How Not To Try Contact Lenses

by | May 30, 2023

I had my first contact lens “lesson” last week and to say it went badly would be a huge understatement. To be quite honest with you, I don’t know why any part of me thinks that I’ll ever be successful with a procedure that involves precision, dexterity and being OK with repeatedly touching your own eyeballs. I’ve never been successful with body-related things that don’t involve precision, dexterity and repeatedly touching your own eyeballs, come to think of it: all ear piercing episodes have all ended disappointingly when the holes have inexplicably decided to close themselves over; my flirtation with lash extensions was both painful and short-lived and don’t even get me started on the time I thought I’d use a diaphragm for contraception.

I’m fine about doing things to/with my body so long as I don’t have to interact with it in the same skilled way as you’d expect from, I don’t know, a medical professional. I like to be responsibility free. I can use a battery-operated foot file, for example, but if you ask me to inject myself with a life-saving anti-coagulant twice a day for a week I will look at you with a faraway expression that means that I have definitely not processed the instructions. I can Veet my bikini line, but do not ask me to check my own c-section wound for infection. Go ahead and pierce my ears, but I can guarantee you that I will not turn the studs to release the stinking gunk.

Things I have vetoed due to my post-babies aversion to having my body meddled with in any shape or form: getting a contraceptive coil fitted, starting my very necessary Invisalign programme (I have a bite problem that needs correcting) and having any form of face alteration, injection or tweakment. Unless a procedure is potentially going to stop me from getting ill or dying then I’m not interested, ta ever so. Back the f*ck away with your needles and rollers and things that freeze your fat off.

So why, then, have I made the decision to have a crack at wearing contact lenses? Surely this decision is – at best – unwise. At worst it is completely and utterly insane. I had a complete breakdown at my first cystoscopy (Google it if you dare) and was so traumatised that I sat in the bath for five hours, silently rocking back and forth with my knees pulled up to my chest. What makes me think having things inserted into my eyes is going to go any better? Having to touch the wobbly eyeballs, those jelly balls, the things that Lady Caroline from Succession (may one of the best dramas ever made rest in peace) called “face eggs” with such a tone of disgust?

Having things inserted into my eyes was better, obviously. I’m being obtuse. I mean if you had a choice between having your eyelids clamped open and your eyeball firmly stroked, over and over again or having a camera inserted up your pee-hole then I can imagine you’d fall into the same camp as me. I’d opt for the eyeball every time. Still, it’s not what I’d classify as an enjoyable pursuit. Apparently I have flickery eyelids, which hinders things when it comes to contact lens application, but tell me this: what sociopath doesn’t flinch when something approaches their naked, vulnerable eyeball?

Anyway, it took ages to get the blasted things in and it wasn’t even my go to do it myself yet. And I have astigmatism and so some parts of the lens are thicker and I had to blink lots to get them to turn into position, which felt like blinking with an eyelash stuck in my eye and all felt very counterintuitive. If I’m being truthful, the lenses still felt like eyelashes, or debris, even when they were in position.

But barely had I recovered from one torture when another one started: a lesson in how to take the blasted things out. There I was positioned, in front of a pedestal mirror that had apparently been briefed to show me in my very worst light, and all I could see was a version of myself who was at least fifteen years older than the one I’m used to (potentially because I’m so blind) pulling faces that wouldn’t be out of place in an aquarium and poking herself again and again in the eyeball whilst exclaiming “ugh” and “ow” and “argggh”!

Had someone happened upon me who had been unaware of my predicament, ie that I had to sit there until I had learned how to remove these little eye-discs of doom, they would have thought I needed immediate help. Because who willingly sits there fingering their eyeballs until they are dry (I needed emergency drops) and sore (of course they were sore) when there are racks and racks of perfectly comfortable glasses to try on just around the corner?

It must get better. That’s what everyone keeps telling me and that is why I am taking another stab at the whole thing. For want of a better phrase. I have another appointment – Eye Death Episode II – at the end of the week and it’ll either be disastrous, ending in another mild panic with me flailing about saying “just get them out, for the love of God – GET THEM OUT OF ME!”, or I shall emerge victorious with a trial pack of my special daily lenses and a spring in my step. I cannot see there being any middle ground. If, once again, my eyes feel as though they are being massaged with sandpaper then I shall have to politely decline a trial and draw a line beneath my contact lens escapades.

