Sunday, October 28, 2007

Colored Contacts

An attractive black woman walks across the street in a cute red dress with matching wedges, flawless skin and hair that could almost pass for her own. Her movements, her motion, her intent are all so graceful that they look slightly rehearsed. Your eyes glaze about her from top to bottom. You feel a sense of pride at her presence, then envy as your eyes scan her breasts and the rings that circle her neck. Her smile is bright yet doesn’t manage to intimidate you, her manner is confident, and just when you’re about to enter a state of bursting resentment for how well this woman carries her natural beauty, you lean forward and strain your eyes in realization that she’s wearing bright colored contacts… and it messes it ALL up.

A person’s eyes are usually the first thing that you see while speaking to them. While in high school, the two women that were close to my complexion that I thought were beautiful both wore colored contacts on a regular basis. One wore a light hazel and the other rotated blue, green, gray, and brown to match her outfits. I’d always wanted to try them out, but my mother would roll her eyes at me when I mentioned them. “What’s wrong with your eyes?” she’d ask. “If you don’t like your eyes, then you don’t like me,” she’d shrug. So I would eventually drop the subject in consideration of her feelings. I made a friend however, who worked at a beauty supply store and managed to get me a pair of gray contacts by my senior year. I was ecstatic. They were temporary and could only be worn for about a week or so, but it was perfect for me because I only really wanted them for the homecoming game, where I was up for queen. I remember standing on the field with my father, and while I waited for the winner’s name to be called, while my eyes scanned the stadium of white faces, I noticed a new confidence; a rush of excitement at the new element of my physical appearance that I thought made me stand out. But it really looked a hot mess….and I wish I knew then what I know now.

In the early 1980’s shortly after the inception of contact lenses into (affordable) optical culture, colored contact lenses were made available to the masses, spreading widely through flea markets, convenience stores, and beach shops. Along with changing an individual’s eye color, the lenses mimic the eyes of cats, wolves, snakes, and became so popular that by the late 1990’s they could be found at beauty supply stores for $20 a pair.

What began as a cool way of changing an individual’s physical dynamic, or an alternative to Mardi Gras masks at Halloween costume parties, was consumed by the black community (though somewhat subconsciously) as a way to stand one inch closer to the world’s intangible and timeless standard of beauty. Light eyes were a way (commonly seen among darker shades of people) to stand out. The challenge is that it is not always viewed as just a way to stand out in newness as seen in White culture with celebrities like Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Britney Spears. In our community it is usually a way to stand out despite, and that is where the hurdles line the turf. When the contact lenses stay on, when we dwell on the attention and the assumed beauty that the blue and hazel eyes grant, we are almost crippling ourselves to the ideal that what is natural to us is unattractive; that in a world of thin lines and open interpretations, we are still always on the wrong side.

In the 2004 book, Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America by Charisse Jones, the author writes:
…..the Black men who’re making millions—the doctors, the lawyers, the athletes—are going after the White woman. And I think that’s the reason why we change our appearance.” Cheryl, who wears her hair straightened with an added weave, says that Black women try to look more European, wearing colored contact lenses, for example, in order to be more appealing to Black men: “We’re hoping a Black man will say, ‘Hey she’s just as pretty as this White woman right here.’ We’re trying to get their attention.”

So are colored contacts, like blonde weaves, just subconscious emulations of what we are taught and bred to believe is truly beautiful? Perhaps. Apparently colored contacts are a huge trend in Japan and Korea, recently headlining countries for nose jobs and eye-lid surgeries that make men and women look more like the “Westerners” that they see on television.

Although there are Rx (prescription) lenses widely manufactured by Freshlook, Acuvue, and Durasoft, the majorities of colored lens users (within our community) do not have a prescription, and consume the products at flea markets and second hand shops.

