Special-effect contact lenses including black contact lenses, Halloween contact lenses and other "crazy" lenses are soft contact lenses that are available for theatrical and novelty uses.
Just like colored contact lenses, special-effect (FX) or crazy contacts can be used whether or not you normally wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, because most types are available both with and without lens powers to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism.
It's important to note that all contact lenses, including plano Halloween contacts and any other special-effects contacts, are classified as medical devices by the FDA and require a valid contact lens prescription from a licensed eye care practitioner.
Theatrical or novelty lenses are safe to wear but only when they are properly prescribed and cared for, and purchased from a legitimate source. Putting the finishing touch to your Halloween costume is not worth a sight-threatening eye infection from improper contact lens use. (Read our Safety Checklist below.)
Special-effect contact lenses have an opaque (non-transparent) tint to completely mask your natural eye color and are available in a wide variety of dramatic colors and designs. The center of the lens, which lies over your pupil, is clear so you can see.
5 Must-Knows About Halloween Contacts
For details, read the "Safety Checklist" below.
Most novelty or costume contact lenses cover just the colored portion of your eye (iris), but special-effect scleral lenses, like all-black, red, yellow or white contacts, cover both the iris and the "white" (sclera) of your eyes to create a truly haunting look.
Black sclera contact lenses, white contact lenses, wild eyes, cat eyes whichever you choose, there's a huge array of Halloween contact lenses to add the ultimate finishing touch to your Halloween costume.
Current trends in theatrical or novelty contact lenses are inspired by movies and cult TV shows.
These include the popular black, white and yellow special-effect scleral contact lenses, as worn on the cult TV show True Blood; red and amber colored contacts like those worn in Twilight, New Moon and Breaking Dawn; and Goth contact lenses in patterns of red, black, white and yellow which channel The Exorcist.
Other movie character special-effect lenses include vivid green "Mad Hatter" colored contacts inspired by the movie Alice in Wonderland, yellow "alien" contacts as featured in Avatar and even yellow cat-eyes like those seen in Harry Potter.
Crazy contact lenses remain popular, too. These include zombie, vampire and other supernatural designs such as spider webs, cat eyes and werewolves perfect for adding the "wow" factor to your Halloween or special occasion costume.
If you want even scarier looking contact lenses, there are mesh-look contacts and even neon glow-in-the-dark UV lenses!
A Colorful History of Special Effects Lenses
Special-effect contact lenses aren't a recent fad. Morton Greenspoon, OD, a pioneer of theatrical lenses, has been providing special effects contact lenses to the film industry since the 1950s.
Dr. Greenspoon has changed Elvis Presley's baby blues to brown for the movie Flaming Star, provided Michael Jackson's wolf eyes for the "Thriller" music video, and has received an Academy Award nomination for his work on Bram Stoker's Dracula. His most recent film work includes Pirates of the Caribbean and the Twilight Saga.
But you don't have to walk the red carpet to wear crazy contact lenses. With the array of special-effect lenses available today, you too can get into character and portray your favorite Hollywood star.
To see a video of Dr. Greenspoon's work in action, please click hereclick here.
Yes while novelty contacts are designed for fun, they still are considered medical devices and cannot be purchased legally in the United States without a contact lens prescription.
You must see your eye doctor for a contact lens exam to have them properly fitted and prescribed, even if you have perfect eyesight and don't need corrective eyewear.
Contact lenses including special-effect lenses are not a "one size fits all." A poor lens fit can lead to eye infection, corneal ulcer, decreased vision and even blindness.
Circle lenses are a relatively recent phenomenon. Also called "big eye" lenses, they make your eyes look larger than normal to produce a doll-like appearance, inspired by doe-eyed anime cartoon characters.
Issues concerning the safety of circle lenses have been well-documented in the U.S. media in recent years.
Many companies selling circle lenses in the U.S. do so illegally, either without requesting a prescription or selling unapproved lenses or both.
To help avoid the risk of developing a serious lens-related eye infection, always ensure you are buying contact lenses from a legitimate source.
By law, your eye doctor must give you a copy of your contact lens prescription if you request it, which means you have the option of buying contact lenses from any eye care professional (ECP), optical chains and legitimate online retailers.
The cost of contact lenses with special-effect designs is comparable to that of more conventional color contact lenses designed to enhance or change your eye color.
FDA video warns of the safety risks posed by improper use of special-effect contact lenses.FDA video warns of the safety risks posed by improper use of special-effect contact lenses.
Watch special-effect contact lenses come to life in this montage of Hollywood movies. Video by Dr. Morton Greenspoon.Watch special-effect contact lenses come to life in this montage of Hollywood movies. Video by Dr. Morton Greenspoon.
WSB-TV news video: why buying illegal contact lenses is bad for your eyes. Source: Georgia Optometric AssociationWSB-TV news video: why buying illegal contact lenses is bad for your eyes. Source: Georgia Optometric Association
Some contacts have special tints and markings to help you handle them better. Video by AcuvueSome contacts have special tints and markings to help you handle them better. Video by Acuvue
From glass to soft, breathable plastics, the pros and cons of various contact lens materials. Video by AcuvueFrom glass to soft, breathable plastics, the pros and cons of various contact lens materials. Video by Acuvue
Custom hand-painted designs, however, can cost significantly more.
To ensure a safe wearing experience, always buy your special-effect contact lenses from an authorized source.
Never buy special-effect contacts at any store that doesn't ask you for a valid contact lens prescription.
Don't buy contact lenses from a flea market, street vendor, beauty salon, Halloween store or similar setting. Such sales are illegal in the U.S., and for good reasons:
Watch this video by the FDA on improper use of decorative contact lenses.Watch this video by the FDA on improper use of decorative contact lenses.
According to the American Optometric Association's (AOA) 2012 American Eye-Q consumer survey, 28 percent of people who have worn non-corrective theatrical or color contact lenses have purchased the lenses without a prescription.
"Consumers who purchase lenses illegally, without a prescription or without consultation from an eye doctor, put themselves at risk for serious bacterial infections, allergic reactions, or even significant damage to the eye's ability to function, with the potential for irreversible sight loss," says Dr. Randall Fuerst, chair of the AOA's Contact Lens and Cornea Section.
A recent study published in Acta Ophthalmology found that wearing special-effect contact lenses increased the risk of developing microbial keratitis, a serious and potentially blinding eye condition, by more than 16 times.
If you experience a problem with Halloween or other special-effect contact lenses, or see contacts being sold without a prescription online or elsewhere, the FDA would like to hear from you to help protect public safety. Here's how to report a contact lens problem to the FDA.
About the Author: Aimee Surtenich has many years of editorial experience in consumer publishing, with an emphasis on the health, pharmaceutical and beauty fields. Previously she was the executive editor for this website.Connect with Ms. Surtenich via Google+.
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[Page updated October 2014]
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