Many thanks to all those so far who have sent tried-and-tested contact lens methods, they are all very much appreciated. Can I have a show of hands for those who thought they would never conquer it after their first go but then emerged, to use my own description, victorious?

Image credit Unsplash


  1. I hve been wearing contacs ever since I learned I needed glasses again at the tender age of 30. I tried working out with glasses once and decided that contact lenses were the only option.
    With that mindset – contact lenses or death! I was victorious in the second attempt.

  2. I got laser eye surgery 10 years ago now and my eyes are still good. Best money I ever spent! I used contacts occasionally before that, I never had problems putting them in, but the standard sizes didn’t fit my apparently-odd-shaped-eyeball very well, meaning they were uncomfortable the whole time I wore them. So I wore glasses a lot before I had laser. I was so glad to get rid of them! Dreading having to get glasses again when I get older!

  3. Most points have been covered by others (another strong vote from me for fuss-free dailies), but I’m surprised that several people have mentioned a variation on the ‘looking down at a mirror on the bed’ insertion method. I categorically find it easier to either look/have one’s head straight ahead with a tilt upwards or even fully backwards! It seems obvious to me that gravity here will be your friend and the lens will plop in more decisively!

  4. I’m 50 next month and been wearing them since I was 12/13. I also have astigmatism in both eyes. I started with monthly’s which were really thick back then. I am on daily’s now and don’t get a full month each time as mix it up more with glasses now. I also have to wear ‘readers’ over my lenses these days! Definitely definitely recommend daily’s as no worries re cleaning and much thinner. I try not to think about what I’m doing and just go for it putting them in but appreciate I’m an old hand at this now. Mind you, still can’t remember what prescription lens goes in which eye unless it’s written on the box! X

  5. I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was 13.. I’m 45!!! I used to have yearly ones. Gross thinking about it now.. I travelled round Australia and didn’t clean them properly and swam in them all the ‘ donts’ . Anyway dailies are much easier! You just have to go for it don’t overthink it. Getting them out definitely harder so really long nails are tricky! I wear my glasses much more now I’m older and prescription sunglasses are the way forward!!

    • Definitely think I’d have been more motivated towards them when I was younger but my eyes have only really deteriorated enough to warrant them in the last few years…

  6. I flinch horribly when the eye doctor tries to perform a simple exam. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. But… I was able to learn how to put in (and remove) contacts. For the first several months, I had to lay a mirror on the bed and bend over it. My tricks? 1/ Make sure my fingertips are dry or the contact will not transfer to my eye. 2/ Not focusing my eyes (ie blurring out my vision) just before the contact touches so that I don’t notice my finger moving towards my eye. Then, act quickly. 3/ If you are unable to insert/remove the contact, stop trying if your eye becomes irritated. The contact will not feel comfortable if you manage to insert it onto an irritated eye. Wait a bit, then try again later once your eye feels good again. 4/ Make sure you have high quality eye drops that your doctor recommends for contact wearers — especially if you have allergies. 5/ I find dailies much more comfortable as I don’t feel them unless I forget to take them out at night and they are less of a hassle.

    • Thanks Rachel, definitely going to ask about drops!

  7. I am both short-sighted and have astigmatism, lots of it. After using contact lenses for years and years, I can now put them in, put ear drops in, take them out without a mirror, hanged upside down, with my hands tied behind my back. So I am here to tell you, it does het better. Can’t say the same for the “debris in the eye” feeling though. I’m still waiting for a miracle on that one. Good luck on your second try, you’ve got this!

  8. This was me 20 years ago. Thought I’d try lenses for a friend’s 30th in Edinburgh. Had to go in to a random optician and ask them to remove them for me after I managed to squeeze my eyeball.
    I’m impressed you managed to get through the initial contact lens assessment – where they curl back your eyelid with a cotton bud. That makes me heave.
    I can’t even use eyelash curlers as I’m convinced I’ll do something horrific to my eye.
    I’ve just spent £2k at Cutler & Gross on new varifocal glasses and sunglasses. Such fun.

    • Cutler & Gross, crikey that’s an expensive outing! : )

  9. It does get easier. I am squeamish but, as the helpful drop of water lady said, it helps to know at no point are you touching your eye… much. Also I was told by the lady who helped me that the white of your eye, on the outer part, is numb! So even if you do have to get more hands on I always lean to the outer part of my eye. Also helps massively not to look at your finger but beyond it, it’s impossible not blink otherwise.
    Had a great few years with two weekly lenses for astigmatisms but now they’ve stopped making my prescription so I’ve switched to monthlies which are a bit chunkier. Am gradually getting used to them. Harder to balance but they just fall in easily. I still can panic about removing them, and I’m pretty sure they can smell fear, but when I am preoccupied they come out easy as pie. As with most things the longer you do them the less you think about it which in this case is helpful. It’s not so helpful with cleaning my teeth, I switch off every time and have no idea what’s been scrubbed and what hasn’t.

