Halloween Contact Lenses and Special-Effect Lenses

Want to look like a vampire? Or show your support of your favorite professional sports team by wearing its logo on your eyes? You can do this and more with decorative special-effect contact lenses.

Special-effect contacts — including black contact lenses, Halloween contact lenses and other “crazy” lenses — are soft contact lenses that are available for theatrical and novelty uses.

Just like colored contact lenses, special-effect (FX) or crazy contacts can be used whether or not you normally wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, because most types are available both with and without lens powers to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism<

It’s important to note that all contact lenses, including plano Halloween contacts and any other special-effects contacts, are classified as medical devices by the FDA and require a valid contact lens prescription from a licensed eye care practitioner.

Theatrical or novelty lenses are safe to wear — but only when they are properly prescribed and cared for, and purchased from a legitimate source. Bacterial eye infections from contaminated, poorly fitted or improperly worn special-effect contact lenses can occur rapidly, causing a painful corneal ulcer and even blindness.

Putting the finishing touch to your Halloween costume is not worth a sight-threatening eye infection from improper contact lens use.

How Do Special-Effect Contacts Work?

Special-effect contact lenses have an opaque (non-transparent) tint to completely mask your natural eye color and are available in a wide variety of dramatic colors and designs. The center of the lens, which lies over your pupil, is clear so you can see.

Most novelty or costume contact lenses cover just the colored portion of your eye (iris), but special-effect scleral lenses, like all-black, red, yellow or white contacts, cover both the iris and the “white” (sclera) of your eyes to create a truly haunting look.

Special Effects Contact Lenses: Trends And Designs

Black sclera contact lenses, white contact lenses, wild eyes, cat eyes — whichever you choose, there’s a huge array of Halloween contact lenses to add the ultimate finishing touch to your Halloween costume.

Current trends in theatrical or novelty contact lenses are inspired by movies and cult TV shows.

These include the popular black, white and yellow special-effect scleral contact lenses, as worn on the cult TV show True Blood; red and amber colored contacts like those worn in Twilight, New Moon and Breaking Dawn; and Goth contact lenses in patterns of red, black, white and yellow which channel The Exorcist.

Other movie character special-effect lenses include vivid green “Mad Hatter” colored contacts inspired by the movie Alice in Wonderland, yellow “alien” contacts as featured in Avatar and even yellow cat-eyes like those seen in Harry Potter.

Crazy contact lenses remain popular, too. These include zombie, vampire and other supernatural designs such as spider webs, cat eyes and werewolves — perfect for adding the “wow” factor to your Halloween or special occasion costume.

If you want even scarier looking contact lenses, there are mesh-look contacts and even neon glow-in-the-dark UV lenses!

Contacts in the Movies

Jim Carrey wearing green contact lenses in his Grinch costume.
Jim Carrey wore special-effect contact lenses by Dr. Morton Greenspoon in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

A Colorful History Of Special Effect Lenses

Special-effect contact lenses aren’t a recent fad. Morton Greenspoon, OD, a pioneer of theatrical lenses, has been providing special effects contact lenses to the film industry since the 1950s.

Dr. Greenspoon has changed Elvis Presley’s baby blues to brown for the movie Flaming Star, provided Michael Jackson’s wolf eyes for the “Thriller” music video, and received an Academy Award nomination for his work on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. His most recent film work includes Pirates of the Caribbean and the Twilight Saga.

But you don’t have to walk the red carpet to wear crazy contact lenses. With the array of special-effect lenses available today, you too can get into character and portray your favorite Hollywood star.

Do You Need A Prescription?

Yes — while novelty contacts are designed for fun, they still are considered medical devices and cannot be purchased legally in the United States without a contact lens prescription.

You must see your eye doctor for a contact lens exam to have them properly fitted and prescribed, even if you have perfect eyesight and don’t need corrective eyewear.

Contact lenses — including special-effect lenses — are not a “one size fits all.” A poor lens fit can lead to eye infection, corneal ulcer, decreased vision and even blindness.

Circle Contact Lenses

Girl with pink hair wearing circle lenses and an anime costume.
Many companies sell circle contact lenses illegally, which increases the risk of eye health complications.

Circle lenses are a relatively recent phenomenon. Also called “big eye” lenses, they make your eyes look larger than normal to produce a doll-like appearance, inspired by doe-eyed anime cartoon characters.

Issues concerning the safety of circle lenses have been well-documented in the U.S. media in recent years.

Many companies selling circle lenses in the U.S. do so illegally, either without requesting a prescription or selling unapproved lenses — or both.

To help avoid the risk of developing a serious lens-related eye infection, always ensure you are buying contact lenses from a legitimate source.

