• Over-the-Counter Costume Contacts May Contain Chemicals Harmful to Eyes

    Written by: Shirley Dang
    Oct. 05, 2015

    Results of Study on Over-the-Counter Contacts Concerning

    Sure, zombie eyes might be the crowning touch on your Halloween costume. But if you’re thinking of getting decorative contact lenses online, you might want to think twice.

    In fact, be afraid. Be very afraid.

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology has issued a warning to costume shoppers about over-the-counter costume contact lenses after a new study found that several varieties tested positive for chlorine and other harmful chemicals.

    Researchers from Japan, where decorative contact lenses are hugely popular, published a paper in September that found chlorine in three types of non-prescription colored contact lenses. One pair even seeped chlorine after being rinsed, prompting concern from the researchers about toxicity to the eye. Iron was also found on four pairs of lenses.

    Researchers say the chemicals may come from colorants used to tint and create playful patterns on the lenses. Their study also noted that colorants printed or pressed onto some decorative lenses create an uneven texture that could scratch the front of the eyes, potentially increasing the risk of infections that could cause blindness.

    Four of the five lenses in the study are not available legally in the United States because they are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, many decorative lenses of unknown origin can be bought online, at beauty parlors or even gas stations.

    These lenses can harm the eyes by causing corneal ulcers or keratitis. Both can result in scarring that impairs vision or causes blindness. For this reason, experts at the Academy advise against wearing decorative lenses without a prescription.

    “You can’t be sure what you’re getting when you buy over-the-counter contact lenses, which can be very dangerous to your eyes,” said ophthalmologist Thomas Steinemann, M.D., spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “If you want decorative contact lenses, get a prescription or steer clear of them. It’s not worth the risk to your vision.”

    To safely wear decorative contact lenses, read our guide to costume contact lenses. More stories on the consequences of wearing over-the-counter costume contact lenses: