October is here, which means costume planning has begun! Whether you are dressing up for an office costume contest, trick-or-treating, or festive parties, you must be vigilant when it comes to eye safety, for yourself, family, and friends, which is why we are celebrating Halloween Eye Safety Month with the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Spooky contact lenses, extravagant eyelashes, and eye makeup/cosmetics can complete your Halloween costume but beware of the dangers that can befall your eyes, such as infections and in some cases vision loss.
How can I know if contact lenses are illegal?
Here’s an easy way to tell if your costume contact lenses are counterfeit: Can you purchase them without a prescription? If the answer is yes, those creepy lenses are a danger to your vision. Eyepic Eyecare urges people to buy decorative contact lenses only from retailers who require a prescription and sell FDA-approved products.
It’s easy to forget that decorative lenses are medical devices, not costume jewelry. They must be prescribed and fitted by an eye care professional, just like regular contact lenses. That’s because a poorly fitted contact lens can easily scrape the cornea, the outer layer of the eye, making the eye more vulnerable to infection-causing bacteria and viruses. Research shows that people who purchase contacts without a prescription face a 16-fold increased risk of developing an infection.
Halloween eye safety tips: contact lenses
To help ensure you won’t be haunted by a ghoulish and painful contact lens-related eye infection, here are some Halloween costume and eye safety tips from our friends at the American Academy of Ophthalmology:
- See an eye care professional to get a prescription for costume contact lenses. Packaging that claims “one size fits all” or “no need to see an eye doctor” is false. Get properly fitted by an ophthalmologist (physicians and surgeons who specialize in medical and surgical eye care) or optometrist (healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care).
- Buy only FDA-approved products. Buy contacts only from eye care professionals or retailers that require a prescription and sell FDA-approved lenses.
- Never share contacts. Sharing contacts can spread germs and bacteria, potentially causing blinding corneal infections and even pink eye. Again, contact lenses not fitted for your eye can cause vision-threatening damage.
- Practice good hygiene. It is important to follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing costume contacts. See an ophthalmologist right away if you notice any swelling, redness, pain, or discharge from wearing contacts. Watch this one-minute video that highlights proper contact lens wear and care.
- Limit wear of colored contact lenses to four or five hours. The dye and less expensive materials used in costume lenses can restrict oxygen flow to the cornea. Less “breathable” lenses are less healthy for the eye. Never sleep in contact lenses, even if you have a prescription.
- Spread the word to others about the dangers of costume contacts. Don’t let friends make the mistake of wearing costume contacts without a prescription. It can cost them their vision.
“It’s easy to buy these inexpensive contact lenses on impulse, forgetting that they are medical devices, not costume jewelry,” Thomas L. Steinemann, MD said. “We don’t want to ruin your Halloween, just get a prescription first and only buy FDA-approved lenses.”
WHAT’S THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN IF I WEAR COUNTERFEIT COLORED CONTACTS?
Julian Hamlin is a prime example of what can happen when using counterfeit colored contact lenses. He lost vision in his left eye after an infection from decorative colored contact lenses. He’s had multiple cornea transplants, secondary glaucoma, and cataract. Watch the video below for more information on what happened to Julian and the consequences of wearing illegal costume contact lenses. Though the federal government works to keep illegal and harmful versions of decorative or color contact lenses off the shelves, they can still be purchased at costume shops, gas stations, corner shops, and online retailers, including Amazon.
Halloween eye safety tips: eyelash extensions
Eyelash extensions are part of everyday life for some people; however, those venturing to extend their lashes for Halloween for the first time should be aware of the facts and safety precautions to promote eye safety and avoid the risks, namely: trauma or infection of the eyelid or cornea, allergic reaction to the glue, and permanent or temporary loss of eyelashes. There are three primary types of eyelash extensions, including synthetic, silk, and mink, which are typically applied by a beauty technician using tweezers and a specially formulated semi-permanent glue. “To keep the eyes safe, lashes should be applied by an experienced aesthetician in a sanitary setting, with chemicals that are safe for your skin,” Nashville ophthalmologist Rebecca J. Taylor, MD said. “Remember that a sharp object is being used very close to your eye.”
