Please help me put on contact lenses. It's torturing me
October 16, 2020 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I got contacts 2 weeks ago as something I've wanted to do for a while. They showed me how to put them on in the office and had me to it myself. I spent almost two hours there, and only got them on at the end due to luck and pressure (they said if I didn't get them on within the next 5 minutes, I'd have to leave without them). I just can't get them on anymore now that I'm at home.

I spend about 2 hours a day trying, and it's like torture. I just like to blink too much, and my eye muscles are stronger than my fingers trying to hold them apart. It's the most frustrating thing and I am almost running out of contacts to try and put on. I also have smaller eyes so it's already hard to begin with.

I've read all the advice on the internet, and watched the youtube videos, but none of that helps. Does anyone have any less well-known advice for me to try? I'm dreading every morning where I try to get them in, and it feels so hopeless at this point.
posted by lpctstr; to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd suggest not using a contact lens at this point, if you're losing them or rendering them unwearable.

Wash your hands and wet your finger with contact solution and just practice trying to touch your eyeball without blinking. Start at the corner, don't even bother trying to hit the center. Repeat once in a while (don't overdo it) until that's bearable. Repeat some more until it's bearable without blinking a lot.

If it's not the touching sensation that's causing the issue, then disregard this. But desensitization can help.
posted by fountainofdoubt at 9:19 AM on October 16 [9 favorites]

You say you are holding your eyes apart. If you hold just your top eyelid up, is that easier? If I try to hold my eyes apart, my top finger doesn't hold the top eyelid as strongly as if I just hold the top eyelid up. Try that, without even trying to put contacts in, and see if you can stop your eye from blinking. Practice this - holding your eyelid up and trying (and hopefully failing) to blink - a little bit before you even try with contacts.

Also, if you are holding your eye up by eyelashes only, try putting your finger a little under your waterline for a stronger hold.

Good luck!
posted by sillysally at 9:20 AM on October 16 [2 favorites]

I had a lot of trouble with contacts until I started holding my eye open using the method shown in this youtube video, where one finger comes from straight above and the other comes from below. (Trying to hold my eyelids open coming from the front or side didn't work.) If you press firmly enough, your lids won't be able to move. Desensitizing yourself (as fountainofdoubt mentioned) can also be helpful.
posted by belladonna at 9:24 AM on October 16 [6 favorites]

I would try a prescription sedative (eg Valium) to see if it will work to suppress both your anxiety and your blink reflex. If you absolutely cannot get one, have a couple of drinks and try that. (Obviously it's not the long term solution but if it lets you do it comfortably a couple of times, that will help you over the hump.)

There's also the various laser surgery solutions if you just can't with contacts. Everyone I know who's had their eyes done for myopia is so happy they got it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:25 AM on October 16

Are you looking at your eye in the mirror as you try to insert the lens, or are you looking at the lens as it comes at you?

Whichever way you’re doing it now, try the other way.
posted by armeowda at 9:29 AM on October 16 [11 favorites]

This is not an immediate solution, but I've had both rigid gas permeable (hard) contacts and soft contacts. The hard ones are a LOT smaller - and had the bonus effect of preventing my eyesight from getting worse while I wore them.

I also had a lot of practice with eyedrops (allergies) before I got contacts - are you comfortable with them? I have zero issues touching my eye, eyedrops, the eye puff thing at the doctor, contacts, etc, because of all that practice.

I have since had lasik, though, because contacts were causing major dry eye for me.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 9:39 AM on October 16

I have no idea what is standard advice but I don’t look at the contact at all. For the right eye, Put the contact on your right index finger ready to go in. Hold top eyelid up with left hand ( I usually have to wrap my hand above my head and pull up). Place right palm on my jawline, with finger holding contact crooked up, such that If I straighten my finger, the lens will go into my eye. Here’s the crucial step: Look as far left as I can. Straighten the finger so the contact goes onto the white part of my eye, nowhere near the iris. Hold the contact lightly and “slide” the contact onto your iris as you return your gaze to front.
posted by holyrood at 9:44 AM on October 16 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone for the quick responses. I've been trying some more over the past 20 minutes.

If I just hold my top eyelid apart, I don't think it creates a big enough area to drop the contact in. I do use the method suggested by belladonna. I think my issue is the moment the contact touches my eye, I blink from the irritation and it gets pushed away. I tried touching the white part of my eye and it is okay, but once I move closer to the center I blink.

I'm looking at the mirror but also tried looking at the lens. Haven't had luck either way still.

