Dixon is among a growing number of people nationwide who, while trying to be trendy, are unknowingly risking their eyes when they buy the illegal, non-prescription “circle” contact lenses.

With the start of the school year come parties and Halloween—all reasons why teens and young adults may want a new look. Requests for decorative contact lenses could be coming your way—or worse, your kids may just go out and buy them on their own.

Beware, says Dr. Helene Clayton-Jeter, an optometrist and health programs coordinator at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Decorative contact lenses can cause serious eye damage if not fitted by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

That’s one of the messages of a joint campaign by the FDA, the American Optometric Association (AOA), and the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC). They want to inform consumers—and especially teens and young adults—how to use them safely, and of the dangers of decorative contact lenses when not used correctly. One of the greatest risks from these lenses is the possibility of an infection that could lead to blindness.

In this first-of-its-kind collaboration, these three organizations are joining forces to produce and distribute two public service videos that are specially designed to capture the attention and interest of young people.

American Horror Story Helps Deliver Safety Message

The video, first screened June 25, 2014 at AOA’s Annual Conference, uses dramatic clips from the popular television show “American Horror Story,” and includes interviews with professional makeup artists and optometrists. They emphasize that before an actor (or a teenager) can wear the lenses, he or she needs an eye exam, valid contact lens prescription, and decorative contact lenses purchased from a reputable source.

FDA, AOA, and EIC all believe that the unique genre and American Horror Story clips will draw in teens and young adults who might not be interested in a ‘plain vanilla’ public service announcement, says Clayton-Jeter.

“Our intent is that when young people see the lengths professional makeup artists go to to make sure actors get and use the lenses safely, they’ll take the message to heart,” she adds.

Marie Gallo Dyak from EIC says, “The entertainment industry has a unique opportunity to help deliver a message to teens and young adults through the characters and shows with which they identify and in the digital spaces where they spend their time.”

FDA Tips for Safe Use

Below are several tips the campaign uses to reinforce the message that teens and young adults need to use decorative contact lenses safely:

  • Get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist), even if you think your vision is perfect.
  • Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date. But don’t expect your eye doctor to prescribe anime, or circle, lenses. These bigger-than-normal lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look have not been approved by FDA.
  • Buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription, whether you shop in person or online.
  • Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams.
  • See your eye doctor right away if you have signs of possible eye infection, such as redness, eye pain that doesn’t go away after a short time, or a decrease in vision.

In the video Scott Smiledge of Eye Inc FX, a supplier of hand-painted contact lenses for professional production in the film and television industry, sums up his message like this: “I think if I were to leave anybody with a piece of advice on contact lenses, it would be yeah, they’re fun. They can be fantastic … Just make sure you do it the right way. Make sure that you’re buying from a place that is following the rules and you’re buying lenses that have been handled properly. And that your eye doctor knows about and approves of it.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.


  1. You have several options, report to your local District Attorney office, you can report to the AOA. It is illegal, and the continued abuse causes as you well know, eye infections and the potential for blindness.

  2. I realize that this is a very important subject that needs to be addressed. But what about colored contact lenses that are being sold in Smoke Shops all over or at the flea markets and conveniece stores. Would’nt this also fall under the same category? I see this all the time, but I don’t know who to report it to. Or if it is legal or not. How can these lenses be sold over the counter to people? I would never let any of my friends or family purchase any of these without going through th proper channels. And for that matter why would anyone want to put something in their eyes that is a potential for blindness? I have seen too many people that have messed up their eyes with the right script and contacts. Much less to put a lens in that does not fit or could cause an infection.

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