Can I Wash My Face While Wearing Contact Lenses?

woman-washing-her-face

When you’re wearing contact lenses, it’s easy to forget that you have them on. Contacts are comfortable, and they can be very freeing for people who rely on bulky eyeglasses.

But when you take out your contacts, such as before going to bed or after getting home from work, how do you know when to put them back in? Do you put them in as soon as you wake up? Or do you put them in after finishing your morning hygiene routine, i.e., brushing your teeth and washing your face? Can you even wash your face while wearing contacts? This is a tricky one.

In this article, you’ll learn about the do’s and don’ts when it comes to water and contact lenses, so you’ll know how to keep your eyes safe from possible contact lens-related complications.

Water and contact lenses: compatible or not?

tap-with-running-water

The short answer is no. Water and contact lenses are incompatible, meaning they don’t and shouldn’t go together. This means washing your face, taking a shower, and swimming are all out of the question when you have contact lenses on. The main reason for this is most water is not sterile (germ-free). Tap water, for example, is generally safe for drinking but not for cleaning contacts. Tap water contains germs and contaminants that can stick to contact lenses and cause irritation. The same can be said for freshwater, seawater, regular eye drops, and saline solution. If your contact lenses have been exposed to germs and you wear them anyway, you could be exposing yourself to a myriad of harmful germs.

In the lineup of germs, an amoeba (single-celled living organism) called Acanthamoeba poses a particularly significant threat to contact lens wearers. Acanthamoeba is found worldwide in the environment in water and soil, and it can live even in chlorinated water. Acanthamoeba can cause a rare but severe infection of the eye. Known as Acanthamoeba keratitis, this infection is most common in people who wear contact lenses, but anyone can get it. If left untreated, Acanthamoeba keratitis can lead to vision loss or total blindness.

If that’s not scary enough, water can also cause soft contact lenses, i.e., lenses made of hydrogels and silicone hydrogels, to change shape. They may swell and stick to the eye, potentially leading to micro-abrasions.

So when do I put on contact lenses in the morning?

The best time to wear contact lenses in the morning is after washing your face and taking a shower. By getting these activities out of the way, you avoid exposing your contacts to tap water. If you blow-dry your hair or apply hair products, it’s also best to do those before you put on your contacts.

If you wear sunscreen or makeup, wear your contacts first to avoid getting any makeup or mineral residue on your hands. Remember: always wash and dry your hands before handling your contacts. Another key tip is to make sure to clean your contacts with a solution that’s specifically made for cleaning contacts.

What do I do if my contact lenses have been exposed to water accidentally?

If your lenses have been exposed to water for any reason, follow these steps:

  1. Use a lubricating drop to loosen the lens in your eyes.
  2. With clean and dry hands, remove your lenses.
  3. If your contacts are daily disposables, simply throw them away and replace them with a fresh pair. If your contacts are bi-weekly or monthly lenses, clean and disinfect them with a multipurpose solution overnight to help reduce the risk of infection.

What if I’m a physically active person who enjoys water sports or sweats a lot?

If you’re concerned about possible lens contamination from sweating or being actively involved in water sports, talk to your eye care professional (ECP) about using prescription goggles. Recent studies have recommended the use of tight-fitting prescription goggles to limit eye exposure to water while swimming. Such goggles can also help prevent sweat from trickling into your eyes during workouts.

Best practices for a contact lens wearer

When used and cared for properly, contact lenses can provide an effective way to correct vision problems. Conversely, failure to use, clean, and store your contact lenses as directed by your ECP may increase your risk of developing contact lens-related complications.

The bottom line is contact lens health starts with you. To keep your eyes healthy during lens wear and avoid any contact lens-related problems, follow these healthy habits:

  • Don’t sleep in your contact lenses. Unless your ECP says otherwise, don’t sleep in your contacts. This can put you at risk for an eye infection.
  • Wash and dry your hands. Before handling your contacts, wash your hands with mild soap and water and dry them thoroughly using a clean, lint-free towel. Irritation or eye infections can easily occur if you insert or remove your contacts with dirty or unwashed hands.
  • Keep your contacts away from water. Remove your contacts before swimming and avoid showering in them. Don’t store your contacts or rinse your contact lens case with tap water or any non-sterile solution.
  • Clean your contact lens case regularly. Clean your contact lens case by rubbing and rinsing it with contact lens solution. Next, empty and dry the case with a clean tissue. After each use, store the case upside down with the caps off. Make sure to replace your contact lens case at least once every three months.
  • Follow the wearing and replacement schedule of your contacts. If you’re wearing daily disposable lenses, remove and dispose of them at the end of the day. If you’re wearing bi-weekly or monthly lenses, remove and clean them nightly or as instructed by your ECP. Replace your contacts accordingly to prevent deposit accumulation.
  • Visit your ECP regularly. Depending on your eye health, your ECP will determine how often you need to be seen for comprehensive eye exams. If you have any concerns between scheduled visits to your ECP, contact them immediately.