If you search the web for “Halloween contact lenses” you’re likely to find several online retailers who sell them. But, even though they are easy to obtain, you should steer clear of any decorative contact lens that you can obtain online without a prescription. What’s more, the Internet isn’t the only place dangerous costume lenses are sold. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adds that you should also never buy lenses from:
- street vendors
- salons or beauty supply stores
- beauty parlours
- gas stations
- flea markets
- novelty stores
- Halloween stores
- CD or video stores
- convenience stores
- beach shops
Rules vary from country-to-country, but in United States, it is illegal to sell colored contact lenses without a prescription. Contact lenses are regulated medical devices, which means places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them over-the counter, without a prescription, are breaking the law.
What Makes Halloween Contact Lenses Unsafe?
The problem isn’t just the decorative contact lens itself—it’s the unsupervised, “one-size-fits-all” dispensing without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional or without appropriate follow-up care. It’s important to have a medical eye and vision examination to be sure you are a good candidate for contact lenses and your cornea can safely tolerate a particular contact lens.
In fact, even if a costume contact lens is plano—meaning in contains no vision-correcting prescription—wearing lenses without a prescription from an eye doctor can lead to serious health issues and potentially (and permanently) damage your eyesight.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) offers the following recommendations for all contact lens wearers:
- Wear contact lenses only if they are fitted and prescribed by an eye-care professional.
- Do not purchase contact lenses from gas stations, video stores, websites or any other place not authorized by law to dispense contact lenses.
- Properly clean and disinfect your contact lenses as instructed by your eye-care professional.
- Wash and thoroughly dry your hands before handling and cleaning your contact lenses.
- Never swap or share contact lenses with anyone.
- Never sleep while wearing contact lenses unless they are extended-wear lenses designed for that purpose.