart from your finger when the entire rim of the contact lens forms a seal on the eye. Blinking will fold the lens, and looking away will misalign your target.

How to Put in Contact Lenses (Step by Step)

So here are your contact lens insertion steps:

  1. Wash your hands correctly, and rinse them well.
  2. Place the contact lens in your palm without using your fingernails.
  3. Use proper contact lens solution to clean your lenses by rubbing with the skin of your fingers in the palm of your hand.
  4. Rinse the contact lenses, allowing excess solution to leak from the crevices in your hand.
  5. Place the center of the contact lens near the tip (closer to 45 degrees of the tip, like a French beret) of your pointing finger of your dominant hand in the correct “bowl-shaped” fashion.
  6. With the arm connected to your hand with the contact lens, place your forearm at a 45 degree angle, and bring your hand close to your eye.
  7. With the hand not holding the contact lens, use your fingers to pull the lower lid down to expose both the white of the eye below the iris (the color part of the eye)  and some of the pink tissue on the inside of the lower lid (some people find it more comfortable to pull the lower lid down with the middle finger of the contact lens hand, and that is acceptable as well). NOTE: Many providers encourage their new wearer patients to pull the upper lid open with the opposing hand instead – to stop the upper lid from blinking. We do NOT encourage that technique, because there is greater evaporation of the tear, and the eye will sting faster, making it want to blink more. A new wearer needs more time, not more stinging, and should develop control of their blink reflex. Learning to suppress your blink reflex is crucial to insertion, and we feel not holding the lid is a great way to learn.
  8. Look in the mirror at your contact lens with the other eye. Since the eye that you’re putting the contact lens on is going to be blocked by your finger, that means that you need to keep the other eye open to see what is happening. This not only allows you to see all of the action, it also helps stop your contact lens eye from blinking as well. Our eyes like to work together… They like to close together, and stay open together.
  9. Bring the contact toward the eye at a 45 degree angle to the eye, having the bottom portion of the contact lens touch first, so the contact lens is ‘leaning away’ from the eye. – At first touch, many first time wearers panic and blink and try to jam the contact lens in by accident. Don’t do that. When you feel touch, slow down, relax, don’t blink.
  10. Use the first point of touch at the bottom of the contact lens, just below your iris, as your “hinge point”. Remember, Your goal is to create a seal around the rim of the contact with the eye (like a suction cup on a window). Therefore, be careful not to jam the contact lens downward, as it may form wrinkles in the lens and prohibit a seal. Instead, gently begin forming your seal at this hinge point, and then work your way up.
  11. Gently form the rest of the seal, being careful not to create wrinkles. A properly placed lens will seal around the cornea and iris, though a bubble will likely be under the lens. You can pull your finger away at this point, but still don’t blink! If you blink, your eyelids will fold the contact lens out of your eye.
  12. Manually close your lids with your fingers to press the bubbles out by grabbing the upper lid’s lashes with your fingers to pull the lid over the bubble and set it back down to squish the bubble… or use the lower lid, instead, like a rolling pin to gently squeeze the air out from the bottom of the lens upward and out of the top… Our preferred teaching method is to pull the upper lid over the lens. Either way, when the air bubble is out, the eye should be closed.
  13. Once the contact lens appears in place, keep your eyes closed and move your eyes around under closed lids to make sure all of the bubbles are removed from under the contact lens.
  14. Open your eyes. If all feels well… Bask in your glory! You did it.

Expect the contact lens to feel a little strange… like something is in your eye, because something is in your eye, that has never been there before. It will take a little while (15 minutes to an hour) until your eye desensitizes to the lens. If the lens actually hurts. Remove it, clean it, and try again.

Common Contact Lens Insertion Mistakes and Corrections

Here’s a quick list of things to keep in mind and watch out for when first learning to insert contact lenses. 

  1. Hands or fingernails are unclean (Always Wash them before handling)
  2. Contact are not kept moist (Use solution to keep them moist)
  3. Fingernails are used to handle the contact lenses (Use the skin of your fingers)
  4. Contacts are inside-out when inserted (Make sure the lens is “bowl-shaped”)
  5. Blinking before insertion (stop blinking.)
  6. Looking Away (Watch the contact lens settle onto the cornea)
  7. Trying to jam the lens into place (slow down… watch the lens skillfully placed)
  8. Blinking after insertion (lift the lids and squish the bubble)

Common Risks & Tips with Inserting Contacts Incorrectly

Most of the time, inserting contact lenses incorrectly will result in discomfort or lack of clarity in vision. However, there are a few more serious risks to keep in mind. So take your time and as you do it more and more you will get more confident and skilled.

1: Scratching your eye (Don’t use your fingernails)

2: Infecting your eye (Clean, rinse, and disinfect your contact lenses properly – also keep your hands and under your fingernails when handling contact lenses)

3: Irritating your eye (Keep the lenses moist and clean)

The next step is of course to take the contacts out of your eye. Check out our other guide:

How to safely remove contact lenses from your eye →

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