What are Colored Contacts?

Anne Kostuchik

Colored contacts are contact lenses containing visible and varying shades of tint. The three main types of tints are visibility, enhancement, and color. While prescription contact lenses generally are clear and designed to correct or enhance vision, colored contacts specifically are meant to enrich or completely alter a person’s eye color.

Color contacts contain color around the iris, which is the colored portion of the eye.
Color contacts contain color around the iris, which is the colored portion of the eye.

A visibility or handling tint doesn't change the color of the eye. Instead, a slight tint of green or blue added to the lens makes it easier for the wearer to see the contact during insertion and removal. A handling tint also can speed up the searching process when a contact has accidentally been dropped or misplaced.

A person with lighter-colored eyes can make his color slightly more pronounced via an enhancement tint. The semitransparent lens uses a darker tint to intensify the eye's natural hue. On the other hand, color tints can totally transform dark and light eyes through the use of opaque lenses filled with strong, solid colors. Theatrical or costume tints — used in films heavy on special effects, like Twilight — can totally transform an actor into whatever the role requires.

In addition to the three main tints, there also are light-filtering and theatrical tints. Light-filtering tints reduce sun and snow glare; they also make certain colors pop while reducing the brightness of others. This allows athletes and sports enthusiasts to more accurately focus on certain details involved in a game. For example, the yellow of a tennis ball is intensified, making it easier for a player to follow.

Colored contacts should be treated the same as corrective contact lenses; regular cleaning and disinfecting is recommended. Tap water contains bacteria and shouldn't be used for soaking or washing contacts. Harmful bacteria can be transmitted through lens-swapping. Contact lenses are considered medical devices; an eye doctor specifically fits them to suit an individual's needs. To prevent eye infection and more serious eye conditions, a person should never share his contacts.

Eyecare professionals call decorative lenses with no prescriptive powers "plano." Although colored contacts mostly are used for cosmetic purposes, optical power to correct vision can be applied. In 2005, a bill was passed in the U.S. making it illegal to purchase any and all types of contact lenses without a prescription. Also referred to as the Plano Contact Lens Law, this law requires that prescriptions for contact lenses be written by an eye doctor.

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