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Both have pros and cons. Here’s how to figure out which to choose.
If you wear monthly contacts, you’ve probably been tempted by the sweet siren song of dailies. No case, no cleaning, no solution—what’s not to love?
If you wear dailies, on the other hand, you probably regularly wonder if the convenience is worth it. Even with vision insurance, you’re looking at hundreds of dollars out of pocket each year.
So which is best? We asked Matt Kauffman, O.D., director of the Cornea and Contact Lens Clinic at the University of Houston College of Optometry, to help us see the issue more clearly.
“The most important guide is your eyes,” he says. “Is your vision sharp and are your eyes healthy and comfortable?”
Did you know that contact lens prescriptions need to be renewed every year? Now’s the time to book your eye exam!
Here are the considerations—and how the two types stack up.
Face-off #1: Which Is Healthier for Your Eyes?
Your cornea (the eye’s thin, transparent covering) helps you see by focusing light as it enters your eye. To do the job well, your cornea needs a steady supply of oxygen. Contact lenses can sometimes make that a challenge.
“With contacts, you’re putting a barrier between your cornea and the air. And the longer you wear the same pair of contacts, the less oxygen gets transmitted through the lens over time,” explains Dr. Kauffman. “Even when you’re sleeping, your eyes still need that oxygen—it has to get in underneath your eyelids.”
The gist: The longer you keep your contacts in, the less healthy an environment you create for your cornea.
Dr. Kauffman also warns against the illusion of daily disinfecting for longer-term lenses. “Even though you clean and disinfect two-week, monthly, quarterly, or annual replacement lenses nightly, there’s still some deposits you miss. And over time, those deposits get worse and worse.”
This can cause serious eye infections, too, including keratitis, which can lead to blindness. A 2018 study at University College London found that the risk of developing keratitis was three times greater for people with careless contact lens hygiene.
To keep infection at bay, says Dr. Kauffman, your best bet may be to “make a fresh start every day” with a brand-new set of daily disposable lenses.
Face-off #2: Which Is More Comfortable?
Ever had dry, itchy eyes? For contact lens wearers, that can happen a lot—and for lots of reasons. Over the course of the day, everything from the substances found in your tears to the allergens floating in the air can coat your lenses. Plus, lens-cleaning solutions may have harsh chemicals that can cause irritation, too.
To avoid discomfort, dailies may be your best bet. “Instead of soaking your lenses in cleaning solutions every night,” says Dr. Kauffman, “daily lenses that come in individually packaged blister packs are a lot more gentle on the eye.”
Plus, he explains, “Over the course of 30 days, the monthly replacement lenses can lose a lot of their moisture. Starting with a fresh lens every day is more hydrating.”
Face-off #3: Which Is More Convenient?
As any frequent traveler knows, moving liquids through airport security can get complicated. Your bottle of contact lens solution is one more thing to squeeze into your little zip-lock bag.
“With dailies, you can just throw a couple of packs into your suitcase,” Dr. Kauffman explains. “You don’t have to worry about bringing solutions and contact lens cases.”
Just grab and go—nothing could be simpler. Another point for dailies.
Face-off #4: Which Is a Better Value?
If you’re on a budget, the decision between daily and monthly replacement lenses isn’t so clear-cut.
“I don’t like to base eye-care decisions on price alone, but on what’s best for the patient,” Dr. Kauffman explains. “But the cost of 730 daily lenses would be more than the cost of 24 monthly lenses. When you break it down, the difference is about what you’d pay for a cup of coffee each day.”
Winner: Monthlies (usually)
Check with your optometrist and your insurance plan before choosing a type of contact lens. Some plans provide an allowance toward the yearly costs of contacts, so cost may be a wash.
Face-off #5: Which Is Better for the Environment?
Whether you use daily or monthly replacement contact lenses, you’re tossing out as many as 730 little bits of plastic a year. A 2018 research report by the American Chemical Society found that anywhere from six to 10 metric tons of plastic lenses end up in our wastewater every year, posing a threat to aquatic life.
Environmental impact is a concern—and you have to balance the health of your eyes with the health of the planet.
Luckily, contact lenses and contact lens cases are recyclable. Check with your local recycling program for instructions on safely recycling your old contact lenses and cases. Some contact lens companies also have a recycling program for both the lenses and all the packaging. What you don’t want to do is flush old lenses down the sink or toilet. They can end up as sewage sludge and pollute waterways.
Recommended reading: America’s Best Guide to Contact Lenses