Best Colored Contact Lenses

Dr. Matthew Sharpe- Founder of SharpeVision

By Dr. Matthew R. Sharpe

February 28, 2022

Contact lenses have been in use for over 100 years. The materials, colors, sizes and fitting has improved dramatically. Contacts have become very thin, oxygen permeable, comfortable, and can correct a wide variety of prescriptions from nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Sometimes they are used therapeutically to help someone who has an irregular shaped cornea. They have been used to change the prescription by flattening the cornea with rigid gas-permeable lenses with a process called “orthokeratology” or shaping your cornea with contacts. Colored contact lenses for dark eyes have been in use for decades and have become safer, more comfortable and more readily available. The best eye colored contacts allow the wearer to appear natural, but sometimes the wearer wants to stand out with different colored contacts for a costume or to get attention. Contact lenses need to be treated with great respect because they can and do cause eye infections: nearly a million each year in the United States.

Before we discuss best color contact lenses or best prescription colored contacts, we must put regular contacts in perspective regarding their use and safety.

Contact Lens Facts

  • Some 45 million people in the United States wear contact lenses.
  • Most contact lens wearers are women-about 66%
  • The average age of the contact lens wearer is 31
  • About 8% of contact lens wearers are under 18 years old

Contact Lenses in the United States

  • Contact lenses are medical devices and are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Glass contact lenses were first made in 1888, but they were extremely uncomfortable and could not be worn for very long.
  • Hard contact lenses were not much more comfortable but they were lighter because they were made from a plastic called PMMA, a light, hard, clear polymer and were first produced in the United States in the late 1930s
  • Soft contact lenses were first introduced to the U.S. in 1971, but weren’t in widespread use until the 1990s when disposable contacts were able to be made cheaply enough to throw them away. This allowed the user to have a sterile contact lens every day.
  • Ninety percent of contact lens wearers in 2010 reported using soft contact lenses

Complications and Risks: (why don’t you get LASIK already?)

  • Serious eye infections affect up to 1 out of every 500 contact lens users per year. Contact lens infections are ten times more likely than with LASIK
  • Outbreaks of serious eye infections have been linked to improper care, not cleaning, and overwear of contact lenses
  • Up to 90% of contact lens wearers reported not following the care instructions for their contact lenses
  • Nearly 100% of contact lens wearers reported committing at least one bad contact lens hygiene behavior associated with a higher risk of eye infection
  • Poor attention to cleaning and replacing contact lenses and cases have been linked to a higher risk of complications
  • Painful eye infections linked to improper care of contact lenses lead to nearly 1 million emergency department visits annually with cost estimated to be $175 million. Maybe you should get LASIK?

Contact Lenses That Make Eye Color Change!

There are a couple of broad categories of colored contacts that look real

  1. Prescription colored contacts
  2. Non-prescription colored contacts

The levels of tint from least to most in the different colored contacts: 

  • Clear: these can be difficult to see, if not invisible when they are in a contact lens case. If you drop them they can be nearly impossible to find. Good thing they come in packs of 90!
  • Visibility tint: these are usually a very light green or blue and are used just to help you see the contacts if you drop them. They don’t significantly affect your eye color
  • Enhancement tint: these are solid but translucent tints that are best used in light colored eyes when someone just wants an enhanced eye color to make your natural color appear more vibrant and vivid.
  • Blending tint: These become gradually more opaque from the outside in to make the appearance of your iris color more natural
  • Opaque tint: These tints are completely opaque and are designed to completely change your eye color. They come in a variety of colors from gray to light blue, dark blue, deep sea blue, hazel, amber, green colored contacts, violet and brown.
  • Costume Contacts: These are super fun, but BE CAREFUL! These contacts are sometimes ordered from a costume company online and may come from disreputable sources. They may bypass the FDA oversight if they’re ordered from foreign companies that don’t take the same precautions s we do in the United States. If you must wear these, please very carefully disinfect them before wearing, and don’t wear them for extended periods of time. If they hurt or make your eyes red, take them out! NOW! It’s not worth it. Blindness is NOT worth it. They are used extensively in movies to make people look blind or injured, and they’re pretty darn realistic.

