11 Things Contact Lens Wearers Should Never Do

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iStock

More than 30 million people in the U.S. wear contacts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they take care of them quite as carefully as they’re supposed to. If you’ve worn contacts all your life and have never gotten an eye infection, you may think you’re a pro—but you’re probably putting your eyes at risk in at least one way, if not more.

Studies routinely find that eye patients don’t take care of their contact lenses exactly as they should, and may not even know they’re slacking. One 2011 study found that 85 percent of eye patients surveyed perceived themselves as compliant with the proper contact lens care practices, but in reality, only 0.4 percent were fully compliant. (The study was comprised of just 281 people, so that meant only one single person followed the proper procedures.)

There are plenty of ways you can put your eyes at risk when you wear contact lenses, some of which you might not even realize are dangerous. Here are 11 things you should never do with your contacts.

1. DON’T LET THEM COME INTO CONTACT WITH WATER …

The water in a swimming pool, a lake, the ocean, or even inside your home isn’t sterile, and that can mean bad news if that water gets under your contacts. People don't “really realize it could be a sight threatening move” to swim in contacts, optometrist Ceri Smith-Jaynes, a spokesperson for the UK-based Association of Optometrists who has been practicing for 20 years, tells Mental Floss. And it's not because they might float away: Soft contacts can change shape when wet, which can sometimes cause micro-abrasions on the cornea. And if that's not horrifying enough, there's an amoeba called Acanthamoeba that can live even in chlorinated water—and if it gets under your contacts, it can use the micro-abrasions to burrow inside your cornea, causing infection.

While rare, the infection is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and you can eventually lose your eye. (Smith-Jaynes just saw her first case of it in her professional career—the woman is expected to be fine, but had to spend weeks in the hospital putting in eyedrops every hour.) And even if you aren’t exposed to Acanthamoeba, there can still be other germs in water that contact lens solution can’t kill, so if you do break the rules and take a dive in your contacts, you should throw those lenses out immediately after. If you’re a passionate swimmer, you can always get prescription goggles.

Yes, your optometrist knows you probably go to the swimming pool and the beach in your contacts, despite their warnings. “I know my patients do it,” Smith-Jaynes says. “I’ve actually bumped into [a patient] and they recognized me—and they shouldn’t have, because I know how short-sighted they are.”

2. … SERIOUSLY, ANY WATER. OR ANY OTHER LIQUID, FOR THAT MATTER.

That means you should only touch your contact lenses if your hands are completely dry. In general, don’t let anything touch your contacts that doesn’t explicitly state it’s made for contact lenses. Saline solution won’t cut it, and neither will regular eye drops. Stick to solutions and drops that explicitly say “for contacts” on the bottle.

3. DON’T PUT THEM IN BEFORE YOU START YOUR MORNING ROUTINE …

As nice as it is to be able to read the shampoo bottle, you shouldn’t put your contacts in before you shower or wash your face, because—you guessed it—of the risk of exposing your lenses to tap water. You should also wait to put them in after you blow dry your hair or apply hairspray, because those can dry out your lenses.

4. … BUT DON'T WAIT UNTIL AFTER YOU APPLY MAKEUP.

You should put your contacts in before you put on your makeup, or risk damaging your lenses. If you have any makeup residue on your hands after you finish perfecting your eyeliner or contouring, and then you put in your contacts, you could get that on your lenses.

Avoid waterproof makeup, because if that gets on your contacts, the oils in it can’t be washed away by blinking. That could potentially cause your contacts to blur or damage the surface of the lens. Even if you wash your contacts with solution later, contact solution isn’t designed to clean up those types of oils, and it may not entirely remove them.

Wearing contacts may also inhibit certain looks, unfortunately. You shouldn’t apply mascara all the way from the base of your lashes up, since you are more likely to get makeup in your eye that way. Instead, apply it from the midway point. And you shouldn’t use eyeliner on the inner lid of your eye. Apply it to the skin above your lashes instead.

5. DON’T SLEEP IN THEM (UNLESS YOUR DOCTOR SAYS IT’S OK).

Sleeping in your contacts can lead to infection, too. Most contact-wearers know whether or not they’re allowed to sleep in their specific lenses, but you might not realize how risky wearing non-approved lenses to bed can be. “You’re greatly risking your sight” by sleeping in a lens that’s not approved for overnight use, Smith-Jaynes says. Because you don’t blink in your sleep, tears aren’t washing under your lenses, and your eye isn’t getting enough oxygen, both of which make it easier to get an infection. Sleeping in your contacts can lead to complications like corneal ulcers or a condition known as Contact Lens Induced Acute Red Eye (CLARE).

