Special effects contacts are a finishing touch that adds drama and depth of detail to almost any costume. They are especially effective if you're going for a creepy or horrific look. I've studied the psychology behind unnatural appearances and why we fear them, and I also have done plenty of observation in the field. Mwahahaha!
In my first year of haunting I performed as a zombie on a haunted hayride, and I did not wear contacts, but I still got plenty of scares. During my second season I purchased a pair of "white out" contacts (see photo at left) and what a difference!!! I could scare people just by looking at them. I learned to time my stares and "feel my light" (a theater term for knowing when a light is shining directly on you) so that my eyes would shine directly into my victim's soul. What fun! Surprisingly, I found that most customers were not aware of the existence of such contacts, so the fact that they were obviously not my real eye color didn't seem to ruin the "magic". I cannot stress enough what a difference wearing special effects contacts made in my haunting career.
When I created Belladonna, I continued to wear my white out contacts because I wanted to keep that creepy feel while going for a more glamorous look. I think it's that discord between beauty and creepy that has made Belladonna a successful haunt/Steampunk character.
Now, before you run out and get yourself a pair of contacts there is TONS you need to know, because wearing contacts improperly can cause SERIOUS eye health issues. I fucking mean it. You can lose your eyesight, and that would majorly suck. Keep in mind that I am not an eye doctor, but I've been wearing contacts for over a decade (SFX contacts for about half that time) with few problems. If you have reservations, please see an eye care professional or see tip #1.
1. Visit an eye care professional. Even if you don't need vision correction, an eye doctor will help fit you for contacts (eye size can vary!) and teach you how to put them in. They will even give you a free trial pair. Practice taking those in and out before you ruin your expensive SFX contacts.
I've seen fellow costumers struggling and have gone so far as to actually put people's contacts in for them. It's not easy, so practice before your event, or Belladonna will come poke you in the eye!
A visit to your eye doc is usually covered by insurance, but getting fitted for contacts usually carries an extra cost. Just ask them to clarify the cost before you go. It will be worth it to get the right fit rather than be miserable at a con or haunt because your eyes are uncomfortable.
Not to mention, even if you don't need vision correction, most retailers still require a prescription. Honestly, I wouldn't buy contacts from someone who didn't verify prescriptions anyway.
2. I really shouldn't have to say this, but for Christ's sake do NOT EVER share contacts. This would be the stupidest thing you could ever do to your eyes other than jamming a pencil right in. Sharing contacts = an eye infection = DEATH. Like I said...I'm not an eye care professional.
3. Buy contacts that fit. There are two measurements known as your "base curve" and "diameter" that determine the fit of your contacts. Unfortunately, most affordable SFX contacts only come in one size. Varying sizes are available, but you'll typically pay more. (I did happen to find one affordable website that will allow you to adjust the base curve on some contacts, see below) If you're planning on wearing them often or for long periods of time, I suggest paying more for the proper fit. If you're going to wear them once on Halloween, go for the cheaper option. You should be able to barely feel well-fitting contacts.
4. Prescription contacts do not cost more than lenses without vision correction. If you need vision correction definitely get Rx contacts. Wearing glasses over your contacts diminishes the effect, and being able to see is awesome.
5. Store your contacts in fresh solution each time you wear them. Some solutions are "no rub" but if you've worn them a few times and they start to feel uncomfortable, rub them gently in the palm of your hand for about 10 seconds each, rinse, and then store overnight in fresh solution.
6. Consider your makeup. Wearing makeup can help make your new eyes pop, but it can also irritate your contacts. First, be sure your hands are clean, and put your contacts in before doing your makeup. Be careful not to get any in your eye. If you do, try to blink it out or rinse with solution. Lastly, mascara can be a major eye irritant. If it bothers you just get some bangin' falsies.
7. Color matters! When choosing your contacts consider your environment carefully. If you're in a haunt, typically your environment will be dark. Darker colors (unless you go full sclera) won't make much of an impact, and lighter colors tend to show up better. If your haunt uses black lights, you should totally rock some UV reactive contacts. Super creepy! If you're going to a convention or a party, you can pretty much do any color you like. However, if you get any color that is remotely natural, no one is likely to notice the change.
My eyes are naturally blue, I bought violet contacts and no one said a damn thing. I even wore one regular contact and one violet one, so maybe someone would notice the side by side difference...and nope. If you want to make an impact, just go all the way.
8. I can see! The question I get most frequently is "how can you see out of those?" Honestly, it's just like wearing regular contacts...for the most part. If the colored portion of the contact happens to shift over your pupil, you won't be able to see. I also tend to get a slight halo in my periphery, but I hardly notice it. My vision is nearly perfect with my contacts, but I wouldn't suggest driving in them just in case. I've also heard that it's illegal, but don't quote me on that.
9. Tips for insertion (giggity):
- Wash your hands
- Make sure there are no particles on the lens. It can be very difficult to see towel fibers, so look carefully.
- Place the contact on the very tip of your index finger on your dominant hand. (Tip: Sometimes it helps to put a drop of contact solution in the lens at this point)
- Use your other hand to pull up and hold your eyelid out of the way. If you blink before the lens is fully in contact with your eyeball, it will fall out.
- Place the lens directly on the center of your eyeball. Look up if you have to, but DO NOT BLINK!
- There will be an air bubble between your eye and the lens. Slowly roll your eye until the air bubble comes out. Slowly close your eye and blink a few times. The contact should center itself on its own.
- Look in the mirror to check out your new eye color!
I hope these tips help all of you in your quest for more amazing costuming. I've included a couple links below to good SFX contacts websites. Unfortunately, the site I used as of less than a year ago seems to have gone out of business, but these sites look pretty good.
This website isn't very sexy, but they are legit and offer a large selection of SFX contacts at good prices. Most of their contacts are available with a prescription and some even allow you to adjust the base curve. This is also the only site I've seen that has customer reviews.
This site has the most affordable black sclera contacts I have seen, but their regular contacts are more expensive. Their selection of horror contacts is gory and wonderful. Gorgeous! Most are available in prescription, and some even adjust for base curve.
This site is the most expensive out of the 3, but they offer a fantastic selection of quality lenses. Their cat eye lenses are also balanced to prevent spinning. I would recommend against unbalanced cat eyes as they are bound to move, and then you'll just look like a drunk kitty.
Please let me know if you have any questions!