Thanks for the encouragement and I'll try a drink or two later in the day :) Will keep you posted if I make any progress.
posted by lpctstr; at 9:45 AM on October 16

You've tried so much, I'm guessing you've already done this but my thoughts
1. I don't hold the eyelid itself. I brink my left hand over the top of my head and put my pointer finger on the crease at the edge of the eyeball, press firmly and slide the finger up so that the eyelid doesn't have enough slack to blink. Easy to check: try gently to blink and pressure from the finger should hold it open. Then while I balance the lens on the pointer finger of the right hand, I use the middle finger to press just below the crease where the socket is for the eyeball and again press firmly. If i try to blink at this point there is some fluttering around the sides but the eye doesn't close.

2. Once the contact is on your eyeball, blinking will make it move but it should settle back into position. Have the lens sitting in a little drop of liquid on the finger and it should want to cling to your eyeball instead of the finger as soon as you make contact. I don't drop the lens in, I place so it touches the eyeball (no pushing, just make contact) and then move the finer away)
posted by metahawk at 10:28 AM on October 16 [2 favorites]

Make sure you're holding the contact lens oriented the right way. They can easily become flipped inside out, and they don't stay in that way.

I'm not actually pressing the contact lens onto my eye. The contact lens is on my finger but with the smallest possible contact patch, centered. I am trying to get the edge of the contact lens (not where it's touching my finger) to touch my eyeball, and then that initial contact will pull the contact lens off my finger. Then look down and blink.

If you can't put your contacts in within 30 seconds of trying, take a short break and try again. If your eyes are irritated, they're going to be even less receptive. Unfortunately this doesn't work for the second contact lens.
posted by meowzilla at 10:49 AM on October 16 [2 favorites]

I have a different method, and it's the only way that works for me. Pull down the lower lid and look up. (If you want to use a mirror, tip your head down and look up at the mirror.) Don't try to place the lens right on the cornea. Instead, put it lower. When you blink, it will slide up into place.
posted by wryly at 10:53 AM on October 16 [15 favorites]

I have been using various kinds of contacts for roughly twenty years now, and the method that has always worked for me is something like this:
- Put lens on my index finger.
- Look straight up. (This means I'm not looking at my finger coming at my eyeball, and also nudges my upper eyelid up without having to pull it.)
- Pull my lower lid down with the middle and ring fingers of the lens-holding hand.
- Blink a couple of times.
- Place lens on to the white of my eye, below / at the bottom edge of my iris.
- Blink again. The lens slides into place on my iris.

The opthalmologists who see me do this usually react with some version of "that's... kinda weird, but clearly it's working for you."

It does take some practice to be able to tell where your finger is aiming the lens, and when the lens is properly attached so that blinking won't just knock it out. Adding a drop of rewetting solution inside the lens sometimes helps it "catch" better.

IME the daily disposables can be thin and thus floppy and prone to folding / inverting, so you could consider trying two-week disposables, which are a bit more substantial.
posted by fifthpocket at 10:58 AM on October 16 [4 favorites]

Yeah I do what wryly does - bottom lid, look up.

Also, keep everything wet! Make sure your fingers are clean and damp, the contacts are dripping with solution, makes it much easier to get in there.
posted by RajahKing at 10:59 AM on October 16 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of this is probably (natural and good) fear of stuff touching your eyes. I only say this because after a year or so of wearing them I got to the point where I can put them in without using a mirror and without holding my eyes open. I guess I pull down on my bottom lid a little actually, but it's not the Clockwork Orange style stuff I did when I started. I only say this to reassure you that it will definitely get easier and also you probably only feel like there's not enough room to pop them in with only holding your top lid. Good luck!!
posted by clarinet at 10:59 AM on October 16

I have used wryly's method, above, and it's always been effective. Worth trying if you haven't already.

You probably already know this, but just on the off chance: keep both the contact lenses and your eyes as lubricated as possible.

Before putting in your lenses, use an eye lubrication drop that is specially formulated for use with contact lenses (I use this one). Don't use one that isn't meant for use with contact lenses - it will make your vision cloudy once the contacts are in. Blink several times after you drop the solution on your eye to ensure that your eye is now evenly coated.

Then make sure you've got contact lens saline solution out and that the lens is always lubricated as you prepare to insert it. Every time your eye touches but then "rejects" the contact lens, it's going to get drier which makes it even more difficult to not only insert but for it to stay comfortably attached to the eye.