6. DON’T PUT YOUR DIRTY HANDS ON THEM.

You shouldn’t stick your dirty fingers in your eyes, period, but you definitely shouldn’t touch your contacts with them, for all of the usual reasons involving bacteria, oils, and other gross, damaging substances. You should always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before you touch your lenses.

7. DROPPED YOUR CONTACT? DON'T PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH AND THEN BACK IN YOUR EYE.

Every once in a while, one of your contact lenses might come out in a public place, but you really shouldn’t root around on the floor trying to find it and put it straight back in—even if it means not being able to see for a while. If you do find the missing lens, don’t rinse it with tap water, and definitely don’t put it in your mouth. Ideally, you should just throw it away. To stay on the safe side, carry around an emergency pair of glasses or pair of disposable lenses in your bag or your car, or stash them in your desk at work.

“Most soft lenses are monthly or daily disposable so, if this unlikely event happens, you’re better off disposing of it and opening a new one,” Smith-Jaynes says. “It’s not worth trying to be thrifty here.” If you wear hard lenses and can’t throw them away immediately, inspect the dropped lens very carefully for scratches. If it looks like it made it through unscathed, you’ll want to disinfect it fully, including rubbing and rinsing it with solution and letting it soak overnight, before you think about putting it back in your eye.

8. DON’T WEAR A RIPPED LENS.

Besides being terribly uncomfortable, there’s a more serious reason to immediately toss a torn lens, even if it means being unable to see for the rest of the day. The jagged edge of the ripped lens can scratch your cornea. And because the lens won’t hold its regular shape, it won’t fit against your eye the same way, and is more likely to move around and possibly tear further, leaving you with bits of contact lens in your eye.

9. DON’T USE THE SAME CASE FOREVER.

You should be as careful with your lens case as you are with your contacts themselves. In order to minimize the bacteria and fungi that build up on the case, you need to rinse it out regularly with solution, then leave it open and upside down to dry fully. Whatever you do, don't rinse out your case with tap water—that has been linked to that nasty Acanthamoeba infection—and don't rinse out your case and then close it right back up without allowing it to dry—that creates a wet, dark environment for bacteria to grow (especially if you're using something other than solution). By the time you get back to it, it will be dirtier than it was before you rinsed it.

Even if you’re taking good care of your case, you need to toss it and get a new one regularly. If you change your lenses monthly, you should change cases then, too. After that, lens cases can start to develop a biofilm of bacteria and fungi, and if you store your contacts in there, you’re putting yourself at risk of infection.

10. DON’T WEAR THEM FOR TOO LONG.

Just because you can still see clearly out of your contact lenses doesn’t mean you should can keep using them for longer than you’re supposed to. If you wear your daily-use or weekly-use contacts for a month, it can, in the worst cases, lead to serious complications like scarring of the cornea and loss of vision. Daily disposable lenses, for instance, are made of a thinner material than contacts designed for longer use, and they're not made to allow the right amount of oxygen and moisture into your eye for an entire month. The few dollars you might save by not opening a new pack aren't worth the damage it can cause.

11. DON’T WEAR THEM WHEN SOMETHING IS WRONG.

If your eyes feel uncomfortable, don’t power through it; go see your doctor. If you notice any pain or redness in your eyes, take your contacts out and consult an optometrist. You don't want to let a serious infection go unchecked.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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ScareHouse: How a Famously In-Your-Face Haunted House Is Using the Pandemic to Its Advantage

ScareHouse is serving up a ton of (socially-distanced) terrors in Tarentum, Pennsylvania.
ScareHouse is serving up a ton of (socially-distanced) terrors in Tarentum, Pennsylvania.
Photo courtesy Nick Keppler

During its first 20 years, every face paint-caked zombie or masked ghoul working at Pittsburgh's ScareHouse was taught one maxim: Get into people’s personal space.

"We told them, 'Don’t touch anyone, but get as close as you can,'" Scott Simmons, founder and creative director of the longtime haunted attraction, tells Mental Floss.

Things are different this year. Like so much else, that rule has been canceled due to coronavirus. Halloween is just the latest annual tradition to require a readjustment because of the current pandemic. Health officials are discouraging costume parties and people are buying candy chutes for trick-or-treaters. Haunts—the industry term for the mazes of frightful sights and sounds that crop up every October—have faced a choice familiar to event organizers: skip a season or adjust.

