Novelty contact lenses can complete a no-holds-barred Halloween look, but — whether you want vampire eyes or cat eyes — buying them isn’t as simple (or safe) as snagging a pair from a costume shop. Read on for what you need to know before purchasing on a whim.
1. You need a prescription for contact lenses (even cosmetic ones).
While it may be tempting to purchase the first intriguing lenses you stumble upon, take note: if there’s no prescription involved, you should definitely steer clear. “Contact lenses are regulated by the FDA”, explains NYC-based Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine, Ashley Brissette, MD, “and this extends to novelty contact lenses as well.” This is because in the United States, all contact lenses — corrective and cosmetic — are considered “medical devices”, which means selling them sans-prescription is against the law. (Not to mention, people selling illegal goods usually aren’t prioritizing the consumer’s safety!) Rule of thumb: “avoid buying lenses from beauty supply stores, street vendors, and online websites that do not require a prescription,” advises Brissette.
2. Eye-care specialists are the be-all-end-all.
Only a licensed professional — be it an optometrist or an ophthalmologist — can adequately fit you for contact lenses (more on why proper fit is so important later on). Additionally, they provide specialized contact-care tips, which can vary depending on the brand of contact prescribed. Plus, “getting your prescription from a reputable retailer will also ensure that the novelty lenses are FDA-approved,” Brissette explains. Translation: take the time to head to a pro to keep things safe and legal.
3. Shady contacts can cause some SERIOUS issues.
According to Dr. Brissette, an ill-fitting contact lens can cause corneal abrasion (AKA a scratch on the eye) which is “very painful, can cause blurry vision, tearing, redness, and can even lead to an infection.” Infections, Brissette explains, can spread, cause scarring, and — in severe cases — lead to permanent vision loss. To avoid these serious risks, “take the extra time to have a proper contact lens fitting, learn how to care for your lenses, and have your eyes examined by an eye care professional,” she reiterates. After all, the only thing scarier than spooky pupils is risking your eye health for them.
4. NEVER fall asleep with contact lenses in.
Anyone who wears conventional vision-correcting contacts has heard this, but if you’re trying cosmetic ones for the first time, take note. As Brissette explains, “your eyes get oxygen from the outside environment. If you sleep in your lenses, you can cause significant damage to the eye and vision.” Moral of the story: if you only do one thing before passing out post-Halloween party: remove. your. lenses.