Prevent Blindness Warns Against Dangerous Cosmetic Contact Lenses



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                    

MEDIA CONTACTS                    

Prevent Blindness:

Dori Jennings (800) 301-2020 ext. 105

[email protected] 

Columbus, OH (Oct. 14, 2019) –The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness warns consumers about the dangers of wearing decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription this Halloween season.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 45 million people in the United States wear contact lenses.  Many consumers may not be aware that contact lenses are medical devices and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Additionally, the FDA states that contact lenses are not over-the-counter (OTC) devices and companies that sell them as such are misbranding the device and violating Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations by selling contact lenses without having a valid prescription.

Cosmetic contacts may be sold illegally online — including on Craigslist or, most recently, via Facebook — or in costume stores, tattoo parlors, beauty supply stores, truck stops, wig shops, gas stations, convenience stores, or thrift stores.

“It’s important people understand the risk they’re taking when they wear contacts without a prescription,” said Sherry Williams, President & CEO of the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness. “Wearing non-prescription contacts just once, like during Halloween, can still cause serious damage. I encourage consumers to buy all contacts, including decorative ones, from a licensed eye care professional. Adding a special effect to your Halloween costume can be fun, but it is not worth risking your eyesight.” 


Ohio policymakers have a strong history of protecting consumers from eye problems due to illegal sales of contact lenses.  As a U.S. Senator, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine sponsored the legislation that requires consumers to obtain a prescription from a licensed professional to purchase contact lenses, including corrective and non-corrective lenses.


Contact lenses are a good option for many as an alternative to eyeglasses.  However, the use of contact lenses also brings a higher risk of infections. Causes may include sleeping in lenses when not approved by an eye doctor, not cleaning the lenses or lens case properly, sharing lenses, or wearing contact lenses during water activities.


Ill-fitting lenses can cause eye pain, bacterial infections, and corneal ulcers. One study found that wearing decorative lenses increased the risk for developing keratitis, a potentially blinding infection that causes an ulcer in the eye. This increased risk was over 16 times more likely than those seen in vision correcting (“regular”) lenses.


“I’ve seen many young patients who were not aware of the dangers of these products and are now living with permanent vision loss,” said Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University/MetroHealth Medical Center and a Prevent Blindness volunteer. “Even if the lenses are cosmetic or non-correcting, they are still classified as medical devices and should only be prescribed by an eye care professional.”


Prevent Blindness offers the following safety tips regarding cosmetic contact lenses:

  • Always visit a licensed eye care professional to be fitted for cosmetic contact lenses.
  • Never buy contact lenses without a prescription.
  • Always clean and disinfect contact lenses according to instructions.
  • Always use water-soluble cosmetics or those labeled safe for use with contact lenses. Do not apply skin creams or moisturizers too close to the eyes.
  • Never wear opaque lenses if you have any problems with night vision.
  • Never share or trade your contact lenses with anyone.
  • Seek medical attention right away and remove your contact lenses if your eyes are red or have ongoing pain or discharge. Be watchful about your children’s or teens’ appearance. If they are wearing cosmetic contacts, question them about where they obtained them.


The non-profit group has a dedicated webpage with free information at:


Prevent Blindness encourages Ohioans to report illegal sales of contact lenses to the Ohio Vision Professionals Board at 614-466-9709



Serious eye injuries caused by illegally sold cosmetic contact lenses.

Photo credit: Dr. Thomas L. Steinemann


Example of black market contact lens sales display.

Photo credit: FDA


Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness is Ohio’s leading volunteer nonprofit public health organization dedicated to preventing blindness and preserving sight. We serve all 88 Ohio counties, providing direct services to more than 1,000,000 Ohioans annually and educating millions of consumers about what they can do to protect and preserve their precious gift of sight. For more information or to make a contribution, call 800-301-2020.  Or, visit us on the web at or Or, visit us on the Web at or