Special Effects and Prop Contact Lenses

An in-depth look at the safety issues with special effects lenses and the complications that can develop when bought without a prescription.

Special effect, theatrical, costume and prop contact lenses are amazing. Regardless of what you want to call them, they’re all the same thing. They can turn your eye any color or design you want, including cat-eyes, animal print, or changing your blue eyes to solid white. The FDA has approved such lenses, maintaining that they are safe for your eye and your eye’s health. They are available with or without a prescription, however if you do require a prescription it’s important you receive the right one.

Theatrical contacts used to be very expensive but have now come down in price so that the general public can afford a pair or two. Contact lenses have been used in the movie industry for many years, as far back as 1939, to help create a mood, a monster or character. Musicians such as Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson use these lenses to pump up audiences at live shows, or during music videos. Halloween is the most popular time of year that ordinary people become interested in these lenses. Whether it’s to help complete a costume, or to just change your eyes appearance, you might have better luck finding discounted lenses, simply because it’s that time of year.

Getting the Proper Prescription

Even though special effect lenses are generally used for fun, having the proper prescription for these lenses is very important and required. Your eye care professional (ECP) is most likely to carry these types of lenses. You can discuss your interests in these lenses during your fitting. Your ECP might have other brands that aren’t as popular and/or cheaper available, but if not they can be found on the internet or in optical chains like LensCrafters, Sears or Costco. If you’re not going to buy your prop lenses from your ECP, ask for a copy of your prescription and shop around. Patients who have astigmatism or require toric or bifocal lenses, are advised to not use these lenses, however they can still be prescribed.

Buying Without a Prescription

Most honest retailers and authorized dealers will not sell you contact lenses without a prescription. If you do not wear glasses or contacts and have good eyesight, it is important to set up an appointment with an eye care professional for an examination and contact lens fitting.. Having an eye check-up should be done annually, regardless of your eye history. While you’re at the appointment you can express to them your interest in special effect lenses.

Your eye care professional might write you a prescription for these special lenses so you have some paperwork legitimizing the fact your eyes are fine. Even if you do not require prescription contact lenses, you will need a prescription for special effect lenses. Special effect contact lenses for those who do not require vision correction still require proper fitting. Legitimate dealers will not do business without a prescription, period.

Safety Information

For your safety, you should only buy your contact lenses from authorized dealers, and not from anyone located in areas like the flea market. If you don’t wear the correct prescription, you can cause serious damage to your eyes such as infections, abrasions or blindness. These problems can also lead to discomfort and pain. Also, because they’re so fun, it’s important to never let your friends or family “try them on” or “test them out”. You should never let someone wear a prescription lens that’s not prescribed to them. This could cause serious damage to that person’s eyes. Properly caring for your lenses is also important. You should get a list of instructions from whomever you buy them from, detailing exactly what needs to be done. Cleaning and disinfecting should always be apart of your daily care routine. Most special effect lenses are not meant to be worn overnight, and should be replaced monthly. It’s important to know that special effect lenses are just as safe as regular contact lenses. The paint used to give them a specific feature is FDA approved if manufactured by a company such as CIBA Vision. Buying from your eye care professional can help eliminate such a worry.

Costs of Special Effect Lenses

Because there is an extra effort in manufacturing these lenses, there is an extra cost. No matter where you decide to buy them from, they will be more expensive. Buying from your eye care professional, will probably be more expensive than ordering them online. However, there is a sense of safety and convenience that goes along with buying them from your doctor. Most lenses, depending on the effect, will cost between $35-$250 per pair. Colored contacts tend to be cheaper than blacked out sclera (the white part of your eye) lenses, and special effects like cat-eyes, though popular tend to cost in the middle of that price range. The cost for these contact lenses usually is not dependent on the strength of the prescription.

This article was last updated on 07/2014