College of Optometrists warns of the dangers of wearing novelty contact lenses on Halloween

  • 21 Oct 2016

If you’re thinking about wearing novelty contact lenses to add an eye-popping touch to your zombie or vampire outfit - think again.

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If you’re thinking about wearing novelty contact lenses to add an eye-popping touch to your zombie or vampire outfit - think again. You may be putting your eyes at risk by using lenses bought from a non-reputable source or if you use them without the professional guidance of an optometrist, doctor or contact lens optician.

The College of Optometrists has issued some advice to consider before using unprescribed contact lenses as part of your Halloween costume:

  • Unlike standard contact lenses, fancy dress lenses are not tailored to your eyes, which can increase the risk of eye health issues. Lenses that are not properly fitted may scratch the eye or cause an infection, so it’s important that any contact lenses you wear are fitted by a qualified professional who can give you the appropriate advice on how to use them correctly.
  • If you are wearing contact lenses of any sort, including novelty lenses, you must make sure that you clean them thoroughly after use and disinfect them with the recommended contact lens solution. Never use tap water, the wrong solution, or lick them – and if they drop on the floor don’t simply pop them back in.
  • You should not share contact lenses with friends, as even quickly trying them on can lead to eye infections.
  • Although non-prescription lenses are widely available online and on the high street from hairdressers, tattoo parlours and nail bars, it is illegal to sell these lenses without the direct supervision of an eyecare expert.
  • Driving with novelty lenses at night (even if you wear glasses over the top) is also a potential danger: if the lenses are strongly tinted or opaque they may impair your vision if the hole that you look through does not align with your pupil.
  • If you experience any eye discomfort when, or after, wearing any type of contact lens you should seek advice from an optometrist, contact lens optician or doctor.

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, Clinical Adviser for the College of Optometrists, said: “Most people think that you don’t need the same level of care when using novelty contact lenses as you do with ordinary contact lenses, because they don’t have a prescription. But, even when purchased from a reputable outlet (the issue isn't with the lenses themselves, but with how people use them). Fancy dress lenses are often purchased by people who do not wear contacts regularly and who may not know how to handle and care for them safely. It is absolutely vital for the health of your eye that you are able to remove and insert your contact lenses safely, know how to keep them sterile, and have been instructed on how to do so by an optometrist. “

Further information and advice to help look after your eyes can be found on the College’s Look After Your Eyes website.


Notes to editors:

  1. By law fancy dress lenses can only be sold by or under the supervision of a doctor, optometrist or dispensing optician.
  2. Optometrists are primary health care specialists trained to examine the eyes to detect defects in vision, signs of injury, ocular diseases or abnormality and problems with general health. They make a health assessment, offer clinical advice and, when necessary, prescribe spectacles or contact lenses. In addition, optometrists can dispense and supply spectacles or contact lenses.
  3. The letters FCOptom or MCOptom after an optometrist’s name means that he or she is a fellow or member of the College of Optometrists. Membership of the College shows their commitment to the very highest clinical, ethical and professional standards, so look for these letters to see if your optometrist is a member.
  4. For information and advice about how to look after your eyes or to find a member of the College, visit:
  5. Optometrists study at university for at least three years and participate in a full year of training and supervision before qualifying. Once qualified, they have the opportunity to develop their interests in specialist aspects of practice such as contact lenses, treating eye diseases, low vision, children’s vision and sports vision.
  6. The College of Optometrists is the professional, scientific and examining body for optometry in the UK, working for the public benefit.
  7. There are currently over 14,500 registered optometrists in the UK.


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