Where To Buy Theatrical And Special Effects Contacts

By law, your eye doctor must give you a copy of your contact lens prescription if you request it, which means you have the option of buying contact lenses from any eye care professional (ECP), optical chains and legitimate online retailers.

The cost of contact lenses with special-effect designs is comparable to that of more conventional color contact lenses designed to enhance or change your eye color.

Custom hand-painted designs, however, can cost significantly more.

To ensure a safe wearing experience, always buy your special-effect contact lenses from an authorized source.

Never buy special-effect contacts at any store that doesn’t ask you for a valid contact lens prescription.

Don’t buy contact lenses from a flea market, street vendor, beauty salon, Halloween store or similar setting. Such sales are illegal in the U.S., and for good reasons:

  • You might be getting unsafe products that are not FDA-approved for sale in the U.S. Don’t risk your eyes on products that may have been manufactured improperly or don’t have sterile packaging.
  • Even wearing FDA-approved lenses can be dangerous, if they haven’t been specifically fitted to your eyes. Poor-fitting contact lenses can cause serious vision problems, corneal abrasions and infections. Plus, they probably won’t be comfortable to wear!

Watch this video by the FDA on improper use of decorative contact lenses.

According to a 2015 consumer survey sponsored by the American Optometric Association (AOA), 26 percent of Americans who purchased non-corrective color or special-effect contact lenses did not have a valid prescription for the lenses from an eye doctor.

Also, a study published recently in the professional journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science found that people wearing cosmetic contact lenses (defined as decorative, color and non-corrective lenses, often obtained without a prescription) had more than a 16 times greater risk of developing an eye infection than people wearing standard corrective contact lenses prescribed by an eye doctor.

Safety Checklist

  1. Visit your eye doctor for a contact lens exam, fitting and prescription (regardless of whether you need vision correction).
  2. Buy contact lenses from a licensed ECP or an eyewear retailer that requires you to have a prescription. Never buy contact lenses from an unlicensed source that doesn’t require a prescription. Doing so greatly increases your risk of serious eye problems.
  3. Always follow your ECP’s instructions for wearing and caring for your contact lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams.
  4. Never share your contact lenses! While it may seem like a fun idea to swap special-effect lenses with your friends, sharing contacts can spread harmful bacteria and may result in serious eye health problems, including loss of vision.
  5. Keep in mind that “crazy” contact lenses generally are designed for daily wear only and are not FDA-approved to be worn overnight.
  6. If you experience any eye redness, swelling or discomfort, immediately remove your contact lenses and contact your eye doctor as soon as possible. This could be the sign of a potentially sight-threatening eye infection.
  7. Wear only hypoallergenic, non-toxic makeup. If makeup is used on a child’s face, it should be applied and removed by an adult. For removal, use eye makeup remover or cold cream, not soap.
  8. Be aware that false eyelashes also can cause eye irritation. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding safe application and removal. And read our safety information on eyelash extensions if you’re considering those, because they too can irritate eyes.

Protect Yourself And Others From Illegal Contact Lenses

Decorative contact lenses sold without a prescription at convenience stores, flea markets and online can cause serious eye infections, impaired vision and even blindness.

In October 2016, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced that ICE, the FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) combined efforts to make several hundred seizures totaling around 100,000 pairs of counterfeit, illegal and unapproved contact lenses. The enforcement actions were conducted under the FDA-led initiative dubbed Operation Double Vision, which is an ongoing effort to protect the health and safety of the American public from illegal contact lenses.

Testing of confiscated illegal lenses revealed many had high levels of bacteria that could cause significant eye infections. Also, the coloring of some decorative contact lenses were made of lead-based materials that could leach directly into the eye.

The agency urged consumers that anyone interested in wearing any type of contact lenses should visit an eye doctor, obtain a prescription and purchase them from a licensed provider.

“A valid prescription helps ensure consumers get contact lenses that are determined to be safe and effective by the FDA. Without it, people can risk serious eye injuries or loss of eyesight for one night of fun,” said George M. Karavetsos, Director, FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations in the ICE press release.

To protect yourself and others, if you see Halloween contacts or other contact lenses being sold without a prescription online or elsewhere, report it to the FDA 

Common Eye Injuries and How to Handle Them

Some common eye injuries, such as deep puncture wounds from accidents, could require immediate treatment or surgery to prevent permanent eye damage resulting in vision loss. If you’re worried that you have injured your eye, visit an eye doctor near you.

Minor surface scratches, on the other hand, may need only simple monitoring after an initial visit to the eye doctor to make sure complications such as eye infections don’t occur.

