Contact Lens Design & Materials

A More Breathable Way to Bring Color to Patients’ Eyes

Contact Lens Design & Materials

A More Breathable Way to Bring Color to Patients’ Eyes


I am writing this column while returning from a trip to Asia, where I had the opportunity to discuss contact lenses with our counterparts in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. They reported that a significant percentage of their patients utilize colored contact lenses. Many of them elect to get their colored lenses through non-eyecare channels, which is legal in many parts of the world.

U.S. Perceptions of Colored Contact Lenses

In thinking about my practice and how little I prescribe colored lenses, I reflected back to conversations that I’ve had with my U.S. colleagues about colored contact lenses. Many of us have thought that our patients do not want them, that they take a significant amount of time to fit, or that they are not as healthy as the lenses that more practitioners are fitting on a daily basis because, up until recently, colored lenses were available only in hydrogel materials, while silicone hydrogel lenses make up about 66% of the U.S. market (Nichols, 2014).

In thinking about the market for colored lenses, we know that people often want to enhance or change their appearance in one way or another. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t like the way they look, but rather they are just looking for another option for a day or a season. Think about how many people get hair coloring, hair extensions, or even eyelash extensions. People can go to great lengths to alter their appearance. It begs the question, why aren’t more patients moving into colored lenses? Perhaps it is lack of knowledge regarding where to get the lenses, or reluctance on the part of their practitioner (to date that has included me). Or, maybe there is an uncertainty about contact lenses as a vision correction option or beauty accessory (many of these patients may be emmetropic).

Breathe While Coloring

Alcon recently launched Air Optix Colors, the first silicone hydrogel colored lens. Offered in nine different colors using the company’s 3-in-1 color technology, it features the same design as the company’s current Air Optix Aqua line; this means that existing Air Optix Aqua spherical patients should not require a refit. Alcon says the lotrafilcon B material allows for significantly more oxygen to reach the cornea compared to traditional colored lenses.

Alcon’s introduction of this new colored lens into the market is timely, as Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. discontinued its line of Acuvue 2 Colours effective Dec. 31, 2013.

Take a Closer Look

I encourage you to embrace this market opportunity for two reasons. First, and most importantly, we now have the opportunity to fit our patients into higher-Dk/t colored lenses that they do not need to search out and acquire from illegal channels.

Second, this is an incredible opportunity to grow your practice with new and interested contact lens patients, many of whom are emmetropic and typically not candidates for lens wear. CLS

For references, please visit and click on document #226.

Dr. Kading owns the Specialty Dry Eye and Contact Lens Center in Seattle. He is the co-owner of Optometric Insights with Dr. Brujic. He has received honoraria for consulting, performing research, speaking, and/or writing from: Alcon Laboratories, Allergan, Bausch + Lomb, Biotissue, Contamac, Essilor, Nicox, Oculus, RPS Detectors, TearScience, Valley Contax, and ZeaVision. Follow him on Twitter @davekading.