Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Halloween hazards: beware the dangers of novelty contact lenses

Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Depending on where you live, Halloween in Australia may look a little different this year, with celebrations and gatherings potentially reduced due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19. However, for those keen on marking the increasingly popular event, the team at Good vision for life is once again warning Australians dressing up to reconsider the need for novelty lenses as part of their costume.

Novelty contact lenses come in a range of effects designed to change the colour of the iris or make the iris appear differently. They are increasingly popular throughout Asia to give the wearer a Japanese anime character appearance, but are also seen frequently over the Halloween costume period.

According to Optometry Australia’s 2020 Vision Index, a third (33%) of Australians who have worn decorative lenses have experienced negative side effects as a result.

The truly scary thing about these cosmetic contact lenses – made in zombie, werewolf and vampire varieties – can be found under the microscope. In a 2017 case report published by the US Food and Drug Administration's Forensic Chemistry Center, costume contact lenses were shown to have high rates of microbial contamination which can lead to ocular infections, conjunctivitis and even permanent visual impairment and blindness.

This study, published in the Journal of Forensic Science, found 60 per cent of suspected counterfeit lenses and 27 per cent of the authentic non-corrective contact lenses obtained directly from manufacturers without a prescription were contaminated. In contrast, only three per cent of authentic, prescribed contact lenses were found to be contaminated.

Furthermore, the report found unapproved, counterfeit and decorative contact lenses tested positive for the kinds of microbial contamination frequently found in hospital waste water or spoiled food. Those dressing up for Halloween need to be aware of the risks that non-prescribed contact lenses pose, and we encourage trick-or-treaters and partygoers to think twice about what they are applying in or around their eyes.

Although novelty lenses may seem like a fun addition to your Halloween dress-up, they can cause serious vision and eye problems, when not fitted or prescribed properly.

We want partygoers to enjoy the festivities without damaging their eyes. Contact lenses are not one size fits all and they are not toys. If you do wish to wear contacts as part of your Halloween costume, visit your optometrist to see whether lenses are suitable for your eyes, and if so, have the lenses fitted specifically to the size of your eyes. When prescribed by an optometrist the health response of the eye to contact lenses is also assessed, as well as proper instructions provided on safe insertion, removal and cleaning.

With many trick-or-treaters turning to Zoom parties in light of COVID-19 restrictions, we encourage punters to make the most of Halloween filters on social media to alter their look without the need for lenses. Social filters are a great alternative to novelty lenses. They’re free, non-invasive and come in a range of themes.

For individuals wearing contact lenses this Halloween, in addition to visiting an optometrist for expert advice, we remind people to maintain appropriate hygiene whilst inserting the lenses.

According to data from the 2020 Vision Index, less than half of all contact lens wearers in Australia wash their hands thoroughly before inserting and removing their lenses, with 19% often leaving their contacts in longer than advised by their optometrist.

Poor hygiene practices can result in a build-up of microbes and bacteria which can seriously affect your eye heath, and potentially lead to vision loss or blindness.

Other common eye hazards found during Halloween, include:

  • Make-up: costume makeup is often heavier than every-day makeup, so it is advised that consumers take care when applying around the eye area. If makeup comes into contact with eyes, we recommend rinsing immediately with water and to visit an optometrist if irritation continues. Partygoers are also advised to use clean, sanitised applicators and makeup that is within its expiration period.
  • Costume props: wizard wands, pirate swords and other external props used to enhance costumes can become hazards when used inappropriately. It’s important to be  extra mindful of your environment and to control props in people-heavy spaces.
  • Foreign objects: micro-objects, such as glitter, fake eyelashes and eyelash glue can irritate eyes if they come into contact with the eyeball. The best way to limit irritation is by avoiding glitter around your eye area at all.
  • Impeded vision: masks, SPFX and cosmetic contacts can obstruct the range of sight, and driving should not be conducted whilst wearing these enhancements to ensure peripheral vision is not obstructed.

If your eyes become red, sensitive to light, blurry or are otherwise uncomfortable while wearing contact lenses, remove them immediately and visit your local optometrist for expert advice. Find an optometrist in your local area here.

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