Risks of Colored Contacts for Halloween Costumes

It’s Halloween time again, and many people are buying Halloween costume color contact lenses, often referred to as “Cosplay” (dressing as your favorite character from movies, anime, or video games) lenses. Yes, it is fun to enjoy the thrills that Halloween can bring, but be aware that there are risks associated with these contact lenses. To keep yourself safe, we have a few thoughts for you to consider before you go buy those lenses.

The Allure of Colored Contacts

Have you ever seen those Halloween lenses? I bet you have, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this. But if not, they look pretty wild and can really complete a Halloween costume. It is often said that the eyes are the “windows to the soul,” and these lenses really can mess with that perception if you believe it. 

They can be completely red, white, black or green, or make your eyes look like they are hypnotic, in flames, or can look like a cat, dragon, or a clock face. The design options seem to go on-and-on. Halloween contacts can bring the “freaky” factor into an outfit like nothing else can. And as a consumer who loves to dress up and enjoy Halloween festivities, they are very intriguing and hard to ignore.

Legal Concerns

But make sure to keep a few thoughts in mind if you are considering the purchase of a pair of these Halloween color contact lenses…

In the United States, a seller is REQUIRED by law to receive a valid brand specific contact lens prescription before they can sell a contact lens. This requirement is in place because contact lenses are classified by the FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) as either class 2 or class 3 medical devices due to the potential for ocular harm (including sight loss). Stiff fines and penalties can be dealt to anyone who does sell contact lenses without receiving a valid prescription. 

So, if you are purchasing from an establishment that does NOT require a valid contact lens prescription, that company is breaking the law. And if they are ignoring the law about legal sales, what will stop them from disregarding proper protocol when it comes to packaging their contact lenses? Are they following the codes of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations? What makes you certain that that company is not repackaging contact lenses from a prior year, and you are buying second- or third-hand contact lenses? You may hope they wouldn’t do such a thing, but when they are selling contact lenses illegally, is it really a good idea to place the safety of your eyes in such an establishment?

Therefore, it is a good idea to receive a contact lens exam from a reputable source (an eye doctor’s office). They will assess the health and condition of your eyes to help you determine the best lens for you. They will also teach you proper care and wear of your lenses, such as how to handle, clean, rinse, disinfect, store, insert contacts, and remove your contact lens. Risks and recommendations will also be discussed and guidance will be given for your safest wear.

Good telehealth with a reputable doctor has potential to be comprehensive with today’s technology, but in most cases, you really should be wary of the online eye exam. Online exams may help you check a few required boxes to receive a script to satisfy the FDA law superficially, but you need to really question whether the exam truly comprehensively determined the health of your eye, or was it simply a way to make another sale and also sell you contact lenses? (Forgive me if I sound negative on this subject, but there are recent efforts being made to forcefully drive ocular healthcare down unsafe avenues with disregard for comprehensive eye care that leaves me unsettled.)

In regards to the Halloween contact lens script, you should also be aware that there are many reputable eye doctors who are not even willing to write a script for certain Halloween color contact lenses because they are aware of the greater risks associated with them. So if you really want those Halloween lenses, before you go into the exam room, explain your intention to the scheduler and inquire if your eye doctor is willing to fit Halloween contacts. It may save you a lot of time and money. 

“Why wouldn’t every eye doctor be willing to give a script for Halloween contacts,” you may ask. Let’s investigate that…

Health Risks of Low-Quality Contacts with Outdated Technology

Over the years, contact lenses have made significant strides in the safety of lens wear. The “Big 4” manufacturers of contact lenses have invested a lot of time and money into studies and designs that have improved the safety and comfort of contact lenses.

In 1999, silicone hydrogel contact lens material revolutionized the oxygen transfer to the eye with the introduction of Bausch & Lomb’s PureVision lens. Instead of relying completely on oxygen being transferred to the cornea through water like previous hydrogels, silicone hydrogel lenses provided oxygen transfer as well, therefore amplifying breathability of the eye significantly. Since 1999, modifications have been made to improve the silicone hydrogel designs, including three generations of polymer (the internal building block design) chemistry. These silicone lens designs have also drastically improved wearer comfort and have made significant strides to stabilize the eye tear layer (which we know has three layers with over 650 ingredients and requires a continuous balance). We have come so far that the PureVision, though revolutionary in its launch, has become outdated silicone hydrogel design.

Prior to advancement of silicone hydrogel contact lenses were the soft hydrogel contact lenses. Hydrogel contact lenses consisted of materials that completely depended upon the water in and around the contact lens to supply oxygen to the cornea of the eye. The later designs of hydrogel lenses had a high enough water content that they worked well enough to supply oxygen to the cornea somewhat efficiently. But the older designs of these hydrogels were made of material with very low amounts of water, and had an expected very low oxygen transmission to the cornea, which (for the most part) suffocated the cornea. A cornea without enough oxygen would be at a much higher risk to become unhealthy, get infected, swell, and experience temporary or permanent sight loss to varying degrees. 

