What You Need to Know About Decorative Contact Lenses

Health Writer

Decorative contact lenses are for those who want to change the appearance of their eyes. It could be for fashion or cosmetic appeal—when your eyes simply MUST match your violet Versace or your green Givenchy. Maybe you want theatrical authenticity—we think the ghost of Christmas past should definitely have white-out irises. And for Halloween, the selection is as creepy as it is comprehensive. You can have the eyes of any creature you’ve seen in films or in your darkest nightmares.

Do decorative lenses correct vision?

No. They simply change appearance. A decorative lens can change the color of the iris or seem to change the shape of the iris and pupil. Some decorative lenses exist to transform the eyes of a person into the eyes of a creature. You can have the eyes of a cat, vampire, werewolf, witch, and even a rampaging zombie--did I hear brains?

Are decorative contact lenses regulated?

Yes. And that’s a good thing. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the production of decorative contact lenses to ensure safety. Some vendors sell non FDA-approved lenses, however, so be careful. Never buy decorative contact lenses from a street vendor, flea market, novelty shop, or costume store. The word on the street is that some vendors sell used lenses. Remember the dreaded Acanthamoeba commonly found in water? That’s a very good reason to buy decorative lenses only from a reputable lens dealer, and then to be sure you follow safety tips. According to Dr. Matthew Giegengack, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Wake Forest Baptist Health, you could experience eye complications such as “conjunctivitis, commonly called pink eye, corneal swelling, eye infection, allergic reaction, corneal abrasion, corneal ulcers, vision impairment and, in extreme cases, blindness.”

Does size matter?

When it comes to contacts, size matters. One size does not fit all. Eyes vary in shape and dimensions. We have researched this carefully, and contact lens experts recommend a prescription for decorative lenses. The prescription, while not for vision correction, should specify a reliable brand, correct measurements, and an expiration date. Note this caveat: The FDA has not approved the larger-than-normal lenses that simulate the gaping eyes of a doll. If you saw the Talky Tina episode on the original Twilight Zone series, you would not want to wear them. You would not want your best friend to wear them, and certainly not your worst enemy.

What kinds of Halloween lenses are there?

The greatest potential for scary transformation lies within the array of Halloween lenses. The internet can deliver any type of contact lens: Some make you look like a zombie. You can find contact lenses with the fixed-on-prey, pre-kill stare of a werewolf--and they come in orange and green. And it gets better (or worse, depending on your horror palate). Special lens designs include the devil, barbed wire, the Scream face, a flying witch, a banshee, and a carved pumpkin.

Are “Halloween” contacts safe to wear?

They are safe only with a prescription and purchase from a reputable dealer. And you must take care of them. Poor care and purchase without a prescription can lead to a cut or scratch on the eyeball, itchy and watery red eyes, decreased vision, infection, or blindness. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers Halloween contact lenses medical devices. Despite the fact that they don’t correct vision, the FDA monitors them to ensure their safety. So are they safe?  Only if you follow the guidelines:  prescription, reputable dealer, cleanliness and care.

Where do you find them?

Look at the array we found at this website. If you want teeth in your eyes or a completely blacked out eyeball, we think that on a scare-factor scale of 0 to 10, you will no doubt score a 10. If you wear them next Halloween—shivers, shudders and screams, oh my—please promise not to knock on our door.