Contact lens shopping can be an expensive enterprise, and many of us shy away from finding cheaper options in the fear they can be harmful to eye health.
But often you can find the same brand of lenses for cheaper online than in an opticians. A number of factors contribute to this: for one, physical stores have limited storage space, so don’t tend to buy in bulk, which in turn means they can't pass on the savings made by purchasing wholesale.
They also have bills to pay - rent, electricity, wages - which can all contribute to higher prices when purchasing in store.
How to get your contact lens prescription
You might be looking to buy lenses online, but currently the only way to get tested is in store. Book a contact lens test (tests for glasses are different) to get your up-to-date prescription if yours is more than 12 months old.
Once your eyes have been tested and measured, the optician may recommend a brand to you, or give you a single pair to road test. However you’re under no obligation to continue purchasing lenses from them, and can ask for your prescription to be written down to source your lenses elsewhere.
What kind of contact lenses are there?
The British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) says: “There are two main types of contact lens: soft lenses made of water-containing plastic; and gas permeable (or 'rigid gas permeable') lenses which are less flexible.
Soft lenses are the most comfortable to wear. In this type, you can get daily disposables, which means you’ll wear a fresh pair every day - particularly helpful for taking on holiday. Although wearing new lenses daily means you cut the risk of infection and negates the need to buy saline solution or a contact lens case, they can be more expensive.
The other most common options are two-weekly or monthly soft lenses. They need to be removed and carefully stored every night but are a much more cost-effective option than dailies.
Then there are special effect lenses and coloured contacts with zero power that you can buy for cosmetic reasons or for special fancy dress events like Halloween.
Chances are you already have a preferred option, but if you’re a new to contact lenses, it’s a good idea to chat about your lifestyle with your optician when you have your eye test to determine the best option for you.
Do’s & Don’ts of Wearing Contact Lenses
Do always wash hands before handling lenses. They need to be clean and completely dry before you go anywhere near your eyes.
Do remove your contacts in a well-lit area with a flat surface underneath you in case they fall from your grip.
Don’t use anything but saline solution to clean your lenses. No saliva, definitely no tap water. Although water may appear clean there can still be bacteria in it that might lead to serious eye infections. Don’t wear your contacts in the shower or swimming for the same reasons either.
Don’t wear them to sleep. The BCLA warns that “sleeping in contact lenses overnight increases the risk of infection by about four times, irrespective of lens type.”
Best Contact Lenses to Buy Online
The best thing about buying contact lenses at Boots online isn’t just the fact that you can find some great prices on bestsellers or the excellent service, but the fact that you can book sight tests online, meaning everything is in one place. They even offer a free contact lens trial, a helpful service for new wearers to decide if it’s for them.
Buy now, Boots Opticians
Ace + Tate
Offering their own brand of premium contact lenses, Ace + Tate have a mix of wallet-friendly deals that appeal to a wide range of people. You can try a six-day pack, order a month-long set of daily disposables, or buy in bundles for future use. We tried the 30-day trial of dailies and were impressed by how little fluid was inside each lens while still keeping them soft and supple. Perfect for holidays when liquid allowances are strict as well as festivals when you don’t want to faff about with dirty hands and lens solution.
Buy now, Ace + Tate
Feel Good Contacts
One of the UK’s top online suppliers of discounted contact lenses and eye care products, Feel Good Contacts offers great deals on contact lenses through its app. It offers an array of numbered lenses as well as natural coloured styles and statement fashion ones for special events such as Halloween.
You can even get specs and sunglasses from the shop, all at incredibly low prices so it’s a one-stop shop for all your eyecare needs.
Buy now, Feel Good Contacts
Shop top name brands like Acuvue, Dailies and Air Optix from the comfort of your own home at Lenstore. There are discounts for students and even a section to allow you to email or chat with the store’s opticians if you have any questions or concerns. Same day delivery is available in some areas, but most orders come through by the next working day - so it’s a real lifesaver if you’ve come to the end of your supply without realising. New customers can claim 10 per cent off their first order.
Buy now, Lenstore
This eye specialist is headquartered in Europe, which means they operate under a slightly different set of rules. They won’t ask to see your prescription, instead trusting you to input the correct details, but if you’re unsure of how to read things like base curve and diameter, rest assured that they are on call to help.
They offer next day delivery to the UK on brands like Acuvue, Fresh Look coloured contacts, Pure Vision and many more, with the bonus of a mini pack of Haribo sweets thrown in for good measure. Parcels are letterbox sized so they can be delivered easily even if you’re not in.
Vision Direct also offers a 100-day guarantee. If you’ve changed your mind or discovered your prescription has changed, you can return unopened lenses in their original packaging for a refund or store credit.
Buy now, Vision Direct
Next Day Lenses
If you don’t wear lenses all the time, it can be easy to lose track of how many you have left - until you need them. In such times, you can rely on Next Day Lenses to deliver quickly. Londoners ordering before 2pm will have their orders delivered the very same day (certain postcodes apply) while if you’re further afield, they should get to you the next day as long as you order before 5pm.
