Each year, one of the most sought after accessories for adding that extra little something to thousands of Halloween costumes is cosmetic contact lenses. Available in a variety of colors and styles, these transformative lenses are big business thanks in no small part to their widespread use in television and film productions. What consumers don’t realize however is just how dangerous these lenses can really be when it comes to the health of their eyes.
This lack of knowledge regarding the potential danger posed by cosmetic contact lenses has spawned a new awareness campaign – the goal of which is to bring to light the negative health effects that improperly used, low-cost lenses can have.
The campaign, a joint-venture between the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Entertainment Industries Council, as well as the American Optometric Association have enlisted some of special effects makeup’s heavy hitters (American Horror Story’s Cristien Tinsley and Eryn Krueger Mekash) to deliver a powerful message about the importance of not sacrificing your eyes for the sake of an authentic costume.
The Fallacy of Store Bought Decorative Lenses
Regardless as to whether you are purchasing decorative lenses for cosplay or to complete a Halloween costume, there is a widespread misconception that cosmetic lenses are inherently safe.
When you see (in TV shows and movies) just how these lenses are capable of taking a costumed persona to the next level of authenticity, it’s easy to shrug off the potential eye damage you may experience as a result of improper use.
Most responsible retailers will make customers read and acknowledge instructions detailing the proper care and use of contact lenses. Ultimately however, the onus is on the consumer to be aware of how to properly use the product.
What consumers don’t realize, according to the campaign’s poignant video, is that a lot of care and consideration goes into a production’s use of cosmetic designer lenses, with the utmost emphasis placed on the health of the actor’s eyes. Before a special effects makeup artist can even place contacts into the eye of the actor, the performer’s eyes must be examined by an optometrist and proper sizing be given to the makeup professional so that custom lenses can be made for the performer. And the care doesn’t end there. The actor’s lenses are stored and inserted in a sterilized environment by a trained professional – a far cry from the methods used by the casual wearer.
How Are Designer Lenses Dangerous?
Things like improper fit, lengthy use, and failure to properly sanitize the lenses can lead to a host of infections and serious medical issues like corneal abrasions. Left untreated, they can lead to permanent vision loss.
The scary thing about these lenses is that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of regulation in terms of ensuring a particular standard in their production. According to one medical professional that examined a less than superior quality lens, the inner layer (the part that comes into contact with the eye) was principally comprised of salt, whereas the outer layer was almost exclusively dye.
To a consumer, there is no way to visually distinguish between a high quality and sub standard lens, nor is there a way to inspect for tears or other imperfections – making their use all the more dangerous.
After all this is said and done, there are steps that you can take to ensure the health of your eyes is maintained. The first step, visit your eye doctor and have your eyes examined. Your doctor can write you a prescription for colored lenses so that you can get some that are made just for you. Remember that when it comes to contact lenses of any kind, there is no such thing as one size fits all – everyone’s eyes are different, so that must be taken into consideration.
Where possible, only purchase lenses from a vendor that requires you to provide a prescription, (prescriptions may not be required in your area, but as a rule of thumb, avoid places like beauty salons, boutiques, pop-up Halloween stores, flea markets, and street vendors when making your purchase).
Lastly, follow all safety instructions – all of them. Be sure that when you head out for a night of fun, you are stocked with lubricating eye drops should you begin to feel some irritation. If you do experience irritation, make an appointment to see your eye doctor without delay – remember, contact lenses are medical devices – whether cosmetic or not – and should be treated as such.
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