The Hard Facts To Consider Before Wearing Novelty Lenses This Halloween

If you/your children are thinking about wearing novelty lenses this Halloween, please consider the risks before using them and seek medical advice if you suffer from any of the side effects below. Here, Cecily Watret, who works closely with London Vision Clinic, shares her views on the risks of novelty lenses.

Like many others, I have ventured out into the cold this week to embrace Halloween mania. I rummaged through an old cardboard box in my garage a few days ago to find a costume and accessories for the event and found myself pulling out fake spiders, wigs, plastic fingernails and various other child sized outfits that I unfortunately had no hope of fitting into anymore! My only option was to recycle a black leotard from the 90s and hope it might form part of a black cat or scary witch costume. It would be a squeeze, but I would try!

Mission accomplished, I began searching the web for a few fun items to spruce up my costume. As I began looking, I realized that my initial costume choices were very basic in comparison to what was on offer. ‘Hairy Relative’, ‘Grim Reap Beer Bottle Costume’, and ‘Horror in Aliceland costume’ were the first few that popped up on my screen. These were clearly far more imaginative than the simple cat and witch ideas I’d set out with. Did that mean the accessories section of the website would be whacky too?! In short, the answer was, yes….

Aside from the typical hats, wigs and fake blood, my eyes were drawn to the various playful items including bumble bee handbags, prosthetics and the largest array of contact lenses I have ever encountered. From, ‘blood spot’, to ‘Hell’s flame’, there were 17 pages of choices tempting me to jazz up my 90s leotard. Retailing at around £16, they seemed affordable too! I’d seen people wearing them on TV, creating a very noticeable change to the look of an eye, but not correcting vision.

As I considered which lenses to choose, I was conscious that I’d never worn lenses previously. I decided to carry out a little background research before purchasing.

After scouring Google for a few minutes, I could see that most sites mentioned that all prescribed and ‘legitimate’ contact lenses were medical devices and regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). A majority of Information went on to state that most outlets/online stores that sell novelty lenses do not comply with the FDA regulations and could therefore potentially use materials or dangerous coloring elements to dye the lenses, which could have a serious detrimental affect on the eye.

I read several articles about novelty lenses and all information seemed to show the same risks, including:

•    A cut or scratch on the top layer of your eyeball (Corneal Abrasion) •    Pain in the eye(s) •    Allergic reactions like itchy, watery red eyes •    Decreased vision •    Infection •    Blindness

The overall advice given was to avoid buying any contact lenses without a prescription. The rationale behind this was that without a prescription contact lenses would not fit properly and could damage the top layer of the cornea. However, if novelty contact lenses were essential, then it was important to buy the lenses from a company that sells FDA-cleared or approved contact lenses and requires proof of prescription. Much to my disappointment, it became clear that these novelty sites would not meet FDA approval. I was back to the drawing board.

I decided to stick to my leotard and invested in some good quality face paint instead. I think this will do the trick and will (at the very least) ensure I can have full view of all the terrifying faces and costumes around me this week!

Happy Halloween!