I have been wearing a lot my cosmetic lenses (circle, costume, and otherwise) out and about a great deal lately. I’ve also been bumping into a lot of people in convention restrooms who are trying to put in contacts. Since I wear contacts everyday I often assist those desperately seeking help. These people are usually grateful for assistance I and anyone else offers them as they eagerly don their contacts.
On the other hand I get a lot of grief for wearing costume contacts from a whole group of people who “think I should know better” since I wear standard prescription contacts routinely.
Now, in my experience there are two schools of thought on this issue and that they often seem diametrically opposed . The first school of thought is something along the lines of “YAY! costume contacts are awesome!” The second school of thought is similar to “costume contacts are evil and destroy your eyesight.”
Like so much in this life, the truth of this dichotomy lies somewhere in the middle. You definitely need to protect your eyes and eyesight. If something terrible happens to your eyes you are in a lot of trouble and poorly fitted or maintained contacts certainly place the wearer at higher risk for this. I could go on a huge rant just on this topic, but Lex at “Madeyewlook” has a fantastic video and rants much better than I can. There are a few things I can say on the topic though-the first being that one of the biggest problems is that people don’t have an exam. They just order plano lenses online. However, without a proper, full exam it is impossible to tell if contacts fit correctly or if someone has eye conditions such as keratitis or dry eye that might preclude the wearing of contacts safely. Buying them at conventions falls under this too. Vendors that sell lenses at conventions typically have an optician, not an optometrist or ophthalmologist doing the fitting and cannot perform a full exam.
It’s also really important to safely maintain contacts. This includes a whole host of things, such as using a recommended brand of contact solution, cleaning lenses before storing them, and disposing of contacts as directed (don’t keep monthly lenses past that time limit, etc.) And because hygiene is always important, always wash your hands before handling contacts. The last thing you need is to get a piece of dust in your eyes and scratch your cornea.
On the other hand, cosmetic lenses of any kind ARE safe as long as you follow these rules. Whenever someone says something to me about wearing cosmetic lenses, I always want to go into a rant about it. As long as cosmetic lenses have been approved by an FDA or equivalent, are you follow good care practices they are as safe as ANY OTHER contact lenses. All contact lenses carry some risk, just by the nature of placing a film on your eye. But absolutism takes hold when people get an idea in their head and so they think if someone had a bad experience, then they must be unsafe. Just take care and follow the necessary safeguards.
If you want to dip your toes into cosmetic contacts, but are still slightly wary, there are a couple options. One is Angel Contacts, which is the only circle lenses vendor approved by a North American FDA at this time. Another is to get color lenses from a conventional lens company such as Acuvue. These are conventional lenses that have a color tint. And finally you can buy costume lenses from a vendor that sells both costume lenses and conventional lenses, such as Vision Direct or 1-800-contacts. This last choice tends to have more stock around Halloween, but they do usually have options all year round. I am not espousing any one to pick, just stating that these are all available.