When it comes to contact-lens hygiene, we may know the rules but we don’t always follow them. Most wearers will admit to occasionally falling asleep in them, running out of solution and scrambling to use a random substance in its place, and even wearing them past their expiration date. But we’re usually trying our best, right? Wrong. A new report in the December issue of *Optometry and Vision Science reveals that a sad two percent of contact wearers actually follow the guidelines for safe use.* I have to admit that as a daily contact-lens wearer, I thought I was pretty vigilant, but it turns out I regularly commit a big no-no: I wash my face while wearing my contacts. “This exposes the eyes to Acanthamoeba, an organism that commonly lives in tap water and lakes and can lead to difficult to treat, painful, and even blinding infections,” explains Thomas L. Steinemann, an ophthalmologist and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, OH. “Tap water is pure to drink, but it’s not sterile,” he adds.
The most common transgression? “The number one problem is sleeping in contacts,” says Steinmann. “Even though some are cleared by the FDA for continuous use, we don’t recommend it.” When it comes to makeup, Steinemann says to be even more vigilant about replacing your products. The standard for liner and mascara is three months, but he advises tossing them after two, as well as immediately following an eye infection. Steinemann also warns against decorative contact lenses, particularly the oversized circle lenses. “The dyes in them are potentially harmful. Young girls are buying these at beauty supply stores and not being properly fitted for them. They’re even trading them with others—all risky practices,” Steinemann says.