Again, this may be obvious, but lubrication is critical for getting a contact lens to obey you - with or without the added stress of excessive blinking.
posted by nightrecordings at 11:10 AM on October 16 [1 favorite]

For left eye, I put the contact on my first finger (pointer I guess?) on my right hand, then pull my eyelid up with my left hand and push the bottom of my eye down with the next two fingers on my right hand (next to the pointer). It helps to do it in front of a mirror.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:12 AM on October 16

I have also been putting on contacts for 20 plus years and also perform a method similar to fifthpocket that has also been remarked upon by opthamologists etc as - wow you're a professional.

I also don't touch the top lid or my eyelashes at all but just pull down the lower lid and insert just using the one hand.

My one add to this method is that I fill the lens with a little saline - sure it's splooshy and a little wetter but it helps the contact "load" so to speak for me. I also don't really touch my eye using this method- I feel like the saline helps to create that connection. Agree that the worst thing you can do is underestimate the lubrication. My 2 cents.

I also seek out sensitive eye saline - I find the multipurpose stuff to be a little too irritating these days.
posted by rdnnyc at 11:36 AM on October 16 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I use a lot of the methods above. To put one in I:

- put the contact on the pad of the index finger of my left hand
- put a drop of saline solution into the cup of the lens (this really helps)
- move my left hand up to my eye and use the middle finger to pull the lower lid down slightly
- use my right hand's middle finger to pull the upper lid up
(now I can't blink even if I want to. I can make my eyes water if I hold them open long enough though, which is sometimes helpful and maybe a good thing to practice)
- roll my eye up
- bring my left index finger (the one that the lens is sitting on) up to my eye from below, so it hits the white of the eye (since I'm looking upwards)
- let the liquid inside the lens hit the eyeball and press the lens in very slightly to form a suction. This feels a lot nicer to the eye than having the actual lens hit it (in my experience).
- roll my eye in the direction of my index finger so the lens can slide on top of the bulgy part with the iris and pupil. At the same time withdraw the finger very gently - the suction should have the lens sticking to the eye
- only when the lens is sitting comfortably on the correct part of the eye do I let go of the lids

Occasionally (with practice, rarely) the lens might fall or turn inside out, so it's good to do it over a table or other surface where you can just pick up the lens, rinse it off and start again. If the lens is really uncomfortable or scratchy, I don't let go of the eyelids and instead use the thumb and index finger of the hand holding the bottom lid to remove the lens, clean it, and start again.

(I'm right-handed and this is just how I got used to doing it - the specific hands probably don't matter.)
posted by trig at 11:38 AM on October 16

As a data point, I hold my eyelashes rather than the eyelid itself - this seems to help suppress the blink reflex.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:47 AM on October 16

I've had trouble with this too. In addition to just practice, which was the most helpful thing, I've found that drying off the lens-holding finger before putting the lens on it helps the lens transfer more easily (though as mentioned by others, the lens and your eye should both be wet).

I also find that continuing to press the lens into my eye for about a second instead of trying to do it quickly helps prevent the blink reflex (maybe this is counterintuitive but it does work for me).
posted by randomnity at 12:07 PM on October 16

I have scleral lenses, which are much larger than normal contacts so you can't just pop them in.

There's a special technique for putting these lenses in, and it also works really well for regular soft lenses and is much easier.
Here's a diagram of the steps:

In the example above, they use a plunger (it's like a tiny suction cup for the lens) but you can just use your finger tips instead which is what I usually do. The main difference is that you look straight down when you put the lenses in.
posted by Eddie Mars at 12:24 PM on October 16

I no longer wear contacts because I decided it was totally not worth having a constant source of irritation on my eyes and switched back to glasses.

But when I did wear contacts, I did what fifthpocket does. I can report, it works great.
posted by aniola at 12:29 PM on October 16

I also struggled in the optometrist's office and never succeeded with any of their methods. But I've been doing it my way for over a decade since.

1. I place the contact on the index finger of my dominant hand. I don't switch hands. I make sure it's wet with saline.
2. I look at the contact, right at it. If I don't, my eye rolls up and away.
3. I place the contact against my eye and hold it. It usually lands a little low, so I slide it up into place (by looking at it) before I release my finger.

I don't put any other fingers on my eyes or eyelids.
posted by Snijglau at 12:44 PM on October 16

I have worn contacts so long I don't even think about how I put them in, but I'm relatively certain this is how I do it:

1. Put contact on middle finger.
2. Use ring finger (of same hand) to gently pull my lower lid straight down.
3. Touch contact lens to eye.