Most of the Halloween contact lenses on the market are made of the hydrogel lenses of the OLDER, LESS BREATHABLE hydrogels.

The Dk/t measurement of a contact lens gives a comparison between contact lenses (at the optical center of the lens in a -3.00 power design) to determine the oxygen breathability of a lens. The higher the Dk/t number, the more oxygen breathability of the contact lens. Early studies placed the Dk/t at 24 as the minimum to avoid corneal swelling during daily wear and a Dk/t of a minimum of 87 for sleeping in them. The majority of the newer style silicone hydrogel lenses have a Dk/t value that exceeds the 87 value, the later hydrogels have a minimum Dk/t value that barely exceed the 25 value, but the older design hydrogels (like the bulk of the Halloween contact lenses) that have a Dk/t value under 10. 

“Under 10,” you may ask, “Isn’t that less than half of the amount of oxygen transfer than what is required to avoid swelling?” Yes. Less than half. And that doesn’t even take into account that these lenses have opaque material that gives the lens its color and likely reduces the overall breathability even more. That is why many doctors do NOT like to fit Halloween contact lenses. They recognize that the odds of damage to an eye exceed what is currently considered safe for contact lens wear.

The cornea is the clear dome over the iris (the color portion of the eye) upon which you place your contact lens. It requires oxygen to breathe, just like all of the other tissues of our body. The rest of the body gets oxygen directly from the bloodstream, but the cornea needs to remain clear. If blood did pump through the cornea, the cornea would be red and opaque, and unable to transmit light to the back of the eye. So, instead, the cornea receives oxygen directly from the air around it during the day. At night, the cornea receives oxygen by “stealing” oxygen from the vascularly rich blood supply on the back of our lids. The oxygen supply from the lids at night is far less rich in oxygen than the air during the day, so our eyes relatively suffocate a little bit at night. An eye that breathes is typically a healthy eye. But what happens to that oxygen supply when a contact lens covers it? Well that depends on which kind of contact lens covers it, doesn’t it? The more breathable the contact lens, the healthier the eye. The less breathable, the less healthy. Hallween contact lenses are the least breathable contact lenses that are commonly available on the market. Being the least breathable, that also makes them the most dangerous to the health of the eye.

Without the proper amount of oxygen, the eye essentially suffocates. The eye can swell, inflame, become hazy and painful, get infected with bacteria or virus, form ulcers, become scarred, and lose sight. And though you may know a lot of people around you that wear contact lenses without problems, you probably don’t know anybody who wears the old style brands that wear like that of the Halloween brand lenses. People don’t wear that kind any more for a reason. They are not as safe as the newer designs. So if you chose to wear the Halloween contact lenses, understand the increased risk that you are taking with your eyes.

Choosing High-Quality Colored Contacts

The highest quality color and far most breathable color contact lenses on the market are made by ALCON… the Air Optix Colors. These lenses are made with the latest in materials from the silicone hydrogel family and a Dk/t of 138. They come in a variety of colors including Blue, Green, Brown, Pure Hazel, Gray, Brilliant Blue, Gemstone Green , Sterling, Gray, HoneyTrue , Sapphire, Amethyst, and Turquoise. Notice that none of these lenses are those special Halloween colors. This design of lens is for someone who may want to color their eye everyday with minimum risks and the benefit of using the developed technology of the silicone hydrogel design. Each pair can be worn for thirty wears for daytime use only, and can be purchased in two- or six-packs. For ALWAYS LOW prices and FREE DELIVERY, go to the most trusted contact lens supplier in ocular health care, DeliverContacts.com, for your Air Optix Colors order. DeliverContacts.com does not sell the Halloween designs of contact lenses.

Getting Your Eyes Ready for Halloween

If you do choose to wear the Halloween color contact lenses, please do so with full understanding of their risks outlined in this article. Put them in as late as possible, and take them out as soon as possible. Remember, your eyes are starving for oxygen while you wear them, so keep your wear limited. And do NOT sleep, nap, or close your eyes for any period of time with your Halloween lenses. Your eyes WILL ABSOLUTELY experience problems if you cut off their oxygen supply.

Overall, the purpose of this article is to educate you about Halloween lenses, not ruin your fun or your costume. We know that these contact lenses can be fun, but we also know that they can be dangerous to your vision and want to share this understanding with you. So, be safe, and have a healthy and happy Halloween so you can still see on November 1st.

Article Sources ↓

Deliver Contacts references research from industry experts and reputable industry publishers to support claims or data in our content when applicable.

  1. FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) - Product Classification
    Accessed: October 6, 2023
  2. FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) - Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) Regulations
    Accessed: October 6, 2023

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