Are Circle Lenses & Colored Contacts Safe?
Wanting to wear cosmetic contact lenses, but doubtful on how safe they actually are? Read on to learn about their safety profile and more importantly, how to choose a pair that won't compromise your optical health.
Circle lenses, which are also often called “big eye contacts,” were first introduced in South Korea. These colored contact lenses have become a hugely popular fashion accessory in Asia since they first launched, and are now available everywhere from optical shops to retail boutiques and online stores. These days, however, circle lenses are also growing in popularity in the United States and English-speaking markets, ever since Lady Gaga wore a pair in her Bad Romance video. In fact, the popularity of these contacts is such that tutorial videos on how to use them to complement eye makeup have gone viral. With this popularity, of course, comes the question of whether these colored contacts are safe to use.
The answer is: yes, colored contacts are safe to wear. This is under the condition that they are:
- Prescribed and fitted correctly under evaluation by an optometrist or opthamologist
- Cared for properly (major emphasis on this)
- Of a brand that has been approved by federal health authorities (e.g. the US FDA, CE, Health Canada, etc.)
Let's go into each of these criteria in detail.
I. Contact lenses should be fitted by an eye care professional.
Circle lenses are not one-size-fits-all. Just like how it is with regular contacts, an optometrist or opthamologist needs to measure your cornea and degree of nearsightedness/farsightedness and astigmatism to determine the lens parameters needed to correct your vision. These include diopters, base curves and other parameters indicated on your prescription.
All contact lenses, whether colored or clear, are medical devices, even if they are non-prescription. Even if you have 20/20 vision, an eye doctor still needs to fit the lenses to your eyes. Contacts that are too loose or too tight can cause corneal abrasions, which can develop into ulcers, infections and other vision problems. These are perhaps the biggest risks involved in using colored contacts as well as any other type of contact lens. The good news is that there are ways you can protect yourself from these dangers.
II. Circle lenses need to be cared for properly.
When wearing colored contacts, you need to take the utmost care to clean, store and maintain them. Contact lenses generally have a high rate of complications. This is mainly due to the fact that 3/4 of patients are non-compliant – that is, they don't follow instructions on how to care for their lenses. These instructions include
- Handling the lenses only with clean, soap-washed hands
- Not wearing them for longer than the indicated wearing modality or as suggested by your eye care professional
- Never sleeping in them
- Using fresh contact lens solution to clean and store them every time
- Replacing your contact lens case every 3 months
- Cleaning the contacts with the rubbing method (instead of just soaking and forgetting)
Even though some contact lens solutions maybe labelled "No-Rub," evidence suggests that cleaning with rubbing removes significantly more deposits than without (Soft Contact Lens Cleaning: Rub or No-Rub?).
Some people tend to wear their contacts for longer than the indicated disposal period to save money, but this is a horrible habit. By doing so, you'll run the risk of microbial keratitis and corneal complications.
It's important to take care of not only your lenses, but your eyes too. Since some circle lenses (those more than 14.2 mm in diameter) cover an area larger than do regular contacts, they may feel drier. You can relieve dry eyes by instilling eye drops. Additionally, contacts that last longer than 3 months will have protein buildup over time. They can be periodically purified with an ultrasonic contact lens cleaner that shakes off microscopic dirt and oils.
III. Wear colored contacts from reputable brands only
One of the biggest concerns that U.S. citizens have with circle lenses is the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is leery of them, since they are usually manufactured in overseas factories and are not widely sold in US optical stores. Colored contacts made by GEO Medical, NEO Vision and Interojo are already US FDA approved, but they figure that the other brands aren’t safe for use. In fact, all circle lens brands (at least the ones we carry) have international health certifications, with the minimum being a national health approval, CE (Conformite Europeene) 1370 and ISO 13485.
Below are the certificates that our contact lens manufacturers have received from health authorities.
US FDA, ISO, CE, Health Canada, Russian GOST-R, KGMP, KFDA, Taiwan FDA, Hong Kong MDACS, Vietnam VFA
US FDA, ISO, CE, Health Canada, Russian GOST-R, KGMP, KFDA, China CFDA, Japan MHLW
US FDA, ISO, CE, Russian GOST-R, KGMP, KFDA, China CFDA, Hong Kong MDACS
ISO, CE, KFDA, KGMP
ISO, CE, KFDA, KGMP
ISO, CE, KFDA, KGMP, Saudi Arabia MDMA, Brazil ANVISA, Russian GOST-R
ISO, CE, KFDA, KGMP
|PIA (Lilmoon, Lucia)||
Japan MHLW, ISO, CE
The truth is that the lack of approval specifically from the US FDA doesn’t necessarily mean a pair of contacts is unsafe. In most cases, technicalities like the size of the lens rather than a lack of safety are the main reasons for disapproval.
Just like anything that makes contact with your eyes, big eye contacts do carry some risks. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy wearing them like many other people are already doing. The key is in taking the necessary precautions, seeking and adhering to professional advice and in buying your contacts from credible retailers. You are welcome to read about our Pledge to Authenticity here.