Do You Really Need to Buy Name-Brand Contact Solution?

More than 45 million people in the U.S. wear contacts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And it's no wonder — they're a convenient way to correct impaired vision.

  • The type of lens you have (soft or hard)
  • Price
  • Convenience — multipurpose solutions, for instance, can clean, rinse, disinfect and store soft lenses all at once
  • Disinfectant properties
  • Time (how long the lenses need to soak in the solution before they're safe to use)

Tip

The best contact solution for you doesn't just come down to name-brand versus generic: It also depends on factors like whether or not you have dry eye or sensitive skin, says Ashley Brissette, MD, board-certified ophthalmologist at Weill Cornell Medicine. Your best bet is to talk to your eye doctor about what solution they recommend for your specific concerns.

What Is the Best Contact Solution: Name-Brand or Generic?

Indeed, "generics can be safe to use as long as you do your research to ensure that the same quality and up-to-date materials are in the generic form of the solution," Dr. Abugo says. "Always compare ingredients!"

As for which ingredients are best for your eyes, there's no one straightforward answer — what works best for you depends in part on your underlying eye problems. For instance, if you have dry eye, you may want to look for different ingredients than someone without the condition. As a result, it's always best to ask for your doctor's recommendation.

Disinfectants to Consider

Certain ingredients do seem to be particularly effective at protecting against a common eye infection called microbial keratitis.

  • Chlorhexidine
  • Polyaminopropyl biguanide (PAPB)
  • Antibacterial preservative ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDPA)

Potential Downsides of Using Generic Contact Solution

Generic brands are often the best contact solution when it comes to affordability — they're typically more cost-effective than name-brand options. While this can be a perk if the generic solution contains the same ingredients as its brand-name counterpart, a lack of quality ingredients doesn't justify a lower price tag.

With that in mind, here are some other cons to consider if you're shopping for generic solution:

1. They May Contain More Preservatives

Generic solutions typically contain more preservatives than name-brand options — this is what allows stores to sell a larger amount of product at a lower price.

However, more preservatives means there's a greater risk that the solution will irritate your eye or mess with the quality of your contact lens. For instance, a preservative-heavy solution may cause your lens to ripple or tear, Dr. Abugo says.

"I typically will only recommend a generic solution if it is tried and true, meaning that several of my patients have tried it without any reaction," Dr. Abugo says. "If the patient has sensitive eyes, I recommend a brand name first."

2. There's a Lack of Consistency

It's impossible to know if any given generic brand reliably contains the same ingredients until you try it.

Because of a lack of rigorous testing, generic brands are often more inconsistent than the name-brand alternatives, Dr. Abugo says. As a result, you may have to try out different generic solutions until you find what you're looking for.