Not only do contact lenses have the power to correct people's vision without the need for cumbersome frames, but they are rapidly becoming a fashion accessory through which wearers can exude style and personality.
For a number of years, there has been a huge selection of non-prescription, or zero-powered, lenses on the market. Available in a splendid array of colours, those tiny cosmetic lenses have a surprising ability to completely transform a person's appearance. And those who have always dreamt of a blonde-hair-blue-eyes combo, but were not blessed with their desired look at birth, now have a simple and relatively cheap solution.
But colour is not the only choice. There is also a fantastic variety of 'different' and unusual contact lenses that can make your peepers glow in the dark or react to UV – and then there are those which give us the appearance of having no irises at all. The effect of this allows wearers to assume the look of a Simpsons character, with just small black dots in the centre of their eye whites, attracting lots of attention from passers-by in the process.
Pop star Lady Gaga went the opposite way on the spectrum, donning a pair of contact lenses in her video for the song Bad Romance that actually enlarged the size of her irises. These gave the singer a doe-eyed appearance that young girls across the US – and indeed the world – were keen to mimic.
There were later reports that some youngsters had been risking their eye health by purchasing such products from less-than-reputable suppliers. The general advice from optometry experts is that people should by all means experiment as much as they like with cosmetic contact lenses, provided they are obtained through legitimate, trusted providers.
Another big name in the 'freaky' contact lenses arena is Robert Pattinson, star of the hit film series Twilight. Playing the part of a vampire, the star is required to wear gold lenses for most scenes, to give him an alluring, demonic gaze. When his character is 'hungry' for blood, the gold lenses are changed to black.
But while Pattinson's unique eyewear has inspired youngsters to go in search of contact lenses to copy the look, just like the Lady Gaga fans, the star himself was reportedly not so fond of them. Speaking at the San Diego Comic-Con event this summer, he told industry website HitFix that he would not miss having to wear the 'creepy' and unusual lenses.
Meanwhile, it was widely reported at the start of August that an Indian optometrist had created the world's first contact lenses to be embedded with actual gold and diamonds. Their creator Chandrashekhar Chawan, who works for India's Shekhar Eye Research Centre, said the exotic eyewear, costing more than $15,000 (£9,000) a pair, were inspired by the jewels in his wife's teeth.
And not only are optometry experts themselves getting involved with this emerging area of fashion design, one of the world's most notorious celebrities, Paris Hilton, recently announced she was also entering the fray. A new line of contact lenses and other vision correction products are reportedly among the latest items to be rolled out under the Paris Hilton brand.
With such influential role models, from pop music and Hollywood stars to household names like Hilton getting in on the act, the trend for dressing our eyes in elaborate and unusual ways looks set to continue. So long as everyone follows their optometrist's advice and safely wears only approved products, there is no reason why the collision of contact lenses and fashion leads to anything but good fun and further innovation.
by Alexa Kaczka