In October of 2002, the FDA warned that the extended use of decorative, non-corrective lenses could result in serious eye injury. Robert Longley of wrote:

Cases of corneal ulcer associated with wear of decorative contact lenses in excess of the recommended period have been reported to the FDA. Corneal ulcer can progress rapidly and lead to internal ocular infection if left untreated. Uncontrolled infection can lead to corneal scarring and vision impairment. In extreme cases, this condition can result in blindness and eye loss, according to the FDA.

FDA also warns of other eye risks associated with use of decorative contact lenses, including:

  • conjunctivitis (an infection of the eye);
  • corneal edema (swelling);
  • allergic reaction;
  • corneal abrasion from poor lens fit; and
  • reduction in visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and other visual functions, resulting in interference with driving and other activities.

According to FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr. Lester M. Crawford, the FDA has approved the prescription-only sale of some contact lenses for cosmetic use, such as colored lenses. FDA's approval guarantees these lenses were made under sterile conditions, and requires that consumers be told how to insert and care for the lenses in a way that minimizes chances of such side effects as infections or abrasions.”

However, most health hazards that result in the extended wear of these lenses can be prevented if an optometrist is visited for proper fitting.

-Wayetu Moore


Leanne said...

As a note of caution, you should NEVER buy your colored contact lenses from flea markets, corner grocers, or "unusual" places. Stick to your optician, eye care practitioner, or reputable online contact lens retailer.

As of 2005 in the US, contact lens retailers are required by law to only provide contact lenses, including plano (no vision correction) colored contacts, when there is a verifiable prescription. Eye doctors are also required by law to provide you with that prescription if you ask.

clnmike said...

"the Black men who’re making millions—the doctors, the lawyers, the athletes—are going after the White woman. And I think that’s the reason why we change our appearance.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa, freeze that talk, dont blame black men for that stupid shit. That black man elite marrying white women like there going out of style is a myth. You brought colored contacts it because you wanted to look different. Leave the brothas out of that one.

Wayetu Moore said...

I'm sure what the writer meant by referencing the black elite's tendency to marry outside of their race was a way to contextualize her struggles with her appearance and identity in academia, and later in the black middle-class. Charisse Jones and Kumea Shorter-Gooden are good writers/journalists and are both speaking from their experiences as black women, and can reference only what they see of black men. I don't think that they're wholly blaming the usage of colored contacts on black men, since black men wear colored contacts also; but to deny that there aren't a significant amount of successful black men that marry outside of their race (an amount that black women are sure to notice, analyze, and act upon), is to deny a reality.

clnmike said...

No thats BS. There is no epidemic of black elite males marrying outside there race. what you see is the medias love affair with succesful blk men and wht women pairing that the present it as common place to the point that everyone buys that mess. Now unless there is an "OFFICIAL" poll out there saying that than your only examples our celebrities in all fields. That in itself is a poor example since the number of blk men and blk women pairing doesnt draw the attention of the cameras like blk and wht. No one takes pics of doctors, CEO, engineers, Military Officers ect, ect, and splashes them on the front page of the latest gossip rag. The media presents an image and everyone bites.
BTW for as many blk male elites that are paired with white women you will find about the same amount of blk women and white men pairings but no one makes a big deal about those.

kjen said...

The line of reasoning is rarely as direct as 'white people got it, so I want it too.' But regardless, I have seen some colored contacts that look good. Dark, dark, almost black skin and green contact lenses. Sounds weird? It looked great.
But question to the arthur is that if more people looked better with colored contact lenses would you still think of the combination with such disdain?

Kent said...

Got a range of branded contact lenses at AC Lens.

sillyme584 said...

This is something I have been struggling with lately in trying to determine whether or not I want to get colored contacts... I love my beautiful baby browns. I don't expect to or ever want to wear colored contacts on a daily basis or more often than once in a blue moon. However, I don't understand why people look down on others for wearing them for fun every now and then. They say it's not natural. People aren't usually reprimanded for getting highlights or dying their hair. Or for wearing eyeliner and lipstick. Or whatever other millions of things women do to accessorize. What's natural about any of those? I agree that trying to convince others that your eyes are actually whatever color rather than your natural color is foolish...but to change them up every now and then does nothing but adds an element of fun to experiment with. How is that any different than any other form of accessorizing women go through to "dress up"?

wayetu moore said...

