Eye Health Central

Wearing Contact Lenses in the Winter

Wearing Contact Lenses in the Winter

Winter brings with it a very unique set of challenges for all contact lens wearers. The cold weather, the dry air, and the increased exposure to indoor heating systems can affect the comfort and potentially the performance of contact lenses. In this article, we'll explore every winter related concern you may have on your mind, such as dry eyes, the risk of contact lenses actually freezing - don’t worry, lenses don’t really freeze in your eyes, the best type of lenses for winter, sunburnt eyes, wearing contact lenses while you’re sick and much more. We will also discuss some essential winter eye care tips that can help when it comes to maintaining healthy vision throughout the season.

Will contact lenses give me dry eyes in the winter?

During winter, the cold air and indoor heating systems can reduce the humidity levels, leading to much drier conditions. This can cause your contact lenses to dry out faster, leading to discomfort and ultimately dry eyes. To prevent this issue from ever happening, you should opt for contact lenses specifically designed for increased breathability and moisture retention. You can also use lubricating eye drops approved for use with contact lenses to alleviate any dryness and discomfort you may be experiencing.

Wearing Contact lenses in the Winter

Can contact lenses freeze?

Modern disposable lenses will not freeze whilst you are wearing them, the warmth of your eyes keeps them warm enough to prevent freezing. However, they could freeze whilst being stored in extremely cold temperatures.
While it is highly unlikely for contact lenses to freeze while being worn (a study done using rabbits fitted with hard contact lenses has confirmed that the lenses did not freeze and no eye damage was recorded in temperatures of -28.9 degrees C with a wind-chill factor of -67.8 degrees C for a three-hour period), it is theoretically possible for them to freeze or at the very least fracture when exposed to extreme cold for extended periods. However, this would only happen if they were left unprotected outside your eyes, such as in their storage case. A study determined that RGP lenses required on average 15% less force to cause inversion at -7 degrees C and lenses of all materials fractured more easily after having been frozen, than lenses kept at room temperature. Fracture rates rose from 8% to 83% in some cases.
To avoid any potential damage to your contact lenses, make sure to store them in a temperature controlled environment and avoid exposing them to extremely cold weather for long periods of time.

What type of contact lenses are the best to use in winter?

Silicone hydrogel contact lenses are by far the best choice for winter wear since they allow more oxygen to pass through the lens, which promotes better eye health and forces a reduction in the risk of having dry eyes. These lenses also retain moisture much better than traditional hydrogel lenses can, which gives you increased comfort in the dry winter air. Daily disposable lenses are also another excellent option to consider, as they reduce the risk of any debris and allergen building up and you can easily discard them at the end of the day.

Can I get sunburnt eyes?

Yes, you can. Sunburnt eyes or photokeratitis can occur in the winter due to the increased UV exposure from the sunlight reflecting off the snow and ice. In order to protect your eyes you should wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection when outdoors, even on cloudy days. UV-blocking contact lenses can also be used in conjunction with sunglasses for added protection, but these can only protect the area of the eye they cover.

Can I wear contact lenses if I’m sick?

When you are sick, your immune system is compromised, which increases the risk of you getting an eye infection. It's best to avoid wearing contact lenses if you have a cold, flu or any other illness that affects your overall health. If you must wear contact lenses, you should consider using daily disposables to reduce the risk of getting an infection and ensure that you maintain proper hygiene when handling your lenses.

Should I wear contact lenses for winter sports?

Contact lenses are a very convenient and comfortable option for people practicing winter sports. They provide better peripheral vision than glasses do and are less likely to fog up in cold conditions. However, you should also remember that it is essential to wear protective goggles or sunglasses with UV protection when participating in outdoor winter sports so that you can shield your eyes from wind, debris and / or any harmful UV rays.

Why are my eyes watery in the winter?

Weirdly enough, watery eyes are in fact a common issue in the winter due to your body's natural response to cold and dry conditions. Your eyes may produce more tears trying to compensate for the dryness, leading to excessive tearing. To minimise watery eyes, use lubricating eye drops and wear protective eyewear, such as wraparound sunglasses, which is crucial in shielding your eyes from the cold wind.

Should I be wearing glasses in the winter?

While contact lenses are obviously at the core of our business and are a very popular choice for many around the world, glasses can provide some advantages during the winter time, as they act like a barrier against the cold wind and help your eyes retain moisture. They also eliminate the need for direct contact with your eyes, which can be positive especially if you're experiencing increased sensitivity due to dryness.

If you prefer wearing glasses during the winter, you should consider purchasing lenses with anti-reflective and anti-fog coatings to improve visibility. Transition lenses (lenses that automatically adjust to the changing light conditions) can also be a very useful option if you spend a lot of time both indoors and outdoors.

Winter Eye Care Essentials

Make sure your vision health is cared for throughout the winter months by following these essential eye care tips:

a. Keep your eyes hydrated: Lubricating eye drops approved for use with contact lenses to help alleviate any dryness or discomfort you may experience are a great choice. A good indoor humidity level with the help of a humidifier can also really help.
b. Practice good contact lens hygiene.
c. Protect your eyes from UV rays
d. Take breaks from digital devices: every twenty minutes, take a twenty-second break and look at something twenty feet away.
e. Schedule regular eye exams:


Wearing contact lenses in the winter can be convenient and trouble free, but it is worth taking a few precautions to protect your eyes from any challenges the season brings us. By following the tips and advice mentioned above in this article, you can enjoy clear, comfortable vision all winter long. Remember always to consult your eye care professional if you have any concerns about your eye health or contact lenses during the winter months. 

Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 19 Apr 2023, Last modified: 20 May 2024