As well as daily, 2-weekly, monthly and coloured contact, Next Day Lenses also offers specialist Toric styles suitable for those with astigmatism.
Buy now, Next Day Lenses
The most recognisable opticians in the UK offers all its products online too - contact lenses included. Get free delivery on all contact lenses, including leading brands and specialist styles. Express delivery is available on orders for an additional fee.
Buy now, Specsavers
Best contact lens solution
There are three kinds of solution: multi-purpose is the one-stop shop to rinse, disinfect and store soft lenses.
Some people are allergic to this type, in which case, a hydrogen peroxide-based solution may be a more fitting option. They have to be stored in a special case that turns the solution into saline to stop it aggravating your eyes.
Rarest of all is a rigid gas permeable solution, specifically made for hard contact lenses. This liquid is solely for storing, not cleaning or disinfecting.
ReNu Bausch + Lomb ReNu MPS Multi-Purpose Solution
Best for: sensitive eyes and soft contact lens wearers
From top brand Bausch + Lomb comes this super solution which uses agents like Poloxamine and DYMED to ‘wash’ your lenses and give them a great environment to soak in while you sleep. Bright eyed and bushy tailed? You got it.
Buy now £7.00, Amazon
Boots All In One Solution Travel Pack
Best for: soft contacts including silicone hydrogels
Perfect for travel, this Boot’s own-brand all-in-one option comes with a fight-friendly 60ml bottle which moisturises, cleans and disinfects, but also a spare contact lens case. It’s saved us in moments of panic many times before a trip.
Buy now £3.99, Boots
Bausch & Lomb Boston Advance Formula Conditioning Solution
Best for: Rigid Gas Permeable and Hard Contact Lenses only
This bumper 120ml bottle of solution is ideal for households where more than one person wears rigid gas permeable and hard contact lenses.
Buy now £5.35, Boots
Superdrug All In One Soft Contact Lens Solution 100ml
Best for: soft lenses
A must-have for all soft contact lens wearers, this solution cleans and cares for your eyes at an incredible price. There’s also a 360ml version for £9.99 which works out slightly cheaper.
Buy now £3.99, Superdrug
Opti-Free Express Contact Lenses Solution 355ml
Best for: soft lenses
If you wear contacts all day you may find your eyes become tired and dry by bedtime. This formula from Alcon promises a rub-free experience; moisturising, cleaning and disinfecting your contacts so they feel comfortable all day.
Buy now £9.50, Tesco
Bausch + Lomb Sensitive Eyes Plus
Best for: dry eyes
Put the sparkle back into dry eyes with Bausch + Lomb’s special formula, which comes in a bumper 500ml bottle.
Buy now £5.99, Vision Direct
Best contact lens cases
If you use a case, it’s recommended that you wash it with hot, soapy water once a week and completely dry them before placing your lenses and solution inside. This is to make sure no bacteria or nasties infect your lenses and consequently, your eyes.
While opticians sell basic cases, there are some more stylish and fun ones to enjoy too. See our favourites below.
Sibba Contact Lens Cases with Mirror
Going on a trip? This contact lens kit is perfect coming with a case, small mirror, lens tweezers, applicator and a mini lens solution bottle so you don’t have to pack your chunky bottles with you.
Buy now £3.99, Amazon
ULTNICE Travel Contact Lens Case Mini Box Container Contact Lens Holder (Light Pink)
With extras like a solution bottle, lens tweezers, lens holder and a mirror this chrome pink set has everything you need to care for your lenses.
Buy now £10.36, Amazon
Sports Vision’s New Macaroon Dark Blue Contact Lens Storage
These sweet cases resemble the famous French dessert. Each compartment is quite deep so you can really allow your lenses to bathe in solution. The price is for one case, available in blue, green or red.
Buy now £4.99, Amazon
Muji Hard Contact Lens Case
Keep hard contact lenses safe with Muji’s sleek, minimal case design.
Buy now £4.95, Muji
How to find a trusted contact lens seller online
The digital high street is packed full of products, some genuine and others masquerading to be. While this doesn’t really matter if you’re buying say, a hairbrush, it’s a whole different ball game when it comes to something as vital as your vision.
According to the General Optical Council, rules in the UK state that online contact lens sellers must have optical professionals involved when it comes to selling lenses. You can check the seller’s registered optician against the General Optical Council’s register to make sure they’re legit.
You can also find a practitioner using the BCLA’s search tool.
You can buy contact lenses from abroad but they are not subject to the same regulations as the UK.
What to do if your contact gets stuck in your eye?
It’s up there with one of our worst nightmares, but Dr Clare O’Donnell, optometrist and head of research at Optegra specialist eye hospital group, has advice for anyone worried about a lens slipping behind their eyeball: “If a contact lens gets displaced from the front of the eye it may settle underneath the upper or lower eyelid but cannot go behind the eye. Make sure you remove the lens if it becomes dislodged, and your optician can help you if you struggle.”
From daily disposables and monthlies, to contact lenses for longer wear, here’s our pick of the best vendors to shop online.