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Could This Asian Beauty Trend Catch On Here?

By Wendy Rodewald-Sulz / November 6, 2014

When I visited Japan last month, I was surprised to see color contact lenses for sale in the beauty section of the drugstore. Unlike in the U.S., you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to buy contacts, and they’re marketed as aesthetic accessories first and foremost. There are lenses to turn brown irises blue or green or violet, ones that promise to make eyes look doe-like or doll-like, and others that create the illusion of a rounder eye. It seemed like every third girl I passed on the street in Harajuku was wearing some sort of lens to transform her gaze. But beauty contacts are a category we just don’t pay much attention to in the States…not yet, at least.
But that might be changing. Starting this fall, Acuvue is rolling out its new 1-Day Acuvue Define Contact Lenses, a collection of lenses that are designed to enhance the eye’s appearance by making irises look bigger and brighter. They’re already huge in Asia, and the company is betting that American consumers will embrace the new offerings designed specifically for Western eyes.

In this photo, the left eye has no lens while the right one wears the brand's new contacts in Natural Shimmer. 

The three style options — Natural Sparkle, Natural Shimmer and Natural Shine — are all made to enhance the limbal ring. That’s the part of your eye that looks like a dark line around the outside of the iris. Studies have shown that people find those with pronounced limbal rings more attractive and more youthful-looking. (And just think, all this time you’ve been fixating on your lashes instead.)

The lenses feature translucent patterns that make eyes look brighter, but won't change their color.

The Natural Sparkle lenses have a bit of a cool tint that made my hazel eyes look greener when I tried them, but otherwise the contacts don’t change the color of your irises so much as they make your eyes look more sparkly and defined. The effect is very subtle. You might notice someone who’s wearing the lenses looks more awake and refreshed than usual without being able to pinpoint why. It’s almost like makeup…for your eyeballs. Of course, you won’t find them in the beauty aisle here — you’ll have to go through your doctor. The lenses come in both vision correction and plano (non-correction) options, and cost about $75 for a month’s supply (pricing varies by doctor). I’m not sure limbal ring-enhancing contacts will have the mass appeal of gel nail art from Japan or BB cream from Korea, but they’re definitely worth a look.