Cosmetic Contact Lens

Dismantling Cosmetic Contact Lenses


Cosmetic contact lenses are designed to alter the appearance of the eye, instead of improving vision as is the case with corrective contact lenses. The first cosmetic lenses were designed for a Playboy model posing in a Halloween edition of the magazine. The optometrist placed the hefty price of $5000 on the pair of lenses at the time. Thankfully, with their increasing popularity, cosmetic lenses have become more affordable. Since these lenses alter the appearance of the eye, there are several different uses for them.

The most common use for cosmetic contact lenses is to change the color of the eye. By placing the lens on the eye, the natural color of the iris is covered by the colored lens, thus causing the eye to appear a different color. Lens wearers change their eye color for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is to make a subtle change in appearance without the permanence of surgery or dying one’s hair. Sometimes it is an attempt to gain more respect, as some believe brown eyes denote intelligence. In addition, some wearers of cosmetic contact lenses use them daily while others save them for special occasions. Those that wear them only on special occasions tend to view them as a fashion accessory, like a pair of earrings or the right pair of shoes.

The artistic world has adapted the use of cosmetic contact lenses in several ways. Some examples would be the character of Darth Maul in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and the singer Marilyn Manson. Cosmetic contact lenses are also used to create realistic looking werewolves, vampires, superheroes, etc. The characters are more believable if the eyes look real.

Cosmetic contact lenses are a growing trend among teenagers. Teenagers are wearing lenses with words, graphics and images on them as a way to express individuality. It would not be unusual to walk through the halls of a high school and see a teen with zebra striped eyes, or another with a favorite team logo displayed across one or both eyes. In the age group where the struggle for individuality can be tough, cosmetic contact lenses offer a way to boost a teen’s image amongst its peers.

Along with the rise in cosmetic contact lens wearing come warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the safety of wearing these lenses. All contact lenses carry risks with continuous wear, whether they are corrective or cosmetic lenses. The FDA is especially worried about those who wear cosmetic lenses as they tend to view them less seriously as they would if the lenses were corrective. The concern lies mainly with the damage unfitted lenses can do to the eyes.

Other health issues can arise from the lenses not being manufactured in a sterile environment. These can include conjunctivitis (infection of the eye), edema (swelling), corneal ulcers, allergic reactions, and in extreme cases, blindness or loss of an eye. The FDA warns against purchasing cosmetic lenses from flea markets, convenience stores, beach shops and the Internet. Lenses sold at these places are generally not sterile and they do not require a prescription, thus they hold the potential for serious eye damage.

Another health(eye) concern is that that of cosmetic contact lenses sharing. It's like sharing your make up or lip gloss which is not a good idea. This bad habit of sharing lenses is rampant among teenagers, who tend to view the lenses as a fashion accessory to be shared. Contact lenses touch bodily fluids. When such lenses are worn by others, those fluids have the potential to transmit diseases from one person to the other who have wore the lenses.