Non-Prescription Contact Lenses

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Non-prescription contact lenses are illegal in the United States. However, colored contact lenses — sometimes called cosmetic, decorative, or costume lenses, are available through a prescription from an eye doctor.

Cosmetic contact lenses have been used for decades in movies and fashion shoots. They can change your eyes' appearance by changing your eye color, the shape of your pupil, or applying other creative effects. You may have seen examples of cat eyes, zombie eyes, or blackout lenses online or in magazines.

Non Prescription Contact Lenses

In recent years, colored contact lenses have gained popularity, and many people wear them for Halloween costumes, cosplay, photoshoots, or just for aesthetic reasons.

It is illegal to sell contacts without a valid prescription in the United States. However, that does not stop many people from selling non-FDA approved color contact lenses in stores or at flea markets. 

A prescription from an eye doctor is necessary for all contact lens purchases, even if the contacts are not used for vision correction.

Why Are Colored Contacts Illegal?

The FDA classifies all contact lenses as medical devices. All types of contacts sold without a prescription are considered illegal, even if they are just for decoration and will not help you see better.

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If you want to wear nonprescription colored contacts, you'll need to get approval from your eye doctor first. They will examine your eyes and then write you a prescription, even if you have normal vision.

Also, some companies that sell colored contacts may be operating illegally by using unsafe materials in their products. You should only buy FDA approved contacts to ensure you don't put yourself at risk.

Are Fake Contact Lenses Safe?

Any contact brand that does not require a prescription is not safe. Fake contacts that say they are “one-size-fits-all” can cause severe damage to your eye because eyeballs are all different sizes and curvatures. However, there are plenty of verified brands that sell colored contacts through a prescription from your eye doctor. If you visit an eye care professional for a fitting, you will wind up with a safe product.

What are the Dangers of Fake Contact Lenses?

Contact lenses are medical devices and need to be treated as such. Anyone that wears contacts runs the risk of irritation and infection, so it’s crucial to undergo a complete eye exam and lens fitting from an optometrist or ophthalmologist before purchasing. 

If your fake contact lenses are the wrong size or curvature, they can cause irritation or abrasions. These allow bacteria inside and can cause eye infections such as corneal ulcers. This is a serious bacterial infection that can result in permanent vision loss if you don't seek medical treatment right away.

What to Expect at a Contact Lens Fitting

A contact lens fitting will begin with a comprehensive eye exam if you have not received one recently. The eye doctor will test your vision to determine your prescription. They will also measure your corneal curvature or the shape of your eyeball. If you have astigmatism, your eye is not perfectly rounded, and you will need toric lenses. Your eye doctor may also measure your pupil and iris size, and possibly do a tear film evaluation test.

All of this information will let your doctor know if you are a good candidate for contact lenses. If you are, they will then recommend a specific type of contact lens for you to wear as a trial. They will show you how to insert and remove your lenses and instruct you on how to wear and store your contacts. Usually, you will be scheduled for a follow-up appointment in a week or so to check in and make sure your vision is good and your eyes are healthy.

How to Wear Colored Contacts Safely 

To wear colored contacts safely, you should carefully follow the instructions provided by your eye doctor and wear them exactly as prescribed. Every set of contacts will have a number of days they can be worn before they must be replaced. This ranges from one to 90 days. Never wear your contacts longer than the recommended duration, as you run the risk of getting an infection.

Be sure to wash and store your contact lenses properly. Your eye doctor will provide you with a contact lens solution and a case. If you are unfamiliar with how to properly clean and store your contacts, ask your eye doctor to go through the process step by step.

Always wash your hands before inserting, removing, or cleaning your contacts. Hygiene is of the utmost importance when it comes to maintaining proper eye health.

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Boyd, Kierstan. Contact Lens-Related Eye Infections. 23 June 2020,

Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Decorative Contact Lenses for Halloween and More.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA,

Gudgel, Dan T. “Are Colored Contact Lenses Safe?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 7 May 2020,

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