Halloween has long been the perfect occasion to try out different beauty looks — experimenting with everything from popsicle pouts and spider lashes to unicorn face paint and the ultimate Disney villain visage. Nowadays, however, it often involves going beyond the eye makeup to changing your eye color altogether with the help of colored contacts. While there’s no denying that a switch-up can add the head-turning cherry on top to any Halloween costume, it turns out that they can actually create a scary effect well after the holiday comes to a close. To find out why we should all be a bit more cautious with our use of store-bought colored contacts, we chatted with Samuel D. Pierce, the president of the American Optometric Association and the voice behind the organization’s current campaign to spread awareness for illicit contact sales. Keep scrolling and try not to tear up at the thought of what could’ve been a costume gone awry.

Why You Shouldn’t turn a blind eye to otc contacts

Blonde woman wearing bright blue colored contacts.

The same way you wouldn’t stock up on your everyday makeup from a random costume store, you shouldn’t buy non-prescription colored contacts there either. “Some people mistakenly believe it’s easier to purchase decorative contact lenses from illegal third-party vendors including flea markets, beauty salons, convenience stores, and online sellers instead of from a doctor of optometry,” Pierce says. According to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) American Eye-Q survey, 16 percent of Americans have worn decorative contact lenses that don’t provide vision correction as part of a costume or for other cosmetic purposes. Of those individuals, 26 percent purchased them without a prescription or without consulting an eye doctor first. While the prices may be much more pleasing and the process of actually obtaining the contacts a lot faster, it’s important to remember that sometimes higher prices and a longer wait time are what stand between you and accessories that will actually benefit your eyes, not threaten them permanently. (Photo via ValaGrenier/ Getty)

“All contact lenses, even purely cosmetic ones, are considered medical devices and are regulated by the FDA,” Pierce says. So, even if you have 20/20 vision, when it comes to changing your eye color for the night, you need to chat with an eye doctor to determine the best size and shape for your specific gaze. “Contact lenses that do not have a prescription can pose significant harm for patients,” Pierce says. “Just one example is that they may not fit the eye properly, which can cause significant damage to the eye and lead to irreversible loss of vision.” In addition, buying them from these places puts you at risk for scratches on the cornea, corneal infections, and pink eye. In other words, no thank you. As if that weren’t enough, Pierce explains that many of these issues are the result of not knowing how to clean and care for your contacts — something illegal sellers often don’t take the time to tell customers. “Bacterial infections can be extremely rapid, result in corneal ulcers, and cause blindness — sometimes within as little as 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly,” he says.

Colored Contacts You Can Feel Good About

Woman inserting blue colored contact.

“The contact lenses a patient’s doctor of optometry prescribes to him or her are the only ones that a

patient can trust,” Pierce says. If you’re thinking about wearing colored contacts as part of your Halloween costume, it’s time to make an appointment with your optometrist. “Whether corrective or decorative, all contact lenses require a prescription,” Pierce points out. Once you score one, you’ll be able to receive your first pair of colored contacts, as well as have the opportunity to use it for different colors in the same shape and size. Just make sure that your prescription is always up to date. “Contact lens wearers should avoid ordering contacts with an outdated prescription as this can cause vision damage,” Pierce says. “And, if they do order contact lenses online with a valid prescription, they need to ensure they get the exact lens that was prescribed.” As with most medical fields, comprehensive yearly eye exams are recommended for optimal eye health and to ensure that the current prescription still fits the patient’s needs. (Photo via dimid_86/ Getty)

Have you worn OTC colorful contacts for Halloween? Tell us @BritandCo!