A cosmetic shell is a thin artificial eye individually manufactured for you. It is designed to fit over a blind and damaged eye in order to improve your cosmetic appearance.

This section explains:

  • How to use your cosmetic shell
  • How to care for your cosmetic shell

Remember: When we make moulded eyes and cosmetic shells we specially shape and colour them to suit each individual patient and their unique socket shape.

It is important to keep your cosmetic shell clean at all times. This page tells you how to do this. The first few times you do it you will probably be a bit nervous – most people are. You will soon find out that you are able to do it simply and comfortably.

If you have any problems at all looking after your shell please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at the centre. Our information line number is 01253 951131.

It is normal to have a certain amount of discharge in your eye. This varies from one person to the next. It can be worse in very cold weather or for instance if you are not well.

You can also get a build up of dirt or dust in your eye. This again can vary a lot. If you work in a dirty or dusty atmosphere you are likely to suffer more discharge than someone who works in a clean atmosphere.

There are no set rules about this. If you have a lot of discharge from your eye you may need to clean it several times a day. For most people, once a day seems about right. It is essential that the cosmetic shell is removed at night, washed and rinsed well in sterile water.

The main thing to remember about removing your cosmetic shell is that it is not difficult. Give yourself plenty of time when you first do it on your own.

Take your time and do not hurry.

Follow these simple steps:


  • Wash and dry your hands 
  • Look into a mirror 
  • Put something soft like a towel in the wash basin or on the table in front of you. Then, if your cosmetic shell drops out it will have a soft landing. Be careful that it does not drop onto the floor. It could get scratched or chipped if it falls onto a hard surface
  • Look down, and with the index finger raise the upper lid until the edge of the lid meets with the upper edge of the cosmetic shell, with a slight pressure on the upper lid edge the cosmetic shell should be eased over the upper li

Example below:

As it lifts away from the eye, the other hand should be placed in a cupped position on the cheek. If you then look up, the cosmetic shell will be carried over the front of the upper lid and will release from the lower lid and fall into your cupped hand.


An alternative method of removing your cosmetic shell is to use a rubber suction extractor, which your Orbital Orosthetist (OP) can supply.

This is how to use it:
  • Wet the open end of the extractor with cold water
  • Squeeze the bulb along the length of the extractor between the thumb and index finger, in order to expel the air
  • Whilst still pressing, place the sucker end of the extractor firmly over the iris of your cosmetic shell
  • Release the pressure on the bulb; the extractor should now be attached to your cosmetic shell
  • Now hold the extractor as a handle, but do not squeeze the bulb
  • Look down, and with the index finger of your other hand raise the upper lid until the edge of the lid meets with the upper edge of the cosmetic shell. If you then look up, the cosmetic shell can be removed over the upper lid and out of lower lid with the extractor
Be careful not to drag the cosmetic shell across your eye. Pressing the bulb once again will release the rubber extractor from the cosmetic shell.


  • Use wet clean tissue to clean away any discharge on your eyelids or your eyelashes
  • Use warm water and a mild hand soap to wash your cosmetic shell. Rub the cosmetic shell gently with your fingers but make sure you do not scratch or drop it
  • Rinse the shell thoroughly in sterile water before you refit it. Make sure you rinse all the soap off. If you do not, it may sting the surface of your eye when you refit the shell

Never use any chemical cleaners, disinfectants or detergents to clean your cosmetic shell. These can cause permanent damage to the surface and will irritate the eye tissue.

This is what you do:

  • Hold the cosmetic shell between the thumb and the index finger on the outside edges of the shell making sure that the top part of the shell is uppermost
  • With the other hand raise the upper lid, look down and place the cosmetic shell on the upper portion of the eye under the upper lid, then release the upper lid gently to cover the upper portion of the shell
  • Look up and then gently draw down the lower lid using the free hand. The cosmetic shell will now be carried upwards into its correct position on the eye and the lower lid can now be released

You may find that hard acrylic contact lens wetting fluid which can be obtained from your local Optician or Chemist, placed on the shell prior to fitting, will ease insertion.

If it is your first cosmetic shell you should build up tolerance gradually. You may find that you are not able to wear the shell for more than 1 hour initially. Your OP will give you further advice when your cosmetic shell is fitted. Over the next few days try to increase the wearing time, but if it starts to feel uncomfortable remove it and try again the next day.

It is essential that you do not wear the shell when sleeping, because you may inadvertently rub your cosmetic shell, which could cause damage to your own eye. It is also important to give your own eye a rest following daytime wearing of your cosmetic shell.. It must be removed even if comfortable and placed in sterile water or a saline solution until required next day. To make a suitable saline solution dissolve a teaspoonful of salt in a pint of boiling water and then let it go cold before use.

If you are not sure about something, please get in touch with us. Our OP’s will be glad to help.

So far we have spoken about the routine cleaning which you can do for yourself, but you will sometimes need to come to the clinic so that the OP can check and polish your cosmetic shell and keep it in good condition.

After you have worn your cosmetic shell for some time it may start to feel 'gritty' and uncomfortable, or you may notice that there is more discharge.

This is quite normal and is caused by a build up of protein deposit and fine scratches. When this happens you should have your cosmetic shell checked and polished. How often you need this done will vary. As a general guide we advise you to have a routine check and polish every 6 months, but you can have one more often if you need one.

It is very important to have your shell checked and polished as often as it needs it. If you do not, you may suffer unnecessary discomfort.

All you need to do is contact us and we will make an appointment for you to see an OP. At this appointment the OP will also check the condition of your cosmetic shell and will tell you about any possible replacement shells you may need in the future. This is because changes can occur with your own eye and the cosmetic shell can deteriorate over a period of time. We can only check this if you attend on a regular basis.

Sometimes you might get an infection in your eye. If this happens you should go and see your own doctor. Infections like this usually clear up quite easily using drops or ointment. The shell may also require polishing or possible replacement if infections re-occur.