Color contact lenses
Colored contact lenses allow you to change your eye color and create a look that's subtle, bold or anywhere in between — whether you want to enhance your everyday look or rock a crazy design for Halloween and other special occasions.
Color contacts are available with or without lens power to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Regardless whether you desire color contact lenses for vision correction or just to change your eye color, you need a contact lens prescription from your eye doctor to wear them.
Types of color contacts
Since this area is made up of colorful shapes and lines, some color contacts feature a series of tiny colored dots and radially arranged colored lines and shapes to help the lenses look more natural on the eye.
Color contacts come in three kinds of tints:
Visibility tint. This usually is a light blue or green tint added to a lens, just to help you see it better during insertion and removal, or if you drop it. Visibility tints are relatively faint and do not affect your eye color.
Enhancement tint. This is a solid but translucent (see-through) tint that is a little darker than a visibility tint. As the name implies, an enhancement tint is meant to enhance the natural color of your eyes. Colored contacts with this type of tint usually are best for people who have light-colored eyes and want to make their eye color more intense.
Opaque tint. This is a non-transparent tint that can change your eye color completely. If you have dark eyes, you'll need this type of color contact lens to change your eye color. Color contacts with opaque tints come in a wide variety of colors, including hazel, green, blue, violet, amethyst, brown and gray. Costume or theatrical contact lenses also fall into the category of opaque color tints. Long used in movies, these special-effect contact lenses are now widely available for anyone.
Choosing the right color
The contact lens color that will suit you best depends on numerous factors, such as your hair color and skin tone.
But, ultimately, the best color and design to choose depends on the kind of look you want to achieve — subtle and natural-looking or dramatic and daring.
Color contacts for light eyes. If you want to change your appearance but in a more subtle way, you may want to choose an enhancement tint that defines the edges of your iris and deepens your natural color.
If you want to experiment with a different eye color while still looking natural, you might choose contact lenses in gray or green, for example, if your natural eye color is blue.
If you want a dramatic new look that everyone notices immediately, those with naturally light-colored eyes and a cool complexion with blue-red undertones might choose a warm-toned contact lens such as light brown.
Color contacts for dark eyes. Opaque colored tints are the best choice if you have dark eyes. For a natural-looking change, try a lighter honey brown or hazel colored lens.
But if you really want to stand out from the crowd, opt for contact lenses in vivid colors, such as blue, green or violet. And if your skin is dark, bright-colored lenses can create a dramatic appearance.
Custom-tinted contact lenses
If you're after a truly individualized look, some contact lens manufacturers specialize in creating custom color tints for both prescription and non-prescription contact lenses.
Custom-made tints are created from a variety of colors in varying densities. Customized color lenses typically are semi-translucent, creating a natural-looking appearance. They can even camouflage a congenital eye defect or eye injury, or mimic the appearance of a healthy pupil.
Custom-tinted contacts aren't just for cosmetic reasons. Color tints are increasingly popular among professional athletes to increase their visual performance.
Key benefits of "sport tint" contact lenses are reduced glare, enhanced contrast sensitivity and heightened depth perception. A green tint, for example, can enable a tennis player to see the ball more clearly on the court.
Color contacts: What you need to know
Before you choose colored contacts, be mindful of these key factors:
Although there are different-sized lenses to fit most wearers, there will be some occasions (such as during blinking) where the colored portion may slide somewhat over the pupil. This creates a less-than-natural appearance, particularly when wearing opaque color contacts.
Also, the size of your pupil is constantly changing to accommodate varying light conditions — so sometimes, like at night, your pupil may be larger than the clear center of the lens. In these instances, your vision may be affected slightly.
Are color contact lenses safe?
Yes, colored contact lenses are safe — as long as your contacts are properly prescribed, used and cared for.
It's essential that you visit your eye care professional for a proper contact lens fitting. This will ensure your colored contacts are safe and comfortable and look natural on your eye.
Just like regular contact lenses, color contacts are not bad for your eyes if you follow your eye care practitioner's instructions, particularly regarding how long you can wear your contacts and when you should replace your contacts.
If you wear colored contacts only on special occasions, daily disposables are a great option.
Do you need a prescription for color contact lenses?
Yes, you need a contact lens prescription to purchase colored contacts legally in the United States. This is true even for color lenses that aren’t designed for vision correction.
All contact lenses, worn for any purpose, require a valid contact lens prescription written by an eye doctor and cannot be sold to consumers without one.
Color contacts do's and don'ts
DON'T share your contact lenses.
As fun as it may sound, never swap colors with your friends. Contact lenses are medical devices and are fitted to the specifications of each wearer’s eyes. Exchanging lenses also can transmit harmful bacteria, which can lead to a serious, vision-threatening eye infection.
DO care for your contact lenses properly.
Color contacts, like clear contact lenses, must be properly cleaned, disinfected and stored with appropriate lens care products to avoid contamination. And don't forget to replace your lenses according to your eye care professional's instructions.
DON'T wear your contacts if you develop sore, irritated or red eyes.
This may be a symptom of a contact lens-related eye infection or other serious problem. Contact your eye doctor immediately if you experience discomfort during or after contact lens wear.
DO have fun with your new look!
Whether you want to enhance your natural eye color or create a dramatic new look, colored contacts allow you to have the eye color you've always wanted.
Color contact lenses continue to grow in popularity, and there is an ever-widening variety of colors and effects to choose from. Consult your eye doctor to find colored contacts that are comfortable to wear and best suit your personality and desired appearance.
Page published in January 2020
Page updated in April 2020