Is your halloween outfit incomplete without some novelty contact lenses? Readily available in most fancy dress shops, if you’re over 16 you can purchase a pair across the counter fairly easily with no questions asked. Which is exactly what I did a few years ago after seeing them featured by my favourite Youtubers.
Since they’re so readily available and widely used, surely they wouldn’t be on sale if they weren’t safe?
Unfortunately that isn’t always the case.
By now you may have seen gory details of my experience with cosmetic contact lenses invading your favourite news shows/magazines/etc this week. The phrases ‘oozing puss’ and ‘blindness’ are being thrown around quite liberally. I want to say writers are just being dramatic, but that isn’t quite the case. Hyperbole aside, I really have been put off using cosmetic lenses for life.
My experience with cosmetic contact lenses
A few years ago I dressed up as Medusa for a Halloween/belated birthday bash. Halloween is ‘my thing’. I go all out every year. My outfit featured a black dress with subtle snake print texture, ‘scales’ on my face and a bag of fizzy snake gummy sweets to hand out to doormen – because they can be so grumpy sometimes! I thought the only way to finally complete my look would be to use cosmetic lenses.
I did my research and watched plenty of youtubers using them in tutorials with ease. They looked amazing! I went for a mid-ranged priced pair from a Manchester fancy dress shop. My inner snob thought I’d be safer with the ones I purchased, rather than buying the cheapest ones. They were around £20 and came with a soaking solution.
I followed all the instructions provided – to the absolute letter. I cannot stress enough how careful I was with these lenses. A lot of people on the internet have obviously waded in with their own opinion on this ‘stupid girl probably didn’t put them in properly’ ‘I can tell from this she’s done it wrong’ ‘I was fine when I wore mine, she must have ignored advice from the shop’ It’s amazing how much people can assume from a news piece isn’t it?
What happened to my eye was no fault of my own and I’m absolutely confident in saying that. Not only was I extremely careful, my friend who helped me get ready is a trainee nurse. Do you really think she’d let me put something in my eye that didn’t look sterile?
It didn’t take long for my eyes to start stinging once we got to Canal Street. I get migraines regularly and I assumed it was the beginning of one. Now my friends had travelled from Carlisle, London and Liverpool to be with me that night. I was NOT about to cancel and go home. Plus, Bar Pop was playing some absolute bangers that night so I was determined to stay out.
However, I simply couldn’t. The pain was getting too much, my eyes and head hurt so bad and at the time I just assumed it was a migraine. The pain centered around my eyes, the socket and brow.
I took the lenses out before bed and curled up under the covers with a portion of cheesey chips.
What went wrong and what did the doctors say?
*Warning, it gets a bit gross in this paragraph* When I woke up in the morning and I couldn’t open my eye, I instantly started to panic. My trainee nurse friend sounded concerned – I couldn’t actually see her face so I missed her reaction – and I soon found out that this was because my eye was covered in dry puss.
My head was banging and it wasn’t just due to the few drinks I’d necked. We Googled it out of fear. I couldn’t open my eye so I couldn’t really use my phone to do it myself. I had to beg my friend to do it for me. She was reluctant because obviously Google always makes things sound worse than they are. You could have symptoms of a common cold, but Google will always make it sound like you’re about to die from the plague.
My girls helped me get dressed and marched me off to a walk in clinic. God bless the NHS. The nurse said that she’s seen hundreds of people in my position from using cosmetic lenses. They may have scratched their eye whilst putting them in, gone home drunk and left them in over night, got glitter or makeup under the lens, had a reaction to the solution or lens itself – the list literally goes on!
There is so much that can go wrong, even if you already wear contact lenses and consider yourself a pro you could still risk getting hurt. In my case, she couldn’t see any bacterial infection or scratches so in her professional opinion I must have had a bad reaction.
What can cosmetic lenses do to you?
I was extremely lucky. I had to wear an eye patch and take time off work, but I thankfully have no lasting damage. (Update 2017 – I have ‘marks’ on the same eye that was effected and the optician wants to keep an eye on them – for want of a better phrase. He’s not sure if the marks are as a result of using the lenses but it’s currently my best guess. I have to go back in Feb for further investigations.)
In other cases cosmetic contact lenses have been known to cause:
Eye ulcers – This is an open sore on the cornea. It can be cause by drying, infection and physical trauma – first timers are at particular risk, but it can of course happen to anyone.
Bacterial infections – It’s easy to forget you have contacts in and rub your eye. I don’t want to sound like a clean freak but no matter how hygienic you think you are, you’ll always have germs on you. This one is particularly common.
Corneal abrasions – There’s plenty of gruesome pictures online for this, but I’ll spare you the horror. I’m so lucky this didn’t happen to me. If you accidentally scrape the corneal surface away with your hands, or god forbid false nails, you could be left with permanent damage.
I worked with Optical Express as their case study and they’ve unfortunately had to treat hundreds of people for much more serious cases than mine.
- Puffy/red eyes
- Burning or stinging sensation
- Watering eyes
After just 3 hours my eyes began to burn. It felt like a migraine was coming on. I felt agitated, disorientated and my eyes were extremely red and sore. I immediately went home with my friends and removed the lenses. Here’s a picture of how puffy they were after I took them out.
Did you get paid for your story?
No. In truth I did not get paid for any of these pieces. I need you to know this because a lot of people think I’m exaggerating to make money. Although I secretly wish I did because I imagine PA have made quite a bit from selling my tale.
I’m glad the story is out but I’m worried that people won’t take it seriously due to how outrageous the news pieces sound.
This could have been a lot worse. You always think ‘it won’t happen to me’ until it does. Even if you’ve used these lenses before, you’re gambling with your health. What happened to me was terrifying in the moment, but thankfully I was absolutely fine. Who’s to say it couldn’t be a different story for someone else?
I really hope this blog piece and the new stories make you think twice about using these lenses. Yes, people do use them and have no reaction but anything can happen. I had them in for a matter for hours, if I’d have simply thought it was a migraine and tried to power through the night I could have damaged my eyes further.
This is not fear mongering, it’s a real life story and I really want you to take it into consideration this Halloween.