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Decorative Contact Lenses

Dressing Up Your Eyes


Updated November 13, 2012

Special effect contacts

Special effect contacts

© 2007 Troy Bedinghaus licensed to About.com, Inc.
Decorative contact lenses have become quite popular in recent years, with demand increasing during the Halloween season. Also known as special effect contact lenses, they are available with or without corrective power, so people who don't usually need contact lenses or glasses may still wear them.


Decorative contact lenses are available in many colors and styles. Fun designs are made to look animalistic including zebra, cat and jaguar eyes. Other popular styles appear like fire, ice, and solid black and solid white eyes. Some are even decorated with football logos and team names. Many teenagers and young adults use these lenses to "complete" their Halloween ensembles.


Although cosmetic contact lenses can be fun and safe, they can produce serious eye problems if they are not fit properly and evaluated by a licensed eye care physician. A valid contact lens prescription is required in order to buy them. Remember that contact lenses, whether clear or colored, are medical devices regulated by the FDA. Many people mistakenly believe that zero-powered, decorative contact lenses do not pose the same eye health risks as corrective prescription lenses.


If you want to wear special effect lenses, keep the following tips in mind:
  • Have a comprehensive eye examination by a licensed eye care professional. An eye doctor will be able to perform a contact lens evaluation to make sure the lenses fit well and it is safe for you to wear them.
  • Purchase special effect contact lenses from your local eye care professional. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are licensed to dispense contact lenses and obtain them from reliable, well-recognized sources.
  • While it may be acceptable to order regular, clear contact lenses online, you may want to think twice about purchasing lenses in this manner. Wearing lenses tinted in someone’s garage and sold through a homemade website is a great way to develop an infection. Contact lenses purchased through one of theses sites may contain tinting agents not approved by the FDA.
  • Do not purchase them at convenience stores, flea markets, gas stations or beauty supply stores. Do not purchase colored contact lenses through outlets not licensed to dispense them. It is illegal and the federal government is cracking down on this practice. To find out if someone is licensed to sell contact lenses, ask for their professional license number, which is licensed by the state they do business in. You can call the Department of Professional Regulations (DPR) to check on licenses. Each state has one, and you can usually find them online.
  • Do not swim or sleep in decorative contact lenses.
  • Do not share or swap them with friends.
  • Always clean and disinfect your lenses before and after you wear them.

What you need to know

If you have any pain, burning, redness, tearing or sensitivity to light while wearing any type of contact lenses, see your eye care professional immediately.


American Optometric Association, Warning for Consumers: Popular Halloween Eye Wear Accessory Can Permanently Damage Eyes, 12 Sep 2007.

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