To kjen:

"But question to the arthur is that if more people looked better with colored contact lenses would you still think of the combination with such disdain?"

My problem is not with wearing colored contact lenses. Notice in the article that I admitted to wearing them at one point also. The problem is the mentality that sometimes keeps them on; people of color feeling that they look better with lighter eyes, to the point that they rarely go without wearing them. I definitely don't assume (or know I didn't) reason with a 'white folks got it, so I want it too' state of mind. I do, however, think that media play a huge role in what we desire or consider beautiful. Having light eyes, is one of those traits.

To sillyme584:

"How is that any different than any other form of accessorizing women go through to "dress up"?"

You're right. If proper health precautions are taken in the purchase and wear of them, then I don't think there is anything wrong with wearing them to accessorize. My issue is in what is viewed and accepted as beautiful in our society. If you start wearing contacts and begin to feel less beautiful when you don't have them on, in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable when people see your natural eyes, then that's a problem.

SillyMe584 said...


James said...

Buying color contacts in a flea market is really stupid and dangerous. First of all you need a prescription to buy them, and secondly you must go and see a specialist who sells them for your own safety!

Anonymous said...

what i see is all darker races trying to get out of thier own color segment. blacks consider is a status to get with whites, so do hispanics, indians, asians, middle easterners, polynesians, etc.
i believe all races should stick to thier own personally.
also keep in mind low life black men marry white women too. its not just the elite.
white women see thier chances of happiness fleeting too. all races are after thier men. white men have all the choices.
we are women really just want to marry someone who is like us. i would say blam it on the men for trying to set out on us. women, unless racial status driven, really just want to marry our own color.
imagine a 2 on the attractive scale who is a white male. he dose not have to marry a 2 like himself, he can get with a darker girl who is an 8. so why would he want the white female who is a 2?
it is unfair. unfair to women mostly. men should not have choices except thier equal in thier own race. if that were the case we would all be happier.

Anonymous said...

women it starts with us. refuse to date outside your race. and shun the racial status women. if you have friends or family who have to be with the white male just to get a leg up make sure you dispell thier logic to everyone who knows them. they will probably not be detered by they will be ashamed and will know you and everyone else is on to them and they look evil. do not let these women get one over on you or others. anyone willing to marrying a man who is less attractive than herself so she can get with a white man is not marrying for love nor the right reasons. tell the man, clue him in. remind him a 2 never get a 8 in real life unless there is a catch. he undoubtalbiy will not care either. the girl will use the man will be miserable, i guess he gets what he deserves. i have seen many times.
stay away from mixed couples, they are not playing by the rules. if enough people shun these unions they will become less attractive for the ones who try to get into them.

Anonymous said...

also blame rihanna and beyonce.........
and most other black women who wear them and also put on cacasian hair and bleach thier skin.
they are all trying to look more white.
look at vanessa williams 15 yrs ago and today. she does not even look black anymore. neither does mirah.
also notice all the ethnic women on tv change thier names so cacasian names. they are all trying to fool everyone.
soon thier will be no fooling. your blood and bloodline will be your calling card. something that cannot be faked.
all the hispanics trying to say thier italian, the middle easterners do that too. no longer will that be done. just show us your blood. dosent matter how you look or what you changed your name to or what lies you want to make up.
people will choose others based on thier blooklines, dna, etc. they are already do it on the geneology websites. you dont even need to have a family tree. based on your dna a chart 100% accurate can be drawn up for you as many submit thier dna samples to be used with the names of thier parents and grandparents as proven by birth certificates. i have done it. its pretty easy. it also shows if you are illegitimate and traces you to the real father.
color contacts hair treatments and skin bleaching and high heels and surgery will not help you. neither will changing your name to a white name, nor lies about your ethnicity. the asian and hispanic women are going to be really mad at this development!!!!!!!!!
also in the future intelligence
will be factored in. background too. there will be not more hot girls getting all the best guys based on thier looks. if a guy does select a girl. all her bloodlines will be exposed, so will her i.q. and background and history. so if he chooses a looser he will be informed right from the get go, he is with a zero. most guys will not want the stima of being with a low i.q. girl with undesireable bloodlines and questionable history.


