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Non-Prescription Colored Contact Lenses: Everything You Need to Know

Colored contact lenses are a popular trend for people who want to alter their appearance or switch the color of their eyes. However, ophthalmologists urge caution if you’re thinking of buying non-prescription colored contact lenses. 

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, contact lenses should only be purchased with a valid prescription from a licensed eye care professional. 

You Should Not Buy Non-Prescription Colored Contacts

Ophthalmologists strongly advise against buying non-prescription cosmetic contact lenses without a medical exam. Wearing non-prescription lenses can result in serious eye problems. 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, contact lenses are considered a medical device. Colorful and decorative contact lenses are illegal if sold by non-licensed vendors. If you see contact lenses sold from unauthorized vendors, do not purchase them.

The FDA is aware that illegal contacts may be available in various places and urges the public to never buy lenses without a valid prescription. 

Some of the places where you should not buy non-prescription contacts include flea markets, salons, boutiques, beach shops, convenience stores, beauty shops, and street vendors. If you find a website selling colorful or decorative contacts without a license, you can report this to the FDA.

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Why You Need a Prescription for Colored Contacts

Contact lenses are considered a medical device. You need to have a professional eye exam and get a valid prescription before procuring them. 

When you get contacts, your eye doctor examines your eyes and measures the fit of contacts to match your eye. Your doctor can evaluate the fit to ensure your contacts work well with your eye.

If contacts do not fit properly, the eye can be damaged. Complications from a poor fit can lead to different types of harm, such as these:

  • Corneal infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Scratches on the cornea
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Reduced vision
  • Blindness

Even if you are confident that your vision is perfect, it is essential to get an eye exam before purchasing colored contacts. During the exam, your ophthalmologist or optometrist will thoroughly examine your eyes. 

When you have a prescription, you can purchase contact lenses from a reputable supplier, either online or in person.

Risks of Using Non-Prescribed Lenses

Various risks are associated with using colored contact lenses without a prescription.

Legal Issues

It is illegal to buy purely cosmetic contact lenses without a prescription. Federal agencies are joining forces to seize illegal contacts that are imported into the United States. Many people are unaware that it is illegal to buy or sell contact lenses without a prescription. 

Corneal Scratches

According to AAO, non-prescription contacts can scratch the outer portion of the eye. This can create corneal abrasion, a painful condition where your eyes are irritated and sensitive to light. 

Corneal Ulcers

Corneal scratches can lead to corneal ulcers. AAO notes that these ulcers can usually be treated with special eye drops. However, the ulcers can create scars that affect your vision. In severe cases, a corneal transplant surgery may be necessary to fully restore vision. 

Severe Infection

With decorative contact lenses, the risk of infection skyrockets, particularly if they are purchased from an invalid vendor. According to AAO, a 2011 study found that people wearing costume contacts had a 16 times higher risk of serious eye infections known as keratitis. 

Toxic Exposure

Some tinted contacts can contain toxic chemicals such as chlorine. These chemicals can get inside the eye and potentially cause harm. 

Other Eye Diseases

According to AAO, wearing decorative contacts can increase the risk of other dangerous eye diseases. These serious diseases include cataracts and glaucoma, which can reduce your ability to see. 

How to Purchase Colored Contacts With a Prescription

Talk with your doctor when you get an eye exam about your desire for colored contacts. If you need contacts for vision correction, your doctor can prescribe colored options, including contacts that enhance your eye color or change it altogether.

If you simply want colored contacts for aesthetic reasons without vision correction, your eye doctor can prescribe these to you as well. 

Where to Buy Colored Contacts

When shopping for prescription colored contacts, look for reputable sites. Major vendors offer colored contact lenses.

Here are some of the top places where you can buy these contacts:

By purchasing from a reputable supplier, you can enjoy the convenience of getting prescription colored contact lenses that are safe for your eyes shipped right to your home. 

Non-Prescription Colored Contact Lenses FAQs

Is it okay to wear non-prescription contacts?

No, it is not safe. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, it is not okay to wear non-prescription contacts. Doing so is unsafe and may create serious eye conditions, some of which can result in long-term damage to your eyes. 

Can you get non-prescription colored contacts?

You can purchase non-prescription colored and decorative contacts in many convenience stores, salons, boutiques, and markets. But before buying these cosmetic non-prescription colored lenses, be aware that they are illegal in the United States. These lenses are sold by illegitimate vendors and not considered safe. According to the FDA, a poor fit may result in corneal infection, scratches on the cornea, decreased vision, and could eventually even lead to blindness.


  1. Avoid These Four Dangers of Non Prescription Contact Lenses. American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  2. Here’s How to Find Out if Your Halloween Contact Lenses Are illegal. American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  3. ‘Colored’ and Decorative Contact Lenses: A Prescription Is A Must. Federal Drug Administration.

  4. Reporting Unlawful Sales of Medical Products on the Internet. Federal Drug Administration.

  5. Federal Agencies Team Up Against Counterfeit Decorative Contact Lenses. (October 2012). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  6. Corneal Abrasion and Erosion. (September 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  7. What Is a Corneal Ulcer (Keratitis)? (January 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  8. About Corneal Transplantation. (September 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  9. Keratitis. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

  10. Over-the-Counter Costume Contacts May Contain Chemicals Harmful to Eyes. (October 2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Last Updated January 10, 2023

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.

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