Contacts

Where can I buy contacts without a prescription?

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To purchase contact lenses in the United States you will need a prescription written by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist, and your prescription will be verified by the seller.

You can, however, buy contact lenses through an international contact lens retailer, such as Vision Direct  in the United Kingdom and Coastal  in Canada. If you go this route, you won't need to upload your prescription and the verification step is not required.

You will need your prescription at international websites, though, to ensure you get the right contact lenses.

We advise visiting an eye doctor annually to ensure your prescription provides the necessary correction to get the best contact lenses for you.

NEED AN EYE EXAM? Find an eye doctor near you.

It's against the law to sell contact lenses in beauty parlors, convenience stores, flea markets or other non-optical outlets. Why? You may be getting unregulated lenses from producers that can cause harm to your eyes.

You are entitled to your contact lens prescription

The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act gives you the right to request and receive a copy of your contact lens prescription from your eye doctor so you can shop around when buying contacts to get the best deal, based on price, convenience and other factors.

The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act was passed by Congress in 2003 and required the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to develop guidelines that spell out the act's requirements and enforce its provisions.

The FTC issued these guidelines — called the Contact Lens Rule — in July 2004. The rule establishes requirements both for eye doctors who prescribe contact lenses and retailers who sell them.

All stipulations of the Contact Lens Rule apply to so-called "non-prescription" contact lenses — lenses made for Halloween and other color contact lenses or special-effect contact lenses with no corrective power — as well as standard contact lenses.

Rules for contact lens prescribers

The Contact Lens Rule says that eye care professionals who are permitted under state law to fit and issue prescriptions for contact lenses must:

  • Give a copy of the contact lens prescription to the patient at the end of the contact lens fitting — even if the patient doesn't ask for it.
  • Provide or verify the contact lens prescription to anyone who is designated to act on behalf of the patient, including contact lens sellers.
  • Correct any inaccuracy in the prescription being verified and inform the seller if the prescription has expired or is otherwise invalid.

Rules for contact lens sellers

The Contact Lens Rule requires contact lens sellers to:

  • Provide contact lenses only in accordance with a valid prescription that is directly presented to the seller or has been verified by the contact lens prescriber.
  • If verification is required, sellers must contact the prescribing doctor to verify the accuracy of the prescription before filling the order.

Note that when buying contact lenses from international retailers and shipping to the U.S., presenting a prescription and verification of your prescription is not required.

How and where you buy your contact lenses is up to you. Remember, it’s all about finding the contact lenses that best suit you and your lifestyle.

Page updated September 2019

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