To Scare or Not to Scare

ScareHouse

After weighing the options, ScareHouse (a particularly high-production venture that has gotten nods from the likes of Oscar-winning horror master Guillermo del Toro) decided to adjust—and even took this unexpected change of plans as a unique opportunity to create a haunt built specifically with COVID-19 precautions in mind. Due to limited parking, Simmons abandoned the former Elks Lodge that ScareHouse has called home since 2007. In March, he signed a lease for a new location, a former H&M store in a half-empty shopping mall in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, located about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Simmons and his collaborators were in the midst of planning their labyrinth of terror when they saw Plexiglas go up in grocery stores and social distancing become the norm. With a wide open space as a blank canvas, they realized they could incorporate elements of COVID-19 restrictions into ScareHouse's design.

Though the actors can no longer invade a visitor's personal space—they have to stay six feet away and wear a face mask at all times (as do customers)—there are plenty of other tools in the haunt master's toolbox.

This year's iteration of ScareHouse relies on techniques that are either very advanced or completely basic. "It’s light sensors and animatronics or it’s characters pounding on glass and people moving around wearing something glow-in-the-dark and some stuff I haven’t seen since I was 15," Simmons says.

Back to Basics

Photo courtesy Nick Keppler

ScareHouse's first segment is a demon-possessed family home. Actors play supernatural specters, the now-crazed residents, or urban explorers and nuns who became trapped after they entered the home to either document or exorcise it. Built into each room is a reason for the actor to be masked and distant.

In a children’s bedroom, an actor in a teddy bear outfit leaps up from a stack of stuffed animals, which creates a barrier from each passing group. A demented housewife character appears in a kitchen covered in (plastic) guts and spoiled food. She stays in a corner behind an open refrigerator door and a manic smile is painted onto her facemask. When passing through the darkened bathroom stage, patrons see a mirror that’s actually a replication of the bathroom stage behind Plexiglas. An actor can then startle them and pound against it.

In a bedroom, a woman writhes in a bed (in tribute to The Exorcist); a pair of fake legs gives the appearance that her body has been contorted. The bed is covered in plastic resembling bed curtains. ScareHouse has provided the actor with recorded screams and growls she can summon with a button, so she doesn’t have to release her own spit into the air.

This year, the staff has been reduced from the 200 usually employed seasonally to just 90 people. Simmons said he wanted fewer actors trading costumes and spending time in make-up chairs.

Technology and props have taken over some of the work of frightening teenagers and other scare-seekers.

Eerie Adaptions

Photo courtesy of ScareHouse

As patrons enter the attraction, they are given flashlights and come into a darkened parlor, decked out in antique furniture. The flashlights are another adaptation; they give a way to explore the room without touching anything. And they interact with photon sensors to create some eerie effects.

In the parlor, a motion detector causes a piano top to rattle but once a patron points their flashlight at it, a photon sensor causes it to stop. The same trick works on a Ouija board sitting on a table. A motion detection signal causes the planchette to vibrate. A photon detector causes it to stop at the touch of a beam of light. This creates the impression that a poltergeist is responding to patrons’ actions.

The ScareHouse has also made use of animatronics and puppets. A werewolf and a set of dinosaur jaws pop out of darkened spaces. An animatronic woman removes her face to reveal a mesh of blood at the signal of a motion detector.

Another segment of ScareHouse is a “fever dream” employing a freakish mesh of body parts twisted onto the walls and glass tank of smoke and light, in which an actor plays some kind of creature (exactly what it is is left up to the patron's imagination). “We don’t even need a costume,” operations manager Maryane Kimbler tells Mental Floss. “You can’t see them. They create these fantastic motions and shapes.”

Haunted Ambitions

Photo courtesy Nick Keppler

Perhaps the most ambitious scene is the “courtyard” of the possessed house. Patrons walk through a backyard scattered with skeletal bits and see a character called the Specter of the Forest, dressed in branches and grass. He rings a bell and tells them to come forward. “But he’s a total distraction,” Kimbler admits.

As they walk toward him, a terrifying animatronic called the “nun lunger” pops out of doorway. She’s just a doll in a nun’s habit and gown with a face that looks like it was borrowed from Marilyn Manson circa 1993, but she's moving on a track and rushes 12 feet across the room under flashing strobe lights.

Once again, concocted terror belies actual safety considerations. In years past, the nun may have been played by an actor, commissioned to come close and scream and snarl. None of that can be done with ScareHouse's careful social distancing measures in place. Instead, the actor—that Specter of the Forrest—is given a secondary role in the thrill. The idea is that, startled by the sudden sprint of this decay-faced nun, they run past him, as he stays behind a fence-like barrier.

In 2020, it’s the safest way to be terrified.