How to choose your Best Colored Contacts

To choose the best colored contact lenses, I would first decide what your goal is. If you want to correct your nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, then you will get those numbers from your optometrist who will carefully measure your prescription as well as give you a complete exam to make sure your eyes are healthy and that you have not suffered any problems from wearing contact lenses in the past.

If you have had problems with contact lenses in the past, you may need to take some precautions to successfully wear them.

Some of the problems from wearing contact lenses are: 

  • Contact lens overwear syndrome: swelling on the front of your eye from wearing contacts too many hours per day or from sleeping in your contacts.
  • Occasionally people develop a corneal abrasion from contact lenses also.
  • A common reason for contact lens intolerance that leads someone to not be able to wear them is a condition called giant papillary conjunctivitis. This is basically an allergy to the contact lens material where the wearer can tolerate them for less and less time. It is often misdiagnosed as “dry eyes“ but in a young healthy person that which feels like dryness is more likely to be giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC). Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis is so named because there are bumps that develop under the upper eyelid that indicate an inflammatory allergic reaction is going on. When this occurs, it becomes very difficult to comfortably wear contact lenses of any sort even for a short periods of time. This is one of the most common reasons people seek out laser vision correction a SharpeVision MODERN LASIK.

If your goal is to enhance the natural color of your eyes, then you will likely choose a lightly colored tint the same color as your iris. If you have darker eyes and want to make them lighter you will need to choose a more opaque colored contact to significantly change the appearance of your iris. These generally are very obvious in person but may be less obvious in a photograph. The reason they are obvious is that our irises are flat, and the contact lenses are spherical and are placed on the surface of your eyes versus the natural iris color that comes below the clear corneal dome of your eye. They’re still fun even if someone knows it’s a contact lens creating the appearance. My recommendation is to try several different lenses of differing opacities and colors until you find one that you like best. A lot of the fun is in trying different things.

What are the Best Colored Contacts?

Each of these brands is from a reputable manufacturer who has decades of experience and who has made continuous progress in the specialty colored contact lens product.

  • Alcon Freshlook Colorblends:
  • Acuvue 2 colors
  • Expressions
  • Focus Softcolors
  • Eyedia Clearcolor Vibrant
  • Air Optix Colors
  • Alcon Dailies Colors

Your best bet is to go with the recommendation of your eye care professional. He or she has trained for years to help you make the healthiest choice.

Colored Contact Lens Safety

Colored contact lenses can be very fun and safe if the wearer follows these safety tips:

  • Don’t share contact lenses
  • Do not put them in your mouth and put them back in your eyes. This is crazy!
  • Do not sleep in your contacts. Ever!
  • Do not wear contact lenses more than 12 hours at a time
  • If they hurt, take them out
  • If they make your eyes red, take them out
  • If they make your vision foggy, do not wear them.
  • Get colored contacts only from a reputable dealer, preferably your local eye doctor. There’s nothing safer than getting them directly from your optometrist.
  • Make sure you have regular eye exams with your optometrist to make sure the contacts are not causing problems

My parting words when discussing the best colored contact lenses:

(At the risk of sounding like your parent) have fun but be careful!

Dr. Matthew Sharpe- Founder of SharpeVision

Dr. Matthew R. Sharpe

Dr. Matthew Sharpe is an Ophthalmologist specializing in refractive surgery and the owner SharpeVision MODERN LASIK & LENS, with offices in Seattle, Austin, and Chicago. Dr. Sharpe is a world traveler, pianist, marathon runner, motorcyclist, and fluent French speaker. He enjoys every second of life, but finds he is happiest at home cheering on The Ohio State Buckeyes with his wife, three children, and four dogs.
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