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Coloured contact lens types: How to choose

woman with different colored contacts

Coloured contact lenses allow you to change your eye colour and create a look that's subtle, bold or anywhere in between — whether you want to enhance your everyday look or choose a crazy design for Halloween and other special occasions.

Colour contacts are available with or without lens power to correct short sightedness, long sightedness or astigmatism. Regardless whether you desire colour contact lenses for vision correction or just to change your eye colour, you need a contact lens prescription from your optician to wear them.

The cost of coloured contacts can be significantly more than for regular contact lenses; but for many wearers, the ability to change their eye colour is well worth it.

Types of colour contacts

Most coloured contact lenses are designed to mimic the natural look of the coloured part of the eye, called the iris.

Since this area is made up of colourful shapes and lines, some colour contacts feature a series of tiny coloured dots and radially arranged coloured lines and shapes to help the lenses look more natural on the eye.

The centre of the lens, the part that lies over your pupil, is clear so you can see.

Colour contact lenses come in three kinds of tints:

Visibility tint

This is usually 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 colour.

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 colour of your eyes.

Coloured contacts with this type of tint usually are best for people who have light-coloured eyes and want to make their eye colour more intense.

Opaque tint

This is a non-transparent tint that can change your eye colour completely. If you have dark eyes, you'll need this type of colour contact lens to change your eye colour. 

Colour contacts with opaque tints come in a wide variety of colours, including hazel, green, blue, violet, amethyst, brown and grey. 

Costume or theatrical contact lenses also fall into the category of opaque colour tints. Long used in movies, these special-effect contact lenses are now widely available for anyone. 

Choosing the right colour

The contact lens colour that will suit you best depends on numerous factors, such as your hair colour and skin tone.

But, ultimately, the best colour and design to choose depends on the kind of look you want to achieve — subtle and natural-looking or dramatic and daring.

Here are a couple of options:

Colour 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 colour.

If you want to experiment with a different eye colour while still looking natural, you might choose contact lenses in grey or green, for example, if your natural eye colour is blue.

If you want a dramatic new look that everyone notices immediately, those with naturally light-coloured eyes and a cool complexion with blue-red undertones might choose a warm-toned contact lens such as light brown.

Colour contacts for dark eyes

Opaque coloured tints are the best choice if you have dark eyes. For a natural-looking change, try a lighter honey brown or hazel coloured lens.

But if you really want to stand out from the crowd, opt for contact lenses in vivid colours, such as blue, green or violet. And if your skin is dark, bright-coloured lenses can create a dramatic appearance.

Custom-tinted contact lenses

If you're after a truly individualised look, some contact lens manufacturers specialise in creating custom colour tints for both prescription and non-prescription contact lenses.

Custom-made tints are created from a variety of colours in varying densities. Customised colour 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. Colour 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.

Colour contacts: What you need to know

Before you choose coloured 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 coloured portion may slide somewhat over the pupil. This creates a less-than-natural appearance, particularly when wearing opaque colour 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 centre of the lens. In these instances, your vision may be affected slightly.

Are colour contact lenses safe?

Yes, coloured contact lenses are safe — as long as your contacts are properly prescribed, used and cared for.

It's essential that you visit your optician for a proper contact lens fitting. This will ensure your coloured contacts are safe and comfortable and look natural on your eye.

Just like regular contact lenses, colour contacts are not bad for your eyes if you follow your optician's instructions, particularly regarding how long you can wear your contacts and when you should replace your contacts.

If you wear coloured contacts only on special occasions, daily disposable contact lenses are a great option.

Do you need a prescription for colour contact lenses?

Yes, you need a contact lens prescription to purchase coloured contacts legally in the UK. This is true even for coloured lenses that aren’t designed for vision correction.

All contact lenses, worn for any purpose, require a valid contact lens prescription written by an optician and cannot be sold to consumers without one.

Make sure you buy contact lenses from a legitimate source; the health and safety of your eyes is not something to play around with!

Colour contacts do's and don'ts...

DON'T share your contact lenses 

As fun as it may sound, never swap colours with your friends. Contact lenses are medical devices and are fitted to the specifications of each wearer’s eyes. Exchanging lenses can also transmit harmful bacteria, which can lead to a serious, vision-threatening eye infection.

DO care for your contact lenses properly 

Colour 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 optician'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 optician 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 colour or create a dramatic new look, coloured contacts allow you to have the eye colour you've always wanted.

Colour contact lenses continue to grow in popularity, and there is an ever-widening variety of colours and effects to choose from. Consult your optician to find coloured contacts that are comfortable to wear and best suit your personality and desired appearance.

SEE RELATED: Contact lens do's and don'ts

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