Contact lenses are the top choice for people who have vision correction needs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approximately 45 million Americans use them daily. Contacts offer convenience for people who might not be able to wear glasses in their everyday lives. But, are contact lenses vegan?
Are Contact Lenses Vegan?
Many contact lens manufacturers conduct animal testing. This is because contact lenses are a medical device, which requires regulation by the FDA. Medical devices are classified as Class I, Class II, or Class III. Contact lenses are categorized as Class II medical devices, so most are tested on animals, typically rabbits. All major contact lens brands test on animals. Saline solutions are tested on animals as well.
In a perfect world, contact lenses would not be tested on animals. According to the Vegan Society, the oldest vegan organization in the world, being vegan means “is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
In this day and age, it is not always possible or practicable to go without certain products, whether it be birth control, medication, contact lenses, or even food.
Author Aine Carlin wrote for the Guardian in November 2019: “It’s an uncomfortable reality that much of what we consume is reliant on the way in which our crops are pollinated, with some commercial beekeepers admitting their biggest challenge is simply keeping the bees alive. Likewise, organic fruit and vegetables could be deemed not vegan, particularly if grown using animal-origin fertilisers.”
While some can opt for glasses, they may not be convenient for others to use. Veganism is about doing the best that you can, to the best of your ability. If you need contact lenses, you can still advocate for animals by emailing companies about their animal testing policies. Animal-free testing options are becoming increasingly available, which could pave the way for all contact lenses to become vegan.
Vegan Contact Lenses
Daysoft is currently the only vegan contact lens brand available. The Blantyre, Scotland-based brand fulfills 2,000 orders a day in its UK-based lab. It produces two kinds of daily disposable contact lenses — Classic and Silk — both of which are vegan. Ron Hamilton, the company’s chairman, is the inventor of daily disposable contact lenses.
According to the website, Daysoft Classic Lenses were made for “particularly sensitive eyes and allergy sufferers.” The lenses come in a saline solution with no added moisturizer. The Silk lenses, meanwhile, provide “increased comfort and moisturization throughout the day.” This is because they are made with Hyaluronan, or hyaluronic acid, which can hold approximately 1,000 times its weight in water. Every pack comes with 96 daily disposable lenses. “We only make daily disposables because fresh, sterile lenses every day is the healthiest and most convenient way to wear lenses,” says the website.
Both lenses also filter UV light and are made from materials that allow oxygen to flow to the eye. They meet all international standards and the company is committed to providing superb vision at an “unbelievable price.” The company offers a money-back guarantee for customers who are unhappy with the product.
Daysoft makes its lenses in one of the most advanced contact lens laboratories in the world. The company says on its website: “Our manufacturing process has been designed around the high specification details of the contact lens itself. The in-house optometrist, engineering and quality teams worked closely during the lens design and equipment design process to ensure the consistent output of a comfortable contact lens with excellent visual acuity.”
Is Contact Lens Solution Vegan?
What about contact lens solutions? According to international animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the USDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulates safety testing of all contact lens products. But, the organization does not explicitly require that companies conduct tests on animals.
So, why do companies still rely on animal testing? Many manufacturers are resistant to the idea because their products are used on the eyes. They require more extensive testing than other products, including skincare and makeup. The primary reason for keeping animal testing as a regular practice is the fear of consumer lawsuits.
According to the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), “The use of animal models as stand-ins for humans can give rise to misleading results because of the intrinsic differences between humans and other species. Human disease and human response to drugs and other chemicals should be studied in human-relevant systems.”
NAVS adds that, although cruelty-free testing methods are increasingly available, such as cell culture, molecular, and computation methods, progress has been slow because scientists can only work where funding is available. But, the organization is working with scientists in academia, government, and industry to support the widespread use of humane testing.
Vegan Contact Lens Solution Brands
Options for contact lens solutions are also limited, but there is one brand that makes products that are free from animal ingredients. Arlington, Virginia-based brand Clear Conscience makes a Multi-Purpose Contact Lens Solution that is cruelty-free, thimerosal-free, chlorhexidine-free, FDA approved, and sterilized by filtration without the use of radiation. It comes packaged in recyclable, spill-proof bottles.
According to the brand, “Clear Conscience Multi-Purpose Contact Lens Solution is a sterile, isotonic solution for daily cleaning, rinsing, disinfecting, removing protein, and storing ALL types of contact lenses, including soft (hydrophilic) contact lenses (including silicone hydrogels), as well as rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses. Clear Conscience Solution is specially formulated for sensitive eyes, contains a lubricant to help prevent contact lenses from drying out, and contains poloxamer, sodium phosphate buffer, sodium chloride, and disodium edetate; preserved with polyhexanide 0.0001%.”
Established in 1998, Clean Conscience ensures that all suppliers conduct safety tests without the use of animals. Additionally, ten percent of the proceeds are donated to animal welfare organizations.
Clear Conscience is available online, in health food stores, and in major retailers including Walmart and Kmart.