10/30/2015 04:12 EDT | Updated 10/30/2016 05:12 EDT

Beware Goblins, Ghouls And Cheap Cosmetic Contact Lenses

A woman puts on red contact lenses at a Halloween event in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012.(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
A woman puts on red contact lenses at a Halloween event in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012.(AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Halloween is the perfect holiday for those with a sweet tooth, love of costumes and a passion for the scary stuff. As people plan the perfect costume, it's understandable to want every detail right -- including the eye colour.

Oftentimes, people will use cheap cosmetic -- or non-corrective -- contact lenses from Halloween stores to achieve their look without knowing the potentially harmful consequences this can have on their eyes.

For example, the red, non-corrective contact lenses to compliment your vampire costume? Well, they aren't the best idea. In fact, using these lenses increases the likelihood of complications to your eyes by 12 per cent compared to those used for corrective purposes.

It's important to consider and understand the risks of using cosmetic or non-corrective contact lenses before the damage is done.

Risks associated with cosmetic contact lenses can include:

  • Eye Infections
  • Redness and/or irritation
  • Scratches to the cornea (surface of the eye)
  • Allergic reactions
  • Permanent vision loss

When you are prescribed contact lenses by your optometrist, they take a look at the lenses on your eyes to ensure they fit properly. They also go over proper insertion and removal techniques so that when the big night comes you can easily put them in and take them out.

Given that non-corrective contact lenses can be sold in party supply stores, dollar stores, via the internet, pharmacies, gas stations, flea markets, kiosks and other locations, consumers receive no training on how to properly use and handle these lenses, which can put their eye health in jeopardy.

The issue and risks associated with these lenses are so high that it has triggered Health Canada to regulate cosmetic contact lenses in the same way as corrective lenses. Manufacturers will have until July 2016 to comply. At that time, cosmetic contact lenses will face the same licensing, manufacturing, labeling and instruction requirements to improve their safety before they go on sale, as other medical devices do.

What are cosmetic contact lenses?

  • Cosmetic enhancement tints are translucent and are designed to enhance your natural eye colour, for light-coloured eyes (blue, green, light hazel, or gray). When wearing these tints, the colour of your eye becomes a blend of the lens tint and your natural eye colour and iris pattern.

  • Opaque or "cosmetic" tints change the apparent colour of your eyes whether they are dark or light. The pattern on the lens, which is coloured, overlies the coloured part of your eye, the iris, resulting in an eye colour with a natural look.

  • Visibility or handling tints are very pale, coloured just enough to make the contact lens visible while you are handling it. They usually have no effect on eye colour and are often a pale blue or green.

Though it may be tempting to spice up your costume with non-corrective contact lenses, it's not worth the risk to your eyes. The best way to avoid complications is to have a conversation with your local doctor of optometry. An optometrist can tell you whether theses lenses are right for you and if they are how to wear them safely and comfortably, so your eyes avoid a scary experience.


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