Halloween and Eye Safety: What You Need to Know
Halloween, with its timeless traditions of dressing up and trick or treating, is usually scary-good fun for people of all ages. However, the wrong approach to fun can lead to scary results — particularly for the safety of our eyes. Wilmer Eye Institute optometrist Corinne Casey, O.D., explains precautions to take to ensure a safe, but spooky, Halloween.
Makeup can be an important part of a well-thought-out costume, or an easy last-minute solution. No matter the situation, be sure to take precautions while using cosmetics near the eyes.
- Carefully select the makeup you use, and be aware that certain ingredients such as fragrances, preservatives (including parabens and benzalkonium chloride), metallic pigments and color additives might cause irritation to your skin or eyes. Patch testing a small area of the skin in advance can alert you to an allergy or reaction before attempting wide application.
- Avoid applying products inside the eyelash line, which has been shown to increase irritation and dryness of the eye surface.
- Avoid using glitter. The plastic particles and dyes in cosmetic glitter are nontoxic, yet they are at risk of migrating onto the eye surface if applied near the eyelids. Craft glitter, which can contain metal or glass particles and harmful dyes, should never be used for cosmetic purposes.
“I’ve had patients present with allergic reactions, corneal scratches and eyelid infections after using false eyelashes and glitter-based costume makeup,” says Casey. “The eyelids and eye surface are more susceptible to irritation than skin elsewhere on the body.”
Halloween Costume Accessories
An important part of the costume is often a handy accessory. A witch’s wand or pirate’s sword can complete the look. But these sometimes long and pointy extras can present an eye hazard, either in crowded party spaces or in dark, hard-to-see areas. Choose accessories that are short and flexible, preferably made of a soft material like foam.
For all the fun masks can bring to Halloween, they can be a safety hazard when not worn properly. Before heading out to trick or treat, make sure hoods and masks do not block vision in either eye — particularly if they will be worn at night or in dim lighting. “Even properly aligned masks can restrict peripheral vision and present a hazard for tripping on curbs or stairs,” says Casey.
When one eye is covered, loss of depth perception can increase risk of injury, so it is safer to only wear costume eyepatches when taking pictures or standing still.
Halloween Costume Contact Lenses
Special contact lenses can certainly enhance your Halloween look by changing the color of your eyes or the appearance of your pupils. Although these costume lenses may not alter your vision, they are medical devices that require a prescription through consultation with an eye doctor. In fact, it is illegal for retailers to sell contact lenses without a prescription.
Poorly fit or improperly cleaned contact lenses can cause damage to the eye or vision. These lenses can create a lack of air flow and bacteria or deposit buildup, and friction from the lens material can result in issues such as:
- Cuts and scratches to the cornea
- Corneal ulcers
- Eye infections
- Allergic reactions
- Irreversible decrease or loss of vision
“Preexisting eye dryness or allergies can increase risk of irritation or complications from contact lens use,” says Casey. “In serious cases, corneal scarring from contact lens complications can permanently reduce vision or require extensive treatment to correct.”
If you are interested in using costume contacts this Halloween, see an eye care specialist to determine if your eyes can safely wear lenses and to acquire a prescription. Prescription contact lenses are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for your safety. Only purchase from retailers that are authorized to dispense contact lenses and require a prescription. Avoid purchasing from websites or stores not authorized to sell medical devices, such as flea markets, Halloween novelty stores or gas stations.
Additional Contact Lens Safety Tips
Keep in mind these general contact lens tips when wearing them this Halloween:
- Do not share contact lenses with others.
- Use contact solution to clean contact lenses — never use tap water.
- Always remove contact lenses before sleeping.
- If you experience any redness, irritation or decreased vision while or after using contact lenses, discontinue wear immediately and reach out to your eye care provider for guidance.
Eye infections and injuries are not only painful, they can be unsightly and expensive to treat. Keep your Halloween festive and fun by staying mindful of these costume considerations.