If I have a mirror I look in it, but if not I just look straight ahead.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 12:50 PM on October 16

I also looked up and away, holding the bottom eyelid down with my middle finger and the lens on my index finger, put the lens (with a drop of solution in it) on the white of my eye and then blinked and moved my eye around to put it on. I couldn't stand putting it directly on my iris. It is weird but apparently not uncommon, given that several people recommended the same.
posted by jeather at 1:03 PM on October 16

I use the same method as wryly - I put the contact on the white of my eye, not straight on the cornea. Then blink a few times to get it to centre. It's not what the optician recommends but I've been doing it for 20 years with no problems.
posted by drunkonthemoon at 1:04 PM on October 16

I think my issue is the moment the contact touches my eye, I blink from the irritation and it gets pushed away. I tried touching the white part of my eye and it is okay, but once I move closer to the center I blink.

You're 90% of the way there. Don't let your eye stop you from moving forward. Don't hesitate after the edges of the contact touch your eye. Just keep pressing it on in one movement, and it will be on. As others have mentioned, it's fine if you don't place it directly over the cornea. It will recenter itself (if it's a soft lens).

Another trick: If the lens doesn't seem to put itself into place, close your eye, and hold it closed by pressing on the lashes. 'Look' in all directions, rotating your closed eye in both directions a few times. This will help right the lens. When you open your eyes, blinking a lot can also help lubricate.
posted by hydra77 at 1:05 PM on October 16

Most of this may be repeat but... I’m right handed and here’s how i do it (almost 30 years of contacts, right handed)

I use my right index finger to hold the contact, to get it out of the case or out of the package if it’s new. I use my right index finger and my thumb to clean it with saline. I use my right index finger and thumb to get the contact placed properly on my right index finger. Thanks thumb your job is done.

I use my left index finger to pull the top eyelid up and my right middle finger to pull my bottom eyelid down. Contact is on my right index finger this whole time.

I look up with both eyes and I touch my right index finger to my eyeball. Doesn’t matter where. I roll my eyes and then release all finger holds and then blink. I’ve never tried to place it directly on my cornea, not sure I could do that. 99 times out of 100 the contact is then in position.

Sometimes it ends up on my eyelid, still on my finger, maybe the sink. Which is all ok, start over with the saline step. Saline is your friend the more the better.

I can use this method even without a mirror and normally be successful but even if not again just rinse with saline and start over.
posted by one4themoment at 3:33 PM on October 16

Thanks for all the amazing tips everyone. Good news -- I managed to successfully put them on for today. I learned a couple of things that helped. One was flipping up my eyelid from a slightly lower place (the wet part which is kind of icky but it worked) so that the eyelashes were less likely to be touched which made me blink. Another was a bit more about getting used to the "feel" of touching my eye.

I'll try the fifthpocket technique next time! I appreciate all the reassurances. I don't know why, but this failure feels so much more frustrating than any other life failures I've had.
posted by lpctstr; at 4:00 PM on October 16 [3 favorites]

Mirror position made a big difference to me. I find it much easier if I'm looking down into a magnifying mirror placed on the countertop rather than into a normal wall mounted mirror.
posted by Carbolic at 4:27 PM on October 16

I had this problem for about 3 weeks before I finally got used to it.

My main problem: I was trying to "push" the contact onto my eye to make sure it stuck. What I learned, through trial and error, is that you don't have to do this. If the contact is wet from lens solution, you just lightly "place" the contact up near your eye and it kind of suctions into place.

I don't have to hold my lower eyelid at all - I just use a finger to pull my upper eyelid out of the way so my eyelashes don't interfere.

Also: I release the contact, let the lower eyelid come up over it, then let the upper eyelid loose to come down. The lower eyelid holds it in place, basically, so the upper one can't screw things up. I think the upper eyelid is the main problem for these situations. Or it was for me...
posted by tacodave at 5:15 PM on October 16

Another vote for the wryly/fifthpocket method.
posted by Preserver at 10:09 PM on October 16

When my son needed to tolerate his eyes being touched I got him a bottle of opthalmalic solution and he spent a couple of weeks getting used to putting that in. First he only did the drops, then he touched his eye with the moist tip of the solution bottle.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:49 AM on October 17

I struggled, too, for a while. I had to get up an hour earlier to avoid being late for work! I asked everyone for tips and tricks and tried what felt like everything under the sun before I figured it out. I promise, once you figure out a way that works for you, it’ll take you no time at all. (People told me that and I didn’t believe them, but it turns out they were right!)

The method I worked out is this: While looking in the mirror, I retract my upper eyelid by putting my non-dominant index finger into the crease of my eyelid and pulling up toward my eyebrow. Then I put my chin to my chest and look up without lifting my chin, so that the white of my eye below the iris is revealed. With the contact on the tip of my dominant index finger and with my focus on my pupil in the mirror, I place the contact in the middle of that white area below the iris; if I try to put the contact smack in the middle of my eye directly over the pupil, I blink every time. That part of my eye is just too sensitive to be touched by anything.