HOW TO DO EYELASH EXTENSIONS THE RIGHT WAY
Last minute eyelash extensions are something that you want to avoid. To keep your eyes protected this spooky season or every other day, you should take the time and find a reputable, safe shop or salon and an experienced aesthetician. Once you locate those two, you should also complete your due diligence by researching the ingredients of the products that will be used on your eyelashes to ensure there are no allergens. Here are some questions to consider before getting eyelash extensions:
- Does the salon have a good reputation? How long have they been in business, and do they practice good hygiene? Read reviews and look at before-and-after photos from other customers.
- What training, certification, and experience does the aesthetician have in lash extensions?
- Ask for the glue’s ingredient list and check it for allergens. Confirm the expiration date has not passed. Request a spot test on the inside of your wrist before the glue is applied to your eyes.
If you do have an allergic reaction to your extensions, do not remove them yourself, and do not try to treat the reaction on your own. You can damage your eyes and doing something incorrectly can make your symptoms last longer. Contact an ophthalmologist immediately.
Halloween eye safety tips: eye makeup/cosmetics
What is a Halloween costume without makeup? We know that almost all good costumes require makeup of some sort and that you want to win the costume party this year, so here are some tips to keep your eyes safe for your Halloween extravaganzas (and for every day):
- Skip on painting your eyes and only use makeup/cosmetics designed for use around the eyes.
- Avoid products that contain untested or harsh chemicals.
- Introduce only one new eye makeup or care product at a time, especially if you tend to have allergic reactions easily. Don’t add another new product until you know you’re not reacting to the first one. This might mean planning out your costume way ahead of time, but it’s worth it to avoid allergic reactions which could keep you from your Halloween party altogether.
- If you develop an eye infection, like pink eye, immediately toss all of your eye makeup and don’t use eye makeup until the infection is gone.
- If you notice an allergic reaction to makeup:
- Find out what the ingredients are so you can watch out for them in other products.
- Let your doctor know. Your doctor may know about products that are prone to causing reactions, and about gentler alternatives.
- Clean your face and eyelids well before applying makeup.
- Sharing is not caring when it comes to eye makeup/cosmetics. Never share eye makeup, even with family or close friends.
- Always apply makeup outside the lash line, away from the eye, to avoid blocking the oil glands of the upper or lower eyelid. These glands secrete oil that protects the eye’s surface.
- Even if you are running late, never apply makeup while in a moving vehicle.
- If your lashes are clumped together by mascara or another product, do not use anything sharp to separate the lashes. You can easily poke or scratch your eye this way.
- Remove makeup from around the eyes carefully, which can be done effectively with vaseline or baby shampoo.
EYE MAKEUP AND COSMETIC PRODUCT WARNINGS: POWDERS, GLITTERS, AND SHADOWS
The AAO warns people to be careful with metallic, glitter, and sparkle eye makeup and cosmetic powders, shadows or other product, as flakes can fall into your eyes which can make their way into your tear film and irritate your eyes. In fact, glitter eye makeup is a common cause of corneal irritation or infection, especially for those who also wear contact lenses. In some cases, larger glitter flakes have been known to scratch the eye, which is comparable to getting sand or dirt stuck in your eye.
Follow these basic eye safety tips when working with eye makeup and cosmetics this spooky season and you should be in good shape. Want to know more about eye makeup tips for people with sensitive eyes? We’ve got you covered, click here to keep learning.
EYE MAKEUP AND COSMETIC PRODUCT WARNINGS: HEATED EYELASH CURLERS
While the mechanical curler can get the job done, some want that extra “oomph”, which is why heated eyelash curlers are sought out. People should keep in mind that too much heat around the eye, curlers typically ranging from 100 to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, can cause damage to the skin around the eye, cause lashes to fall out, or even damage the eye itself permanently.
“Human skin can sustain first-degree burns at 118 degrees Fahrenheit and second-degree burns at 131 degrees. Since the skin of the eyelids is especially thin, it will damage easier and at lower temperatures,” Natasha Herz, MD said. “Even more concerning is if the hand of the user isn’t so steady or accidentally bumps against something, causing the curling iron to touch the conjunctiva or cornea. This would cause a thermal injury that, at best, will take a week to heal. If it causes a burn in the center of the cornea, over the pupil, and in the line of sight, it can cause a scar that will cause permanent loss of vision.”
Have any questions about how to better protect your eyes this Halloween? Get in touch with our team of eye care professionals and we would be more than happy to help.