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Tinted Contact Lenses

What are Tinted Contact Lenses?

Tinted contact lenses are contact lenses that have had a dye incorporated into the lens material. This dye gives the lens a particular hue or tint, depending on the color of the dye used. Some tinted contact lenses can be used to subtly alter the natural color of the eye, while others can be used to completely “change” the color of the eye.

What Types of Tinted Contact Lenses are Available?

There are three types of tinted contact lenses: visibility tinted contact lens, color enhancement contact lenses, and opaque contact lenses. Visibility Tinted Contact Lenses are lightly tinted (i.e., they contain only a small-amount of dye). Wearing them will not alter the natural color of your eyes. The tint allows you to quickly find contact lenses in your lens case or if you accidentally drop your lenses while inserting or removing them.

Color Enhancement Contact Lenses interact with your natural eye color, enhancing the color of the iris (the colored part of the eye). These lenses can actually intensify your natural eye color. For example, color enhancement contact lenses can add an aqua hue to your blue eyes or a bluish cast to you light green eyes. They will not, however, make your brown eyes blue. Opaque Contact Lenses ” change” the natural color of the eye. For example, opaque contact lenses allow people with dark eyes to have a completely different eye color (e.g., these lenses can change your brown eyes to blue). The term “opaque” is used because the tinted portion of these lenses does not allow light to pass through. (In contrast, color enhancement lenses allow light to pass through the tinted portion of the lens.) Opaque contact lenses are also referred to as “eye color changing” contact lenses.

Are Tinted Contact Lenses Safe?

Yes. All dyes used for tinting contact lenses have been extensively tested for tissue compatibility and have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They have also been proven to be safe over many years of wear by thousands of contact lens patients.

Will the Color of Tinted Contact Lenses Fade?

Typically, yes. It must be noted, however, that all colors “weather” or fade over time. For instance, the drapes over your windows at home are not as bright as the day you first purchased them. Over time light has faded the color. This same phenomenon occurs with tinted contact lenses. The good news is that, most likely, you will have replaced your lenses long before lens fading becomes noticeable.

Do Tinted Contact Lenses Fit Differently?

No. The same fitting principles apply for tinted and non-tinted lenses. Your eye care practitioner may, however, use special techniques when fitting opaque contact lenses to optimize their cosmetic effect.

Can I Switch to Tinted Contact Lenses?

This depends on a number of factors. Not all contact lens prescriptions have the option of being tinted. Your eye care practitioner can let you know if tinted contact lenses are available for your prescription.

Can Tinted Contact Lenses Help Reduce Glare or Light Sensitivity?

Yes. Some tinted contact lenses can reduce glare or light sensitivity by reducing the amount of light entering the eye. Some contact lenses can be provided with an ultraviolet (UV) filter. However, these lenses are not a replacement for ultraviolet (UV) filtering sunglasses. You should discuss this option with your eye care practitioner. It is important to note that none of the currently available contact lenses with UV filters are approved to take the place of full UV-blocking sunglasses. Also remember that contact lenses with UV filters may only protect the cornea and retina. They do not protect the conjunctiva, the eyelids and other outer portions of the eye.

Can I Wear Tinted or Specialty Contact Lenses if I don’t need Glasses or Contacts?

Yes. People who do not require glasses or contact lenses for vision correction can wear color enhancement contact lenses or opaque contact lenses.

Often referred to as cosmetic contact lenses or decorative contact lenses, these are zero-power contact lenses that are tinted with a color placed onto the contact lens to enhance or change natural eye color. With the new technology available today, simple tinting is being replaced with spectacular effects, e.g., cat eyes, wild eyes, athletic team logos, etc. Wearers that utilize plano cosmetic lenses do so as a fashion statement rather than as a vision correction need, although cosmetic lenses are also available with corrective power.

Are There Any Special Lens Care Requirements for Tinted Contact Lenses?

This depends on the type of lens with which you are fit. For instance, some tinted lenses should not be heat disinfected, since doing so may cause them to fade. Follow your eye care practitioner’s prescribed lens care instructions. Do not change any aspect of your lens care regimen without first consulting your eye care practitioner. While contact lenses can enhance appearance and provide excellent vision, they require care and must be treated with respect. The golden rule in contact lens care is that any time a contact lens is removed from the eye it must be cleaned and disinfected before being reinserted. This is true for all contact lenses, including tinted contact lenses.

What Is the Best Method for Selecting a Tinted Lens Color?

Since you may want to try a number of available colors, you can speed up the selection process by first discussing with your eye care practitioner what colors would look best and then to place a different color lens in each eye for comparison purposes. The color selection process is best accomplished in a well lit room, preferably with a window providing natural light.

Where Can I Get Tinted Contact Lenses?

Since contact lenses are medical devices, your initial pair of tinted lenses must be obtained by a licensed eye care practitioner authorized to dispense contact lenses in your state. Replacement contact lenses may be obtained, with an appropriate prescription, from any source of your choosing.

In choosing tinted contact lenses, the health of your eyes should be your first concern. Your eye doctor will take all aspects of your vision and your ocular health into account before fitting you with tinted contact lenses. When looking for tinted contact lenses, beware of advertised discounts-there may be hidden extras. When comparing services, be sure the price quoted includes everything you need. The initial eye exam, the contact lens fitting exam, placement and removal instructions, lens care system instructions and professional follow-up after fitting. Tinted contact lenses offer a safe, effective way to add color to your lenses or to change the color of your eyes. Your eye care practitioner is the best person with whom to talk about options available to you in tinted contact lens wear.


The above information is taken, with some revision, from the CLAO Patient Information Pamphlet titled TINTED CONTACT LENSES. Pamphlet Advisors were Melvin I. Freeman, MD and John S. Massare, PhD. Copyright 1994-2004 Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, Inc. Thanks to Contact Lens Docs for content used in the creation of this website. All rights reserved. Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

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