The dangers of novelty Halloween contact lenses

Optometrists warn that non-prescription contact lenses may cause permanent eye damage.

Have you used novelty contact lenses before?


This warning has been trotted out every Halloween since 2016. The statements by Optometry Australia seem to be an alarmist worst case scenario. Yes, it can lead to damage but only if there is an underlying medical condition, and or the lenses are in too long, and or if they are not kept clean, etc.

A more realistic warning message can be found at the ACCC website

I would suggest a more balanced report into the possible problems such as found at the ACCC website would serve Choice better.

That’s a great link @meltam . It may be prudent for Choice to include the same link to the ACCC brochure on their webpage. It does provide for realistic information and good recommendations if one is considering purchasing/using such lenses.

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Thank you sir! :blush:

Thanks for the comments @meltam/@phb and sorry if the statements by Optometry Australia the we reported came across as alarmist and unbalanced, that was not our intent.

From our point of view, the warning from optometrists is pertinent for the time of year considering the increasing popularity of ‘Halloween’ as an occasion to dress up (and potentially use this product). To asess whether it is presenting an unrealistic worst case scenario, I would encourage readers to consider the following key points - the incidence and likelihood of injury considering the way the product is used, and the severity of the potential injury.

While Australian injury and usage stats on novelty contact lenses are tricky to come by (if any statistical data even exists), we know that novelty lenses are rougher and come with other concerns like lens colourant chemicals and breathability. People often buy these lenses from costume stores and without appropiate guidance from qualified medical professionals, so rather than being something to dismiss, improper use and potential underlying eye conditions are to my mind signifact causes for concern. However, as the ACCC report also mentions, inappropriately fitting contact lenses are also a significant problem:


If the contact lenses are rough and poorly made, let alone ill fitted and administered without medical guidance - what are the chances for injury? To the severity of the problem I mentioned above, again we find that Australian cases are hard to come by (although I’m only performing a quick search online). Overseas, well publiscised stories of ripped corneas, and corneal scarring, vision loss and extreme pain are easy to find.

In the US, it is illegal to sell noveltly lenses without a prescription (although anecdotally, many stores still sell this item). In Australia, there is far less rigour around the rules and even the TGA does not regulate the industry. If even one Australian faces a severe eye injury from any of the above concerns, I would argue this is reason enough to raise an alarm. In reality, I think the risk is likely much higher with these products than a single digit number, especially considering the rate of use is still likely to be quite low at a population level. From this viewpoint, is our article that repeats optometrist’s warnings raising the alarm loudly enough to prevent harm?

With that said, we often face the sentiment that is shared here when talking about unsafe products. My assessment is that people often feel they have outsmarted any such concerns, that it won’t affect them or that the onus is on the end user to simply ‘work it out’ rather than on manufacturers or retailers to provide safe products and clear guidelines. We’ve noted the suggestions on the ACCC’s pamphlet, and I agree the checklist provided is very useful and presents the information in a digestible format. On the flip side, I’m of the opinion that the prominent red warning displayed on the cover (below) sets a heavier tone than the CHOICE article? Our goal here is to reduce product-based injuries, and if we can improve our messaging, we’ll have a better chance of reaching this outcome.


We appreciate the feedback we’ve received so far and we’d love to hear more from the Community about how we inform people about product safety issues. If you need to receive a concern or warning, how do you prefer to receive the information in terms of tone and message?

Please also keep sharing your thoughts on the specific issue of novelty lenses (or product safety in general.) Have you seen any novelty lenses in the wild, we’d love to see some pictures if you have spotted any of these products or used them yourself.


I suppose that is where my comment came from.

Will the Optometry Australia statement stop people using novelty contact lenses, no. There will be many that chose to use them either knowing/ignoring or not knowing the risks.

Just having a Choice statement in effect only advising of the risks, when it is likely that many will ignore them possibly won’t solve the problem.

Providing advice should one still chose to wear one is beneficial as it may result in those still choosing to use them to consider how best to manage their use to prevent or reduce the likelihood of complications from its use. It is believed that this is where the ACCC guide has value.


I think the problem won’t be resolved by Choice advising of the dangers. I do however remain hopeful that it might dissuade some from contemplating taking the risk. Forewarning rather than not warning is always going to be a hit and miss affair but to not warn is perhaps the greater sin?


Thanks for the thoughts so far :+1:


The big red sign needs a further point on it…

It is strongly advised NOT to use non-prescription contact lenses. (perhaps with an added " without seeking professional optical advice" or similar)