Once the contact is seated onto the white of my eye, I use my finger to slide it up and over my pupil so it’s centered on my eye. (I know a lot of people say that you can blink it into place once it’s on your eye but that’s never worked for me—the contact gets all wrinkled or bunched up and I blink it right out.)

I hope that’s helpful!
posted by jesourie at 11:00 AM on October 17

I've worn contacts for twenty years, and the only way (still) that I can put them in is to look in the mirror, and angle my face entirely away (while maintaining eye contact with the mirror), meaning that I'm putting in my contact on the white of my eyeball without my eye being able to see the contact coming directly at it. I put my index and middle fingers above and below my eye to hold my eye fully open. I CANNOT do it straight on, and I absolutely need a mirror. I too have had this struggle (I was in the optometrist's for an hour before I could get them in the first time), so I hope this helps!
posted by Go Banana at 10:33 PM on October 17

I recently started wearing disposable dailies, and it took me about 4 weeks to get it down. At first, I was wasting/folding/wrinkling a lot, repeated failure to get them in, leading to frustration. Eventually, I started noticing things that either seemed to lead to success, or to failure, and adjusted my approach accordingly.

I am set up for "mono-vision", which means my left eye is set up for reading and my right is set up for distance. I can also see well enough to (barely) read without my contacts in, so I am able to visually see, either on my eye or by its presence or absence on my fingertip, whether I got the lens off my finger and onto my eye. I realize not everyone can, and one day soon I will not be able to do this, but hopefully by then, I will have become quite expert at this, and muscle memory will take up the slack. :)

Here's my routine:

0) Open both pods, arranged left eye to the left, right eye to the right. Wash hands, do not dry.

1) Rinse hands with a little lens refresh solution. Shake off excess but leave hands sort of damp.

2) With my non-dominant index finger (left, for me), I dip my fingertip into the saline in the pod, and gently scoop out the left (reading) contact. The lens is now clinging to my left fingertip, eyeball side of the contact toward my fingertip.

3) I dip my right (dominant) index fingertip into the saline, and then gently flip/transfer the contact to my right index fingertip. The outside of the lens is now resting on my right fingertip, with the eyeball side open and up.

4) Here's the crucial part that took me a while to figure out. The more gently that I can set the contact onto my fingertip, the easier time I will have inserting it. If the lens is sort of collapsed and sagging on my fingertip, with the bottom of the "bowl" sort of caved in, I am going to have a bad day. If I manage to get it very lightly set upon my fingertip, so the bottom of the bowl is still nice and round and just lightly perched on my fingertip, I'll be fine. Making sure it is nice and square on my fingertip, and not perched to one side, also helps.

5) With the lens properly set on my dominant index fingertip, I then wipe my non-dominant (left) fingertips dry.

6) Blink several times.

7) With my non-dominant fingers, I gently pry open my upper and lower eyelids, while also opening my eyes wide.

8) With my dominant fingertip, contact loaded, I approach my left eye while staring straight ahead. I gently place the contact onto the center of the eye, and sort of roll my finger away as I pull away. Still holding my eyelids open, I check to make sure the lens did in fact transfer to the eye.

9) Still holding my eyelids open, and making sure my right fingertip is still wet with saline, I gently touch the lens, sort of "boop!" to make sure it is fully seated. Before I started doing this, I would immediately blink the contact out probably 75% of the time. Since I have started doing this, it almost never happens.

10) I gently release my eyelids, and close my eyes. Not a hard squint, just a gentle close. Hold it a few seconds. Eyes closed, I sort of look around. Up, down, left, right, ahead. Eyes closed, I very, very lightly press on the front of my eye, through the closed eyelid. Whether this is backed by science or not, it does seem to help "seat" the contact, at least for me. Since starting this (along with step 9), I rarely blink out a contact.

11) Repeat from step 1 for the other eye. I always use my dominant (right) hand for inserting the contacts, on both eyes.

Seems like a lot of steps, but it's down to maybe 3 minutes total now.
posted by xedrik at 8:12 AM on October 18

Have you tried using one of those little applicators/plungers?

When I first got contacts ages ago, I couldn't for the life of me get them in, but using the little plunger felt like training wheels. It moved my finger further away from my eye and helped with the natural tendency of my eyelids to freak out.
posted by homesickness at 3:09 PM on October 19

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