What you need to know
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
As someone who has been in the cosplay and costuming community for many years, I’ve had experience with various prosthetics and appearance-altering appliances—including contact lenses. Recently, there has been an explosion in popularity for people looking to alter their eye colour, or increase the diameter of their iris in an effort to make their eyes appear larger, or more doll-like. The reason behind this, I suspect, has to do with Instagram trends, and the legitimization of beauty vlogging and instamodels (Instagram users who focus on beauty and fashion). Recently, L’oreal and NYX partnered to feature some of these online personalities in their campaigns, and many people see it as internet culture taking over mainstream media. What this means is that a lot of fashion and make-up trends will be heavily influenced by what’s available online. In this case, that means contact lenses!
So here’s the bad thing—most of the time these lenses come with no care instructions. Companies assume you’ve spoken to an optometrist and you know how to prep them for wear, clean them, and store them. For me, I learned from someone who had to wear contact lenses for impaired vision, mostly because I hate the doctor and refuse to go unless I am physically dying, and even then it’s a toss-up. But for people who don’t have that connection, or are eager to put their best face forward (sometimes at the risk of common sense), here are some handy dandy instructions.
Do not put those lenses in right away! I can’t count the number of times people have told me that they’ve tried contact lenses, and then never did them again because they hurt. Generally, contact lenses will come in a pouch or glass vial. This pouch or glass vial will have a solution in it. Most people assume that this solution is saline solution—the same stuff that you’ll be storing and cleaning the lenses in after you wear them. It is not. Generally, the contact lenses will ship from their manufacturer in a liquid that is a mix of saline solution and alcohol. This means that if you take the lenses out and put them on your eye immediately, they will burn! What you need to do is soak the lenses for 24 hours before you wear them. Take them out of the pouch or vial, rinse them in saline by placing them in the palm of your hand and then pouring a small puddle of saline solution on top of them, then rub them a bit. Then place them in a contact lens container with saline solution and leave them. Soaking them will remove the alcohol so that when you put them in they won’t irritate or burn your eyes.
The next thing you need to know is that the solution for the lenses has to be changed—at least—every two weeks. If you wear them a lot this shouldn’t be a problem, but don’t leave them in storage for too long and then start wearing them again. You need to be sure that there’s no bacteria, so taking them out and rinsing them every two weeks will prevent infection. In addition, never mix up which lens goes in which eye. The left and right are labelled for a reason, and it’s to prevent bacteria from spreading. It’s also because your eyes are different shapes. The lens will conform to the shape it’s on, so changing from one eye to the other can cause irritation.
Be aware that there’s a major difference between soft and regular lenses. When I refer to soft I mean lenses like circle lenses, or the ones that are meant to increase the diameter of the iris. These types of lenses don’t hold their shape when you try to put them in, and as a result they are a lot harder to put in. If you want to try out lenses, maybe go for some regular ones first, or at least don’t just start off with really wide ones. The larger the lens, the harder it will be to get it in your eye. If you start off small to make it easier on yourself, you’ll see a major difference, even with the smallest circle lenses.
Lastly, don’t wear them every day. Your eyes are an organ, just like your skin or your heart. They need air and oxygen in order to function properly. Laying off the lenses (even if they make you look super rad) every once in a while is important to your overall eye health.