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Tinted Contact Lenses: A Guide to their Basics and Benefits

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMay 2, 2024

Tinted contact lenses offer a solution to those looking to change their eye color regardless of whether they have vision problems or not.

These lenses are in high demand. According to the CDC, 45 million people in the US wear contact lenses, and 11% of the lenses sold are for cosmetic reasons like tinted lenses. Tinted contact lenses are popular because they function for both vision correction and appearance enhancement.

This article will discuss the basics of tinted contact lenses, explore their benefits and different types, share tips for tinted contact lens owners, and discuss how to take care of them.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Tinted contact lenses provide users with cosmetic enhancement and vision correction, making them useful for many types of patients.
  • Tinted contact lenses come in different types - visibility tints, enhancement tints, and opaque tints.
  • In the US, a prescription is legally required to purchase any type of contact lenses, as they are categorized as medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Always purchase tinted contact lenses from trusted and reliable sources to ensure they meet safety standards.
  • Proper application of tinted contact lenses and maintenance are essential to maintain eye health. Proper application includes hand hygiene, careful application, and proper cleaning and storage.
  • Consultation with eye care professionals is essential for proper fitting, especially for those with specific vision correction needs like astigmatism.
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Understanding Tinted Contact Lenses

Tinted contact lenses are a type of contact lens that has a tint or color added to them. Unlike traditional contacts, which are typically invisible to the eye due to their transparency, the design of tinted contact lenses enhances or completely changes the wearer's eye color.

Tinted contact lenses can be corrective (helps with vision) or “plano” (non-corrective and non-prescription).

Tinted contact lenses come in diverse colors to cater to the preference and purpose of the wearer. The colors can range from natural eye colors to bright, unnatural colors and even patterned ones with special effects. Wearers can even customize the lenses to combine a style and a color.

Some of the colors tinted contact lenses come in include:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Brown
  • Gray
  • Hazel
  • Purple
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Yellow

🩺 Doctor’s Note

In the US, it is illegal for retailers to sell any type of contact lenses without a prescription. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies contact lenses as medical devices. Get a prescription first and buy from a reliable seller for your safety.

Types of Tinted Contact Lenses

Different types of tinted contact lenses have distinct purposes. Here is an overview of each:

Visibility Tints

The color of visibility tints is very subtle and not intended to alter the eye color completely. Instead, these tints, usually in light blue or green, are added to make the lenses more visible during insertion or removal as well as within the contact lens case. The tint is subtle enough that it does not affect the color of the eyes, making these lenses a practical choice for anyone, especially those who may find handling clear lenses challenging.

Enhancement Tints

Enhancement tint lenses have a translucent tint that intensifies the natural eye color without changing the actual color. They are slightly darker than visibility tints. Enhancement tints are ideal for people looking to enhance their natural eye color without making an obvious change (e.g. brown to blue or blue to green).

Enhancement tints are particularly effective for people with lighter eye colors (e.g. blue, green, hazel), making their eyes look more vibrant.

Opaque Tints

Opaque tints provide a complete color change of the eyes. These lenses are fully tinted, covering the natural eye color entirely. They are suitable for people who desire a dramatic change in their appearance and want their eye color to stand out.

Despite the necessary thickness of the tint, the lenses preserve the light that goes into the eye, which does not hinder the wearer's vision. Opaque-tint contact lenses are the best option for people with darker eye colors who want to switch to a lighter shade or a completely different color.

Theatrical Tints

Theatrical contact lenses, or costume or cosmetic lenses, are designed to transform the eye's appearance for special effects. These lenses are popular in the entertainment industry, particularly in movies and theater and during Halloween or other costume events.

Some patterns or styles of theatrical tinted contact lenses include:

  • Cat eye pattern
  • Snake eye pattern
  • Starburst
  • Dragon eyes
  • Sclera contact lenses
  • Patterns mimicking mythological or fantasy characters


Choose enhancement tint lenses close to your natural eye color for a natural yet enhanced look. Enhancement lenses will add vibrancy to your eyes without looking unnatural.

Benefits of Tinted Contact Lenses

Tinted contact lenses have cosmetic and functional benefits, making them useful for different purposes and occasions. The benefits of tinted contact lenses include:

Enhancement of eye color

The wearer's natural eye color is enhanced through tinted contact lenses, making the eye stand out and more striking. Due to the variety of colors offered, the wearers can choose how intense they want their contact lenses to be. The eye color can also be entirely changed if desired.