This guide to common eye injuries can help you determine your next step following an accident, especially if you are in an emergency situation. Remember also that common sense safety precautions such as wearing safety goggles or glasses may be your best approach to preventing eye injuries altogether and maintaining healthy vision for a lifetime.

Common conditions associated with eye injury and trauma include:

Scratched Eye (Corneal Abrasion)

Corneal laceration
Eye lacerations usually require emergency care. Don’t hesitate to visit an eye doctor immediately.

Scratched Eye

Common causes of abrasions to the eye’s surface (corneal abrasions) are getting poked in the eye or rubbing the eye when a foreign body is present, such as dust or sand. Corneal abrasions are very uncomfortable and cause eye redness and severe sensitivity to light.

If you know something has scratched your eye, it’s very important to see your eye doctor or an emergency room/urgent care center to seek treatment for your eye injury.

Scratches also can make your eye susceptible to infection from bacteria or a fungus. Certain types of bacteria and fungi can enter the eye through a scratch and cause serious harm in as little as 24 hours. Even blindness can result. This is especially true if whatever scratched your eye is dirty or contaminated.

Remember also that infections from eye injuries such as scratches can originate from unexpected sources such as a baby’s fingernails or tree branches.

If you have a scratched eye, don’t rub it. And don’t patch your eye, either. Bacteria like dark, warm places to grow, and a patch might provide the ideal environment. Simply keep the eye closed or loosely tape a paper cup or eye shield over it. See your doctor as soon as possible to check out this type of eye injury.

 

Penetrating Or Foreign Objects In The Eye

If a foreign object such as metal or a fish hook penetrates your eye, visit the emergency room/urgent care center right away. You could cause even more injury to your eye if you attempt to remove the object yourself or if you rub your eye.

If possible, try loosely taping a paper cup or eye shield over your eye for protection; then seek help.

Your eye also may have corneal foreign bodies that are small, sharp pieces of a substance (usually metal) that have become embedded in the eye’s surface (cornea), but have not penetrated into the interior of the eye.

Metal foreign bodies can quickly form a rust ring and a significant scar. Your eye doctor should remove these foreign bodies as soon as possible.

Caustic Foreign Substance In The Eye (Chemical Burn)

Getting unexpectedly splashed or sprayed in the eye by substances other than clean, harmless water can be scary. Some substances burn or sting but are fairly harmless in the long run, while others can cause serious injury. The basic makeup of the chemical involved can make a lot of difference, such as:

Good, Clean Fun? Not Really

Kids at a foam party

If you or your kids enjoy foam parties, we’re going to have to burst your bubble: After a 2012 foam party held in Florida, at least 56 of the 350 attendees suffered injuries to the eyes and skin.

Eye injury symptoms included irritation, severe pain, pinkness/redness, decreased visual acuity, conjunctivitis, light sensitivity, drainage, abnormal pH, eye surface abrasions, tearing, blurry vision, watery discharge and foreign body sensation.

  • Acid. As a general rule, acids can cause considerable redness and burning but can be washed out fairly easily.
  • Alkali. Substances or chemicals that are basic (alkali) are much more serious but may not seem so because they don’t cause as much immediate eye pain or redness as acids. Some examples of alkali substances are oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and even chalk dust.

Chemical exposures and burns are usually caused by a splash of liquid getting in your eye. But they can be caused in other ways as well, such as by rubbing your eyes and transferring a chemical from your hands to your eyes or by getting sprayed in the eye by hair spray or other aerosols.

If you’re splashed in the eye, put your head under a steady stream of barely warm tap water for about 15 minutes. Just let it run into your eye and down your face.

Then call your eye doctor or an emergency room/urgent care center to see what is recommended for your eye injury. Tell the person on the phone exactly what kind of substance got into your eye and what you’ve done about it so far.

If you know your eye is at risk because it’s extraordinarily red or blurry, then just go immediately to your eye doctor or an emergency room or urgent care center after you’ve rinsed it with water. You can put a cool, moist compress or an ice pack on your eye, but don’t rub it.

Depending on the substance, the effects of chemical exposures causing eye injuries can range from minor irritation and red eyes to serious eye damage and even blindness.

Black eye
Black eyes are common eye injuries and often can be treated with an ice pack to reduce swelling.

Eye Swelling

Eye swelling and puffy, swollen eyelids can result from being struck in the eye such as from a baseball moving at a high speed.

The best immediate treatment for this type of eye injury is an ice pack.

