Colored Contacts: The Halloween Trend We Won't Be Trying

Pretty? Yes. Safe? No. (Photo: ThinkStock)Aspiring zombies and vampires take note: Nonprescription colored contacts, a popular accessory for Halloween, are dangerous to wear and illegal to sell, according to a warning published on Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration.

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Contact lenses are available in various colors and patterns, including Hello Kitty, cat eyes, and even blood. In 2011, Lady Gaga made headlines for her doll-like “circle contacts,” colored lenses that make the irises appear larger than normal. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with colored lenses (when prescribed by eye doctors, they're safe); however, they’re considered a medical device regulated by the FDA. Not only are salons, Halloween stores, and street venders that sell them without a prescription, not only breaking the law, but also people who wear them risk impairing their vision.

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“The key to wearing contact lenses, colored or not, is to visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist — not an optician — for a proper fitting,” Richard A. Norden, M.D., celebrity LASIK surgeon in Ridgewood, NJ, tells Yahoo Shine. “When you buy colored contacts from a random store, you don’t know what’s inside the lens and you’re not given proper cleaning and care instructions.”

Getting a proper fit is crucial, because contact lenses are not “one size fits all,” says Norden. To determine the diameter and curve of the lens, an eye doctor measures the cornea, a dime-sized, clear structure that coats the colored part of the eye. “Without a proper fit, you’ll likely end up with the wrong size,” he says. “Too-large contacts can move around and cause cornea abrasions, welcoming dangerous bacteria, and too-small lenses don’t allow oxygen to enter the cornea, which decreases its strength and nutrition.”

Other problems: Colored contacts sold in stores can contain dangerous dye or even hand-painted color, which further damages the cornea or can cause conjunctivitis (also known as “pink eye”) or blindness.   

Although the FDA banned the sale of colored lenses in 2005, a 2012 study published in the journal Cornea found a spike in the use of over-the-counter lenses among people with no sight problems. None of the study subjects obtained a prescription, five shared their contacts with friends, and one even used a pair that was found in the garbage.

If you’ve already used nonprescription colored contacts, it's best to simply remove them, says Norden. If you're still craving dramatic eyes, follow these tips from Dustin Lujan, a makeup artist at John Barrett Salon in New York City.

Glitter: "Sparkly glitter is a huge trend for fall," Lujan tells Yahoo Shine. Use your finger to dab it on the eyelid and inner corners for a flirty and twinkly look. "Just make sure to use a cosmetic glitter (sold by a makeup company), rather than party-store glitter, which has sharp edges and can irritate the eye," he says.

Cat eye: To achieve this dramatic, vampy look, use a liquid liner and draw thin line along the lash line, using soft, delicate strokes. When you reach the end of the eye, flick the line out toward the temple and upward. "You can play with the length of this line — the longer, the more dramatic," he says.

Colored mascara: "This is a really simple way to add a pop of color to your eyes," says Lujan. "You can experiment with blue, green, yellow, and more. The possibilities are endless."