Allows easier application

The traditional clear contact lenses can blend in with their surroundings and container, making it difficult for people to apply or remove them, especially those with vision problems. Clear contact lenses are also at high risk of getting lost or damaged; tinted lenses help avoid this.

UV protection

Many tinted lenses can be tailored or customized to have built-in UV protection. This feature helps to block harmful UV rays from the sun, reducing the risk of eye problems that can happen over time.

Sports performance enhancement

Athletes often use tinted lenses to enhance contrast and clarity in different lighting conditions. For example, certain tints can help reduce glare, improve depth perception, and enhance contrast, which can be a significant advantage in sports and outdoor activities.

Fashion style and expression

Many consider tinted contact lenses fashionable and incorporate them for aesthetic and cosmetic purposes. Wearers can match their tinted contact lenses with outfits, makeup, cosplay, etc. They can also boost the wearer's self-esteem, especially if they are insecure about their eye color.

Choosing the Right Tinted Contact Lenses

Selecting the perfect tinted lenses involves considering both eye health and the desired aesthetic effect. The things to consider when choosing the best-tinted contact lens include:

Skin tone and hair color

Different lens colors suit different skin tones and hair colors. The right color can enhance one's natural beauty, while an unsuitable shade might not achieve the desired effect. For those with warm skin tones, shades such as brown, honey, or hazel in contact lenses work well. On the other hand, individuals with cooler skin tones find that grey, green, or blue tints are more suitable and enhance their appearance.

Occasion and Purpose

When selecting tinted contact lenses for regular, everyday wear, choosing colors that subtly boost your natural eye color is often the best approach. For instance, someone with light blue eyes might opt for lenses with a richer blue shade to make their eyes stand out while maintaining a natural look.

On the other hand, dramatic and eye-catching lenses are more appropriate for special occasions such as Halloween, theater acts, events, and others. Lenses for special events include those with bolder and more vibrant colors and patterns.

Personal Style

When individuals select the perfect contact lenses, considering personal style is crucial. The choice of lenses should align with their unique fashion sense and how they express themselves through appearance, whether they prefer a more natural look with lenses that subtly enhance their natural eye color or enjoy making bold statements with striking shades or unique patterns.

There is no rule book for choosing the best contact lens. Ultimately, it's all about what the wearer feels comfortable and confident in. Each individual should feel free to choose the lenses that best suit their vision needs, style, and personal preference.

Proper Application of Tinted Contact Lenses

Applying tinted contact lenses correctly is crucial for comfort and eye health. Here is a step-by-step guide to ensure proper application:

Step 1: Wash your hands and check the lenses

Begin by thoroughly washing and drying hands to prevent the transfer of bacteria to the lenses or eyes. Use soap and water, and dry with a lint-free towel.

Step 2: Remove the Lens from the Casing

Carefully take the lens out of its storage case. Ensure the lens is clean before you place it in your eye by leaving it in the storage case filled with contact lens solution. The lenses should also be wet and moist with the cleaning solution, as dry lenses can damage the eyes and are hard to apply.

Step 3: Place the lens on your index finger

Place the lens on the tip of the index finger, ensuring it is properly balanced. Make sure that it is right-side-out; it should resemble a small bowl. This position ensures that you will apply it correctly onto the eye.

Step 4: Apply the lens

Use your non-dominant hand to hold your upper eyelid open, preventing blinking. Look upward or straight ahead, and place the lens on the lower part of your eye. After the placement of the lens, gently release your eyelids. Close your eye briefly to let the lens settle on your pupil.

Step 5: Ensure that it feels comfortable

After placing the lens, blink several times to position it correctly. It might be misaligned if it feels uncomfortable or your vision is blurry. Gently massage the lens through your closed eyelid or carefully adjust it using your finger until it feels right.

Step 6: Repeat for the other eye

Once the first lens is in and comfortable, follow the same steps to apply the second lens. Handling them one at a time reduces the risk of mix-ups or contamination.

Following these six steps ensures that you have a comfortable and safe experience in wearing tinted contact lenses. If you experience persistent discomfort or vision issues such as dry eyes, blurry vision, or redness after application, remove the lenses immediately and consult a healthcare provider.

Tips for Caring for Tinted Contact Lenses

The tips and advice below will help tinted contact lenses last longer. Following proper procedures and care tips for your lenses will also avoid complications after application and while wearing the lenses.

