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Are Coloured Contacts Safe? What to Know Before You Buy

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A close up of a woman wearing a blue coloured contact

So, you want to change up your look. Coloured contacts are a relatively easy and inexpensive way to update your look without making a permanent change. But are coloured contacts safe? Well, it entirely depends on your eye health, what type of coloured contacts you buy and where you buy them from.  

What are Coloured Contacts?

Coloured contacts are exactly what they sound like: contacts that are pigmented to change the appearance of your eye. Coloured contacts are specially developed lenses that come in a range of colours, shapes and prescriptions and are designed to alter your eye colour depending on your preference. But not all coloured contacts are the same. In fact, some coloured contacts can be quite dangerous and can severely impact your eye health and vision.

Types of Coloured Contacts

There are two main types of coloured contacts that you should be aware of: Prescription coloured contacts, and what we like to call “decorative contacts.”

Prescription Coloured Contacts

Prescription coloured contacts require a thorough examination by your optometrist where your eyes are properly examined, measured and evaluated to find the proper contact lenses best suited for your individual needs. Prescription coloured contacts are the only type of coloured contacts you should ever wear, and even if you don’t have vision problems, a prescription is still required to obtain safe coloured contacts.

Decorative Contacts 

Any type of contact lenses that are not prescribed or recommended to you by your eye doctor are considered decorative contacts because that’s simply what they are, a decoration. And a decoration is never something you should put in your body. Although the bright colours, interesting shapes and cheaper price tag may be tempting, contact lenses require a medical license to distribute and are actually illegal to sell without a prescription.

Wearing contacts without proper consultation and fitting is a big no-no. To ensure the health and safety of your eyes, it is important to book an appointment with your optometrist and get a proper contact lens fitting and eye exam to ensure your coloured contacts won’t damage your vision or cause eye problems.

A woman putting in a coloured contact with an irritated eye

Risks of Coloured Contacts 

Anytime you put a foreign object in your body there will be risks associated with the process. Although minimal, even prescription coloured contacts can still cause bodily harm, especially if used incorrectly.

Prescription Coloured Contacts

Health Canada and the FDA classify coloured contact lenses as medical devices, and they are just as safe as normal contact lenses. That being said, there are still things to watch out for when using contact lenses of any kind. Any contact lens wear may cause:

  • Eye irritation, infection or dry eyes
  • Corneal abrasion, or the scratching or scraping of the cornea
  • Red-eye or pink eye
  • Allergies

Decorative Contacts 

Like prescription coloured contacts, any of the above issues apply to decorative contacts, but decorative contacts come with additional risk factors and can be severely damaging to your overall eye health and vision.

Decorative contacts are not always Health Canada or FDA regulated. Risks associated with decorative contacts may include:

  • Severe eye irritation or infection. Decorative lenses are often cheaper compared to prescription lenses and can contain chemicals that are harmful to the eyes
  • Cuts or scratches to the top layer of the eye. Decorative lenses are usually sold as a “one size fits all” product and are not tailored to your individual eye shape, which will likely cause damage
  • Impaired vision or blindness
  • Improper use. Any contact lenses need to be fit and assessed by a qualified optometrist or optician. If contact lenses are not prescribed by a doctor, the wearer isn’t given the proper use and care instructions, which only increases the risk of adverse effects

Lowering the Risk

If coloured contact lenses are something you’re interested in, you should know how to lower the risk of damaging your eye health. Some steps you can take to lower these risks include:

  • Only buy coloured contact lenses from your eye doctor after receiving a proper eye exam and contact lens fitting
  • Replace your coloured contact lens case every three months or as directed by your eye doctor
  • Always rub and rinse your contact lenses as directed by your eye doctor
  • Never reuse any lens solution and always discard leftover product after each use
  • Do not expose your coloured contact lenses to non-sterile water. This includes tap water, distilled water or bottled water of any kind. Additionally, make sure you always remove your contact lenses before swimming

Buying Safe Coloured Contacts

The golden rule when it comes to buying safe coloured contacts is to never buy contacts from anywhere other than through your eye care centre.

At Red Deer Eye Care Centre we offer thorough eye exams, custom contact lens fittings and high-quality, FDA-approved contact lenses. Be sure to request an appointment to get your contact lens exam and discuss any questions you may have about coloured contact lenses.

Written by Dr. Kevin Hesterman

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