You may have a simple black eye (bruising around the eye), but you should see an eye doctor to make sure there’s no internal damage.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhages (Eye Bleeding)

This eye injury usually looks worse than it really is. A subconjunctival hemorrhage involves leakage of blood from one or more breaks in a blood vessel that lies between the white of the eye (sclera) and its clear covering (conjunctiva).

Subconjunctival hemorrhages are quite common and can occur from even minor injury to the eye. They may be limited to a small sector of the eye, or they can extend over the entire eye, making the white sclera appear bright red.

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is painless and does not cause temporary or permanent vision loss. No treatment is required. Over the course of several weeks, the blood will clear and the eye will return to a normal appearance.

Traumatic Iritis

Traumatic iritis is inflammation of the colored part of the eye that surrounds the pupil (iris) and occurs after an eye injury. Traumatic iritis can be caused by a poke in the eye or a blow to the eye from a blunt object, such as a ball or a hand.

Traumatic iritis usually requires treatment. Even with medical treatment, there is a risk of permanent decreased vision.

Hyphemas And Orbital Blowout Fractures

A hyphema (high-FEE-mah) is bleeding in the anterior chamber of the eye, the space between the cornea and the iris. Orbital blowout fractures are cracks or breaks in the facial bones surrounding the eye.

Hyphemas and blowout fractures are serious eye injuries and medical emergencies. They are caused by significant blunt force trauma to the eye and face, such as getting hit by a bat, baseball, hockey stick or puck, or getting kicked in the face.

Steps To Take In Case Of Eye Injury

If you have any eye injury, contact your eye care practitioner immediately for advice.

For any eye injury, call your eye doctor immediately for advice. Most eye doctors have emergency contact numbers for nights and weekends.

Most eye doctors have emergency contact numbers for injuries that occur after normal business hours or on weekends.

In certain extreme situations such as a penetrating eye injury or an eye knocked out of the socket, it may be better to get to the hospital immediately without taking the time to try calling anyone.

Once you are in the care of a doctor, be sure to mention if you wear contact lenses so you can be advised whether to leave them in or remove them.

Depending on the type of eye injury, the doctor may want you to flush your eye with water or saline solution. In more serious situations, you may need surgery.

Treat all eye injuries as potential emergencies, and never hesitate to contact or see an eye doctor immediately. Don’t take risks with your eyesight. Remember, you have only one pair of eyes.

Eye Injury News

Man with a stye.
Styes don’t normally require immediate care, yet some people would visit an emergency room for such a condition. If you have an untreated eye condition or even a mild eye injury, call your eye doctor right away. It may save you from having to spend several hours in a hospital waiting room.

Nearly Half Of All Eye Problems Seen At U.S. Emergency Departments Don’t Require Immediate Medical Attention

February 2016 — It’s usually better to be safe than sorry when you get injured, but when it comes to common eye injuries and conditions, many people may be a little too cautious.

That’s the conclusion of investigators at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Howard University Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, whose research was published online in January by JAMA Ophthalmology.

The researchers set out to determine the causes of visits to hospital emergency departments across the country for eye-related problems, to help policymakers allocate resources more effectively.

Cosmetic Facial Filler Injections Can Cause Severe Vision Loss, Studies Find

Injections of facial fillers to remove wrinkles between the eyebrows and from other areas of the face can cause severe visual side effects in some cases, according to two recent studies.

Woman receiving facial filler injection near her eye.

In both studies, published in 2014, researchers in South Korea evaluated vision problems occurring after these cosmetic procedures.

Facial filler injections often are used to remove wrinkles from the glabella (area between the eyebrows) and/or the nasolabial folds (skin folds on each side of the nose that separate the cheeks from the upper lip — where “smile lines” or “laugh lines” occur).

Both studies revealed that use of cosmetic facial filler injections can sometimes cause painful blindness due to blockage of arteries that nourish the retina (for example, central retinal artery occlusion or branch retinal artery occlusion; sometimes called “eye occlusions“). In some cases, retinal artery occlusion following these injections can be accompanied by brain infarction (stroke).

Patients injected with autologous fat (fat obtained from a different location on the same person’s body) had worse visual outcomes and greater risk of stroke than those who were injected with hyaluronic acid or collagen. (Hyaluronic acid is a viscous fluid naturally present in the human body, particularly in the eyes and joints. Collagen is protein found in connective tissue throughout the body, including in the cornea.)

The study authors concluded that cosmetic filler injections between the eyebrows and for “smile lines” can sometimes cause painful blindness or even stroke, especially when autologous fat is used.

People who experience eye pain after cosmetic facial filler injections should undergo a dilated eye exam and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), they said.

They added that caution should be used during cosmetic facial filler injections, and physicians should be aware of various possible complications afterward. — G.H.