If you’re the type who’s always on the hunt for a fun, new way to experiment with your look, colored contacts can offer a dramatic change.
The eye trend has been popping up among celebrities like Selena Gomez, who chose to switch up her natural dark brown color for a blueish grey hue at this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. But is wearing colored contacts safe, especially given all of the contact lens horror stories that have been circulating lately? We got the experts to weigh in on how you can pull them off—without hurting your eyes
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Go to a professional
The real trouble with color contacts starts when you look outside your eye doctor for your colored contacts, Steven Shanbom, MD, an ophthalmologist in Berkley, Michigan tells Health. “You should be considering your colored contact a medical device, not a toy.” And yes, even if you don’t normally wear corrective lenses, you still need a professional fitting.
What could go wrong? “If you have a contact that is too tight or the curvature it too short, it can stick and hold up the eye and slowly cause an abrasion or irritation,” Dr. Shanbom says. “That’s a spot for bacteria to come in and cause an infection.”
Use a lens from a reputable brand
While it is possible to order colored contacts online or pick them up at certain convenience stores, Dr. Shanbom warns that any brand that doesn’t require a valid prescription shouldn’t be trusted. “If you see an eye care professional to be fitted, you are going to get a safe product,” he explains.
The problem with these unverified brands is that they are made to be one-size-fits-all, but all corneas are not equal. Just like your feet require the correct shoe size, your eyeball needs a lens that fits. By wearing contacts that don’t correctly fit your eye you run the risk of irritation, infection, and even blindness if you get an infection that gets out of control.
Luckily, many name brands are jumping on the color changing bandwagon if you have a valid prescription. Options range from ACUVES 1-Day Define lens (for as low as $65 for a month’s supply), which subtly brightens your eyes natural color with colored enhancements, to Alcon AIR OPTIX COLORS ($80 for a three-month supply, airoptixcolors.com), which allows you to chose between 9 color options for daily wear up to 30 days.
Take good care of them
Just like prescription lenses, you’re not off the hook once you’ve gotten fitted by a pro and purchased from a reputable brand. It is still up to you to properly care for your contacts.
Depending on how they’re labeled, the lens should be always be discarded after a certain amount of time and replaced with a fresh lens. And you should never be cleaning your lenses with anything other than cleans hands and a sterile solution.
“That’s the same whether you have a colored contact or a clear lens,” says Dr. Shanbom.
The good news is that if you follow these precautions, it’s relatively safe to wear colored contacts for cosmetic sake. Say Dr. Shanbom, “if you wear them properly, I don’t see where it’s a undue risk to want to change your eye color.”