Cosplay 101: Contact Lens Basics

Cosplay 101 - Contact Lenses

Contact lenses can be the most dangerous part of your cosplay.

Cosplay 101

Whether you are looking at theatrical lenses to make your eye match that anime character or you just want to change your eye color, contact lenses are something you need to consider carefully. If you don’t do your research, you could wind up blind.

When it comes to contacts for cosplay, there are a few types of lenses you will be looking at. However, before we get to the types, I want to make some points that could save your eyesight from permanent damage.

  • In the U.S., it is illegal to sell contact lenses without a prescription from an eye care professional. The prescription is not to improve your vision, it is to ensure that the contact lenses will fit you correctly. The optometrist will take measurements of your eye and put them on the prescription.
  • There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to contact lenses. A contact lens that is too small can cut into the eye itself and restrict blood flow. A contact lens that is too big will float around in your eye, fall out and has the risk of sliding behind your eye. Either can be uncomfortable and both are dangerous. You don’t want to have permanent vision damage, or go blind, just because of a stupid costume.


Use care when shopping for something that goes in your eye.

Contact lenses require a prescription.  Even though they are frequently advertised like toys, they are not toys and need to be treated with care. Once you have them, follow a proper cleaning regimen. If you don’t wear them regularly, remember to replace the storage fluid every few months.

Cosmetic Lenses

colored contact lens

These are your standard contact lenses with color; the good news is that they are very easy to acquire and you can get them with a prescription from any standard retailer of contact lenses.

Cosmetic or color contacts are available in three ‘tints’:

  • Visibility tint – This does not affect your eye color. This is a very light (usually blue) tint that allows to see your contact lens against surfaces. It just makes it easier to see them during use.
  • Enhancement tint – This is a translucent coloration that simply enhances the natural color of your eyes. These are frequently used by people with light-colored eyes in order to make their eye color more intense.
  • Opaque tint – These lenses will change your eye color. They come in a variety of colors from naturals to jewel tones. These are typically the lenses you would get to change your eye color. They are available at almost every contact supplier in North America and are FDA compliant.

Costume or Theatrical lenses

theatrical lenses

These lenses have an opaque tint, similar to the standard lenses above, and have traditionally been used in theater and movies (in recent years their use has widely expanded). These contact lenses can make dramatic changes to your eye appearance. They can make your eyes glow, shine in strange colors, or just look ethereal.  There are a variety of lenses available and many of them can be made with vision correction.

Special-effect, costume, or theatrical contact lenses have an opaque tint to completely cover your natural eye color and are available in a variety of colors and designs.  They cover just the colored portion (iris), leaving the center of the lens (pupil) clear allowing you to see.

**Never wear your theatrical contacts more than about eight hours.**

Scleral Lenses

Scleral contacts

There are some special lenses called scleral lenses that can give you a different effect. Scleral contacts are large-diameter, gas permeable contact lenses which were originally designed to go above the entire corneal surface and rest on the white of the eye. This type of lens replaces the cornea with a perfectly smooth optical surface to correct vision problems in those with corneal irregularities that prevent the use of standard contact lenses.  The gap between the cornea and the surface of a scleral lens acts as a fluid reservoir providing comfort for people with severe dry eyes.

In layman’s terms, scleral contacts cover both the iris and the pupil. This opens a wide range of styles that were not possible with the standard style of contact that only covers the iris. Costume varieties of the scleral contacts can be in any form. Popular styles include cats’ eye, dragon eye, all-red, and white-outs.

**Never wear special effect scleral contacts more than about three hours.**

Circle Lensescircle contact

Circle lenses (round eye lenses) make your eyes look larger by covering both the iris and the outer rim of your eye lens. They are illegal in the U.S. They have not been approved by the FDA and no contact lens manufacturer in the U.S. currently makes them. Despite the fact that they are illegal in the U.S., they are quite popular.

These lenses make your eyes look bigger and are frequently used to achieve the anime look. They can be purchased online from a variety of overseas websites and can be corrective or cosmetic.

**Never wear circle contacts more than about six hours.**