    • Thanks Alice this is very reassuring!

  10. Older lady here. Still wearing hard contacts after all these years. Yes, contacts take a little time making sure they’re clean and safe , but you get to go out in the rain and still see! They don’t fog up in cold weather going inside! Carry a bottle of eye drops for dusty days and enjoy not fiddling with or losing your glasses. You’ll figure it all out soon and it gets easier fast.

  11. I always found contact lenses made me feel quite tired. Like I was holding my eyes open really wide with them in and it was just exhausting. So I mostly just stuck to glasses. But I was fed up of not being able to see anything without my glasses. So when I was 25 I went to Moorefields Eye Hospital and got LASIK. Honestly, it took 10 seconds each eyeball, and because I was so shortsighted, I couldn’t see what the surgeon was doing! Best money I’ve ever spent (along with my Invisalign). Just don’t Google it! 19 yes later, and my sight is just starting to change due to age. Also, re the dry eyes, everything can dry up when you get older, including your eyes

    • So many people loving the LASIK… I just keep thinking “what if”

  12. I can relate Ruth. Being incredibly short sighted I have to hold a mirror right up to my nose, so trying to open up my eyelids, insert said lenses and hold the mirror at the same time, was a practical impossibility. I tried laying the mirror flat on my bed, but arthritis in my lower back made it far too painful to bend over that far. To cut a long story, the BFF held the mirror so I could get them in; but obviously she wasn’t going to be at my beck’n’call every time, but they were finally in, yay! However….I couldn’t control the pretty much permanent eye watering and the relieving of my eyes of eyeshadow and mascara which ended up making me look like a panda. And on the number 1A city bus which raised a few eyebrows and much tittering and pointing from a group of kids on their way home from school, gave me the impetus to give up on lenses completely, and stick to wearing glasses. Needless to say for me personally, comfort and not having my face looking like Mrs Pennywise was infinitely better.

  13. Let’s not forget the stockpile of stuff you need to keep the lenses from going fuzzy with the sort of growth you see on that bag of kiwis you forgot about at the back of the fridge. I think LASIK should be free on the NHS. We pay enough bloody taxes, forty years of glasses-wearing (I can’t see me doing the contacts thing successfully either) I’d love to be able to wake up in the morning and see clearly. Have you considered LASIK Ruth?

    • I have but the idea of it freaks me out even more than eyeball touching!

  14. I have the same eyelids (twitching and fluttering) , and I need to do the technique where I hold my lid even after over 4 years of using lenses every day… Even so, lenses vs. glasses; lenses has changed my life! Sometimes it is still a struggle to get them in/out, but when they are in I do not think about it, just get on with my life like nothing at all.
    And, regardless of the waste, choose 1 day-lenses The cases and the rinse and all that faff, it’s not for the less consistent and slightly confused ones And after a while you do not think about the touching the eyeballs, thank God!

    • Yes I have to do the dailies, I can’t fathom the faff of the others. It can’t be any more damaging to the ecosystem than the bloody frames I keep having to change because they can’t replace the lenses….

    • Hi, I wear glasses, short sighted and astigmatism. I used to wear contacts alot but now I feel they are less comfortable. I feel my eyes are itchy and dry. I am not sure if I should just give up and stick with glasses..

      • I wonder whether they make eyes drier over time. I’ll ask on Friday. Though I do feel there’s an incentive for them to “sell” the contacts and how good they are – they must make more money than glasses for an optician? I’m such a cynic! : )

    • I was the same when I started wearing them at 19 but sheer bloody mindedness got me through it. As others have said, you aren’t actually touching your eye – when you hold the lens close to your eye, your eye sort of sucks it on – that’s not helping is it?
      To take them out, I do the slide and pinch. Slide the lens down a bit and then gently pinch between your fingers.
      I moved from dailies to 2 weekly ones and I find the latter much more comfortable and easier to get in and take out.
      I will say though I don’t think you fully know what you look like until you see yourself in the mirror wearing contacts. No one had ever told me I have my Dad’s actual face. Not what my 19 year old self wanted really…

  15. Honestly I have taught a few people how to insert and extract contact lenses. I swear it’s all technique and easy. I too have astigmatism and don’t have a problem.
    To compare skeemishness it took me until I was about 40 to stop throwing up when having injections. I have a coil – no idea when it might come out as the insertion was such a trauma (wondering if it can just stay there?!) and I would love Invisalign but have taken the best part of 14 years pondering it.