Below are some tips and advice for caring for tinted contact lenses:

  • Buy tinted contact lenses from established optical stores, licensed online retailers, or directly from an eye care professional. These sources are more likely to provide lenses that meet safety standards and are FDA-approved.
  • Overusing contact lenses beyond their lifespan can lead to eye irritation and infections.
  • Do not wear contact lenses while swimming, showering, or engaging in water activities because water can contaminate the lenses, leading to eye infections.
  • Apply the lenses before putting on makeup and remove them before taking off makeup.
  • Use lubricating eye drops safe for contact lenses if the eyes feel dry.
  • Never share contact lenses with anyone else as it can also lead to the spread of germs causing eye infections.
  • Visit an eye care professional regularly to ensure the eyes remain healthy. If the lenses are vision correctors, ensure the wearer meets prescription needs.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays if your lenses do not offer UV protection.

Suppose the wearer has prescription needs for vision problems. In that case, It is best to consult an eye care provider to know how to care for and apply their tinted contact lenses. By following the tips above, wearers can enjoy the cosmetic benefits of tinted contact lenses while keeping the eyes healthy and comfortable.


Be aware of the lifespan of your tinted lenses. Disposable lenses should be discarded after their intended use period. On the other hand, reusable lenses require regular cleaning and replacement, as the manufacturer recommends.

Potential Risks and Precautions

Wearing tinted contact lenses involves certain risks, but these can be effectively managed with the right precautions. Below are the potential risks associated with wearing tinted contact lenses and what precautions to take to avoid them:

Corneal Scratches or Ulcers

Lenses that don't fit properly can scratch the cornea, causing abrasion or ulcers. There is no one-size-fits-all lens. The lenses must be tailored to each individual’s eye shape and size.

Eye Infections

According to an FDA analysis of 300 counterfeit lenses, approximately 60% of costume contacts bought online without a prescription contain harmful bacteria, making eye infections a frequent issue with these lenses.

Even if you did buy with a prescription from a certified retailer, improper cleaning and storage of tinted lenses can still lead to bacterial build-up. Always wash your hands before handling lenses and clean them regularly with the appropriate lens solution to prevent this. Never use water or saliva as a substitute for lens solution.

Reduced Oxygen Supply to the Eyes

Tinted lenses, especially if worn extensively, can limit the oxygen reaching your cornea. The paints and pigments used in costume, cosplay, or theatrical contact lenses can result in thicker, less breathable lenses, thereby reducing the amount of oxygen that reaches the eye. Ensure you don't wear lenses beyond the recommended duration, and consider choosing lenses made from breathable materials.

Final Thoughts

Tinted contact lenses are an excellent choice for those seeking to improve their vision and those who want to enhance or change their eye color. They come in different types with different uses, ranging from slight eye color enhancement to total color change.

Aside from their cosmetic purpose, tinted contact lenses also offer different functional benefits such as protection from UV rays and sports performance enhancement, and they allow easier application compared to traditional lenses.

Always remember to apply and care for them correctly. Buy from trusted manufacturers, keep them clean, and follow the right steps when using them. Talk to your eye care professional to get the best one for your needs. Enjoy the new colors and the comfort tinted contact lenses bring to your life!

FAQs on Tinted Contact Lenses

Can tinted contact lenses correct astigmatism?

Yes, there are tinted contact lenses called "toric" lenses designed to correct astigmatism. These specialized lenses address the cosmetic desire for colored lenses and astigmatism's specific vision correction needs.

Are there any age restrictions for wearing tinted contact lenses?

Generally, there are no strict age restrictions, but teenagers must have parental consent and guidance. Eye care professionals can advise whether tinted contact lenses suit younger wearers based on their eye health and maturity in handling lenses.

How long can you wear tinted contact lenses each day?

The amount of time tinted contact lenses can be worn depends on the lens type and eye health of the wearer. Some lenses are designed for daily wear (up to 10 - 12 hours), while others may be suitable for extended or flexible wear. It's important to follow the guidelines provided by your eye care professional.

Can you sleep in tinted contact lenses?

Sleeping in tinted contact lenses is generally not recommended unless specifically designed for overnight wear. Sleeping in lenses not intended for such use can increase the risk of eye infections and irritation.

Are tinted contact lenses more difficult to care for than regular lenses?

Tinted contact lenses require similar care to regular contact lenses. Maintaining good hygiene practices, such as regular cleaning and proper storage, is critical.