Yes, you still need a prescription.

By Lindsey Murray
October 25, 2019

If you're looking to change up your look, but not looking for anything permanent like a new hair color or piercing, you might turn to colored contact lenses (shout-out to Selena Gomez, circa 2014, and her blueish-gray contacts at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show). 

But, despite how cool they look, is wearing colored contact lenses safe—even if you don't need then for vision purposes? Contacts in general are notorious for causing a wide range of eye health issues (sleeping in them, for example, can lead to vision loss). To help you make a decision—and keep your eyes safe and healthy—Health spoke to eye doctors regarding what to know about colored contact lenses, and how you can pull them off without hurting your eyes. 

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1. Always, always go to a professional. 

The real trouble with colored contact lenses starts when you look outside your eye doctor for a pair, 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.”

2. Use lenses from a reputable contact brand. 

While it is possible to order colored contact lenses 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.

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Luckily, many name brands are jumping on the color changing bandwagon if you have a valid prescription. Options range from ACUVUE 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.

3. Take care of your contact lenses. 

Just like regular contact 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 colored contact lenses. 

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 clean hands and a sterile solution. “That’s the same whether you have a colored contact or a clear lens,” says Dr. Shanbom.

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The good news is that if you follow these precautions, it’s relatively safe to wear colored contact lenses for cosmetic's 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.”

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