Many anime characters have unusually colored eyes or even irises with designs on them. The only way to have a completely accurate cosplay is to use colored contacts. Unfortunately, buying and wearing contacts is not that simple. If you’re not careful, you can seriously damage your eyesight.
Colored cosplay contacts are safe to wear if they have been fitted to your eyes, cared for properly, and FDA approved. Legally, you must submit a prescription from an eye doctor that contains the curve and diameter of your eye before you can buy colored contacts.
There are several online stores where you can purchase a wide array of approved contacts for your cosplay. However, not all contacts will fit the shape of your eye, so you can’t just go and buy contacts without understanding the safety and guideline surrounding them.
Are cosplay contacts safe?
Colored contact lenses are safe to wear if you meet these three requirements:
- They correctly fit the measurements of your eyes.
- They have been FDA-approved.
- You take proper care of the lenses.
You also need to obtain a prescription for decorative contact lenses before you purchase them by going to the eye doctor for a contact lens fitting (even if you have perfect vision). Contacts are not one-size-fits-all, so you should only wear the ones that fit your eye measurements. Wearing contacts that don’t fit properly can be just as damaging to your eyes as wearing lenses that are not FDA-approved.
Health risks from wearing unsafe contact lenses include:
- Eye infection
- Impaired vision
- Scratches to your cornea
- Blindness (in severe cases)
Some people try to sell cosplay contacts illegally, without getting FDA approval. I wouldn’t avoid purchasing contacts from eBay or from any store that does not require you to submit a prescription from your eye doctor.
Circle lenses and eye safety
Most brands of circle lenses (the type that is meant to make your eyes look bigger) are not approved for sale in the United States. The reputable brands are manufactured in South Korea and approved by the South Korean FDA. Since the US cannot regulate their production, these types of colored contacts are not cleared.
There are also some concerns that circle lenses are not as safe for eyes because they are larger and might deprive the eye of oxygen. At the same time, they are widely available and safely worn by many people in South Korea, China, Japan, and Taiwan.
Basically, this means that, technically, you should not buy circle lenses. While I personally avoid circle lenses due to astigmatism in one of my eyes, you can make your own decision about the risks and safety of the product. At the very least, I recommend making sure the lenses have been approved by the South Korean FDA or the European equivalent (the EMA).
How to buy contact lenses legally
Contacts are considered medical devices (even if you don’t need them to correct your vision), so it’s illegal to buy or sell them without a valid prescription. Arguably, the best way to do this is to go directly through your eye doctor to purchase colored contact. They’ll be able to recommend a reputable brand and check to make sure it fits your eye. However, options at optometrists are usually pretty limited, and they tend to be more expensive.
1. Go to your eye doctor
If you are going to purchase colored contacts elsewhere, the first step is still to go to an eye doctor. They will measure the diameter and base curve of your eye so that you can get contacts that fit you properly. Even if you have perfect vision, they’ll probably also send you home with some basic, clear contact lenses to practice wearing.
The eye doctor will also let you know if you have astigmatism that might prevent you from wearing certain types of contacts. Personally, I found out that I have astigmatism in one eye. There are certain clear brands of contacts that I can wear, but I would not buy colored contacts without the direct approval of my doctor.
2. Find contacts based on your measurements
Now that you have your measurements on your prescription, you can search online to find contacts that fit your eyes. All contact lenses should have diameter and curve measurements in the information section where they’re being sold. Find a pair that matches your prescription.
From there, you’ll also want to include any vision correction that you need (this information will also be included on your prescription slip). If you have perfect vision, you can keep these numbers at 0.00.
Unfortunately, you will definitely find some contacts that you want that are the wrong measurements. It’s sad when that happens, but save your eyesight and look elsewhere. If you really want that exact style, it’s much safer to learn how to edit your eyes in photoshop instead.
Contact lens care and safety for cosplay
The other aspect of safe contact lens use is making sure you take proper care of them. If you leave them in for too long or don’t keep the lenses clean, you could easily end up damaging your eyes. When you go to the eye doctor for a fitting, they will also give you instructions on how to care for contact lenses and how to put them in your eye. Make sure to pay attention to their advice.
Tips for contact lens safety.
- Get a case and contact lens cleaning fluid. You can usually purchase these at just about any drugstore or pharmacy. Do not use anything other than contact lens cleaning fluid with your contacts.
- Take the contacts out of the liquid it comes in and put them into the case. When your contacts arrive, you want to take them out of their original bottle and place them in the cleaning fluid for at least 24-48 hours before wearing them.
- Look at the lens before putting it into your eye. You’re checking for any rips in the lens, or any pet fur, dust, or small particles that would irritate your eye. You also want to ensure that the lens is not inside out.
- With the pad of your finger, put the contact into your eye. Avoid using your nails, since that can scratch the contact or your cornea.
- Practice putting contacts on before the convention. If you are not used to wearing contacts, it’s going to take some practice before you get them in quickly
- Put the contacts on before makeup. Eye makeup can get onto your contact lens, so always put them in first.
- Only wear the contacts for a few hours at a time. Colored contacts are thicker than daily clear contact lenses. They are not meant to be worn for an entire day. It’s best to avoid wearing them for longer than 4-6 hours at a time. Less if you are not used to wearing contacts.
- Use eye drops to keep your eyes from drying out. Contacts can dry your eyes out very quickly and make them look and feel irritated. Bring some eyedrops with you and apply them frequently during the day.
- Throw away your contacts when they expire. Contacts are not meant to be worn indefinitely. Most colored contacts are yearly, which means you should toss them about a year after you’ve opened them.
- Do not sleep in contacts of any kind. Sleeping in contacts can scratch your eyes and cause significant irritation.
- Don’t go into a pool or body of water with contacts on. Avoid any kind of swimming or even heavy physical activity with colored contacts.
- Do not share your contacts with anyone. To prevent spreading infection, never let a friend borrow your contact lenses.
Do you really need to wear colored contacts for cosplay?
I don’t think anyone within the cosplay community would say your eyes have to match your character. Because of the dangers of wearing contacts wrong and the general squeamishness of putting something into your eye, eye color is one of the aspects of cosplay that is overlooked when it’s not accurate.
If you want to wear colored lenses with your costume, just make sure to pay attention to safety and take care of the contacts. However, if you can’t find something that fits or you can’t make it to the eye doctor, no one will think you’re bad at cosplaying. Even though you might value the accuracy of your cosplay, it is not worth your eyesight.
Where to get colored contacts for cosplay
As I mentioned before, you can get decorative lenses directly from your eye doctor. If you have any kind of astigmatism, this is how I recommend getting your lenses.
However, most people will purchase lenses for cosplay online because they will be much cheaper. When purchasing contacts from an online shop, they should always ask you for your prescription or a way to contact your eye doctor. If the shop does not ask for this information, I would avoid purchasing contacts from them.
The same goes for any contact lens stalls that you see at convention dealer’s rooms. You always want to make sure their contacts are approved for sale in the US, and the lenses are the correct size for your eyes.
Some online stores that are known for selling contacts for cosplay include:
It’s important to note that these shops also sell lenses that are not approved by the United States FDA. While they are known for having quality products, some of the lenses have only been approved by foreign government agencies that might not have the same standards as the US.
Some US brands that have colored contacts that are FDA approved include:
- Air Optix
- Bella Colored Contacts