Safe Use of Decorative and Colored Contact Lenses

Ensure after effects of cosmetic contact lenses don't haunt you!

Decorative contacts are often viewed as cosmetic or a Halloween costume accessory. To the contrary, when not fitted properly to the shape of your eye, these lenses can cause corneal abrasions or ulcers, allergic reactions, impaired vision, or even blindness. Ensure the contacts you put in your eyes are safe. See an eye care professional for a prescription before purchasing decorative or colored contact lenses.

One Size Fits All?

Colored Contact

Claims such as "one size fits all" and "no need to see an eye specialist" are false advertising. As many contact lens wearers can tell you, contacts are not one size fits all! An optometrist should measure each eye to ensure proper fit to the shape of your eye. Ill-fitting contacts may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea. Contacts that are not cleaned properly can cause painful and potentially serious infections. All the more reason to have this addition to your costume dispensed by an eye doctor to obtain just the right fit and instructions on hygiene and instilling the lenses in your eye. Not to mention it is illegal for a business to sell contact lenses without a prescription!

Did You Know...?

It's actually illegal to sell cosmetic or decorative contacts without a prescription in the United States.

In 2005 the FDA classified all contact lenses as "medical devices" and restricted distribution to licensed eye care professionals.

Testimonial by Laura ButlerAlthough sales of contact lenses without a prescription have been illegal since 2005, they are still available. In 2010, Laura Butler purchased colored contact lenses from a souvenir shop while on vacation. The lenses only cost $30. However, she paid an additional $2000 in medical bills after a trip to the ER for severe eye pain. After wearing the contacts for only 10 hours, Laura suffered from a severe eye infection, a scar on her cornea, and damaged vision. Click here to read the actual story posted by the FDA.

Never purchase contacts from a website that does not require a prescription, a street vendor, salon, boutique, novelty or Halloween store. Any business or vendor that advertise these lenses as cosmetics or sell them without a prescription are breaking the law. offers useful guidelines and helpful tips when purchasing decorative contact lenses on their Info on Buying Halloween Contacts or Color Contacts page.

Wearing contact lenses that are not properly fitted to the shape of your eye can interfere with your eye health.

Natalie: Results from Cosmetic Contacts

When lenses are not properly fitted, they can possibly scratch the eye causing a corneal abrasion or corneal ulcer. Placing a contact lens in the eye that has not been properly cleaned or disinfected can cause painful and potentially serious infections, sometimes even vision loss. Even if you have perfect eye sight without vision correction, you still need to have a prescription for cosmetic or decorative contacts to ensure the contacts fit properly.

Circle lenses are dangerous and not approved by the FDA.

eXtremeSFX Black Sclera

Unlike regular, prescription contact lenses, circle lenses cover a bigger area of the eye, extending past the iris (the "colored" part of the eye) and onto the whites of the eye. This causes the iris to appear larger and gives the wearer a "doe-eyed" or anime look. These lenses are not approved by the FDA. These lenses are particularly harmful because more of the eye is covered which makes it difficult for oxygen to get through to the eye.

Guidelines To Purchase Decorative Contact Lenses Safely

Follow these tips from the FDA to safely purchase decorative contact lenses:

  • Get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist), even if you feel your vision is perfect.
  • Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date. But don't expect your eye doctor to prescribe anime, or circle, lenses. These bigger-than-normal lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look have not been approved by FDA.
  • Whether you go in person or shop online, buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription.
  • Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams.
  • See an eye doctor right away if you have signs of an eye infection such as:
    • redness
    • eye pain that doesn't go away after a short time
    • decrease in vision

If you see contact lenses being sold without a prescription or have a medical issue resulting from decorative contacts, you can report the business or issue through the FDA's MedWatch program.