    • I backed out of the coil ten minutes beforehand.

  16. As a 40+ year contact lens wearer todays lenses are a doddle compared to the hard plastic lenses of the early eighties.

    Try and remember that you at no point are touching your eyeball. Putting them in is like putting in a drop of water. When you take them out you are pinching the lens again. Not touching your eyeball.

    When you start look down into a mirror placed flat on a surface. Looking directly into a mirror with my face upright still makes me flinch.

    Put the lens on your right forefinger. Use your forefinger of the left hand to lift up your right eyelid. With the middle finger of your right hand hold down your lower eyelid. Now bring the lens to your eye. It’ll feel like a drop of water going in your eye.

    Now do exactly the same in reverse for the other eye.

    When removing don’t do the dragging thing. Even with longish nails you can use the pads of your fingers and with a quick scissor motion whisk them out. Start with your forefinger and index finger flat and slightly apart and bring them together over the lens to gently pinch them off. No dragging required.

    Let me know if you want a video.

    • Thought it was not going to be able to do it but booked another appointment and had a lovely kind lady take me through the process. For me i cant rush it or I get stressed and my eyes dont agree with them.

      I tilt my head down then pull my eye lid down but look forward. I feel this gives good surface space. Then put it on my eye and look to the left and then the right until it goes into place itself.

      Good luck!!

      • What Rhonda Said!

        Another one who started with hard lenses. Towards the end of my first trial appointment I went a lovely shade of green, almost fainted and was told in no uncertain terms that contacts weren’t for me. I went to another optician, no fainting this time, and persevered despite weeks of sore red eyes – I was 16 and thought boys would never be interested in me and my 80s specs ;-)

        51 now, very short sighted with astigmatism, and have used monthly disposables for several years, with no problems.

        Just a thought – if you’re able to try monthly reusable lenses, I found them far easier to handle. Last time I tried dailies they felt so flimsy, almost like cling film and I found they ripped and folded over more easily. Monthlies are a little thicker but for me that’s quite helpful. I’ve also found they stay comfortable for a little longer than dailies. Everyone’s different though…

        Good luck!

        • Oh interesting! I thought it would be the opposite, re comfort! Not sure how I’d cope with having something else to remember to care for though, I just about manage kids and pets without having to bathe lenses in the correct solution etc!

  17. When applying or removing lens, look a bit away from it. It feel less scary that way. And yes, it should get better

  18. Hi, I can totally relate. Never master them. One day decided to wear them for the event. Put them in, but still couldn’t see properly, decided to take them out, one came out, and I couldn’t find the other one…
    You can imagine…. I thought it went behind the eyeball… I did scratch my eyeball trying to find it..
    Emergency trip to the optician, they couldn’t find it either…
    Put my glasses on and went to the event.
    Came back and I saw it… stuck to a tap in the bathroom… it never went into my eye…
    Never since, it’s been 10 years :)

    • This story has made my day! Hahahahaha!

      • Oh my, you had me howling…HOWLING I SAY!

        I’m so sorry that I cannot give contact lense advice (sadly, no optition in their right mind would dream of giving me that task without allowing me full 24/7 access to their personal mobile number)…but I am excited to say that the investment I have in Eye Death Episode II is huge.

        P.s Just leaving this here…

        “when there are racks and racks of perfectly comfortable glasses to try on just around the corner?”

        Hahaha…just considering your last choice from the racks and racks!

        Brilliant and marvellous, Ruth.. made the mistake of reading at 5am, oops LOL


          • I have very bad eyesight and was so rubbish my Mum had to put my contact lenses in for months when I first got them aged 14! In the end I figured out that the looking in the mirror method the optician used didn’t work for me. I have to actually look at the lens as it goes in otherwise it doesn’t sit correctly. It’s definitely something that improves with practice! In terms of dailies Vs monthly disposables, I would say the monthlies are comfortable on the eye for longer, but I personally prefer less faff with the cleaning. Good luck!

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