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Frightening Reality of Novelty Contact Lenses

How non-prescription lenses cause real life Halloween horrors

Close up of contact lenses with a red background

A third of Brits dressing up for Halloween this year will risk their eyesight by wearing dangerous novelty contact lenses, according to new research.

The poll by Optical Express revealed that 33 per cent of Halloween loving party-goers plan to spook up their costumes with coloured lenses, such as cat eyes and zombies, despite almost half (46%) being aware of the risks.

Optical Express conducted a study of a number of cosmetic contact lenses, and found that five out of the six examined failed to meet basic quality and safety tests*. The six brands tested were Eye Spy (6/10), EDIT iGlow (2/10), ColourVue Crazy Lenses (9/10), EDIT Big Circle Eyes (2/10), Mesmereyes (0/10) and high street unbranded lenses (2/10), which range from £12.99 – £15.99 in price**.

Only ColourVue lenses received an overall ‘pass’, scoring 9/10 in the tests – all of the rest failed basic quality and safety tests including quality of fit, wearer comfort and quality of vision.

Two Optical Express optometrists conducted the tests with two volunteers at clinics in Glasgow and Liverpool, examining against the following criteria:

  • Packaging – inclusion of Instructions For Use, Specifications and CE Markings
  • Fit - Decision of clinician on the suitability of the contact lens for the patient
  • Wearer comfort - on insertion of the lens, based on patient feedback
  • Vision - on insertion of the lens, based on patient feedback
  • Recommendation to dispense - would the clinician recommend the patient wears the lens

Results overview:

  1. Eye Spy – Failed on wearer comfort and overall recommendation to dispense – score: 6 /10
  2. EDIT iGlow – failed on fit, wearer comfort, vision and recommendation to dispense – score: 2/10
  3. ColouVue Crazy Lenses – Passed nine in 10 tests, failed on recommendation to dispense due to variable vision depending on where lens sat in relation to the pupil – score: 9/10
  4. EDIT Big Circle Eyes - Failed on fit, wearer comfort, vision and recommendation to dispense, with comments including that the wearer ‘could not wear them for long’ due to discomfort – score: 2 / 10
  5. Mesmereyes – Failed every test, including packaging, fit, wearer comfort, vision and recommendation to dispense – score: 0 / 10
  6. High street unbranded lenses* – Failed on packaging, fit, wearer comfort and recommendation to dispense

Of the dangers, Optical Express clinical director Stephen Hannan warned: “Despite being banned in the US, cosmetic contact lenses are so easily accessible here in the UK – often sold in joke and fancy-dress shops and on websites. The problem being that they come without instructions on safe use, resulting in a high risk of infection.

“Worse still, because they’re not prescription contact lenses, they are not fitted to the size and shape of your eye which can lead to corneal abrasion, scarring and, in severe cases, blindness.”

Millennials are the most at risk, with six in 10 planning to wear cosmetic lenses, this Halloween. Which is no surprise, as they continue to rise in popularity with famous faces including Michelle Keegan and Marnie Simpson spotted wearing them this weekend, along with many cast members and judges on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Hannan continues: “Halloween is a busy time for us and sadly we see a surge of patients visit our clinics having contracted eye infections and scarring as a result of wearing them. Some of the cases we see are frightening, with patients sharing lenses with friends, wearing the same pair year after year well past the expiry date, and storing them in tap water – all of which can have devastating effects.”

“Not knowing the basics of using contact lenses safely can put you at higher risk of developing painful eye injuries and, in the worst cases, risk of permanent sight loss” says Hannan.

“Contact lenses are not 'one size fits all’ and we urge anyone looking to dress up their Halloween costumes with coloured lenses to ensure they have been prescribed by an optometrist who will measure each eye to ensure a perfect fit..

“Always seek professional guidance from an optometrist before using novelty contact lenses. Like everyday contact lenses, novelty modalities carry risk of sight threatening complications, such as corneal infection.  Research commissioned by Optical Express shows the rate of infection through daily wear contact lenses is up to four times greater than LASIK and rate associated with extended (overnight) wear contact lenses is up to twenty times greater.”1,2




  1. Contact Lens Related Microbial Keratitis: how have epidemiology and genetics helped us with pathogenesis and prophylaxis; Stapleton F et al. Eye (2012) 26, 185-193
  2. Infectious keratitis after laser vision correction: Incidence and risk factors. Schallhorn JM, Schallhorn SC, Hettinger KA, Hannan SJ. J Cataract Refract Surg 2017; 43:473–479
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