Anonymous said...

Okay. I am a sista, wear dreads, no makeup, no fake nails. I have natural hips, natural full breasts, and natural brown skin. I am 41 years old and I have very llittle gray hair (anywhere)...and I still look 28 years old. Also, my full lips are real. I have brown skin and as most Black Americans, I am mixed with African, Native American, and white in my blood. But I look like an everyday as can be.
But I am getting green and blue contact lenses because I feel like it. I want to do it. It is fun for me. White women have botox, injections, silicone, lipo, airbrushed tan, rub on lotion, and even colored contacts, too....
A sista is entitled to do what she wants that makes her feel good and stop hating on sistas for doing what they want! SHoot, most black men criticize a black woman no matter she does and then date white girls (the ones with artificial everything or the ones that are not attractive)....And most black people do not even spend time with a black woman to even know what they are stop judging and yes, beautiful black women can do what they want to enhance themselves regardless of what anyone thinks. Furthermore, when you think about it, black women only do two or three things to "fake" their beauty (weaves, artificial nails, and colored contacts) write the list of fake stuff for white women and you will find that most sistas have everything that white women pay thousands and thousands to have. Colored contacts cost $60 to $100....stop hating and bless the black sistas who are raising children alone no matter how fake or natural they are....they are the most impressive mothers (and fathers) holding up and keeping the black race somewhat dignified inspite of the men that run out on them.

danielle said...

wow now i never wanna get em XD. love your blog!

Anonymous said...

I was going to get colored contacts because I thought it would be a fun way to spice up my look but after reading this I began to question my decision. I then read all the replies to the article and made my final decision. I am going to get my contacts. Whatever Black women do will always follow criticism. We have always been at he bottom of the barrel compared to other women of other races. Whatever we do warranties judgment, even from our own sorry as black men. Our black dont appreciate us or value us. They talk about us so cheap, compare us to other race of women and always have excuses why they wont or will no longer date black women. The good black man is becoming a extinct species. All we women are surrounded by are grown black men that are really young boys at heart, with low self esteem, no sense of self, no financial stability and no pride in their own culture. Just the other day, I was out at an eatery and I saw a fine young black man. My eyes followed him to table and do you know who he was sitting next to kissing? A young white over weight female with 20 rolls on her stomach, thighs and neck combined. He wouldn't even look at me and must I add that I am gorgeous. He found his ideal beauty so would he. Anyways....Women wear your contacts if you truly are doing it for spicing up purposes. If your gonna hide behind then then I suggest you do a self evaluation and get back to the root of loving yourself so that way when you are ready to rock them, you are doing it solely for choice and not confidence issues

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Anonymous said...

wow stereotypical ,don't you just think some people think there eyes are boring,you might have really dark brown eyes and just get a black ring to bring out your natural eyes or buy light brown contacts.not everything s to do with men,for your own self confidence gosh...i mean you even said your self you bought them.i wear them to enhance by natural eye

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Cece said...

Hello there I am 19 years old and a Latina. I medium brown hair with natural caramel highlights. To many I beautiful and I love my exotic features and i always notice the white girls that stare me up and doen as well as the white boys that chevk me out;however,I do have to say I wear hazel contacts. Not to look "white" but I like the contrast. I do it for me! Because it light colors are more fun then dark!I do not agree that black women try and look white. If you had their hair you would understand why they get "weaves" it's more manageable!!! And I think the only nice think about white people is the "color" itself. And that is it. Black women have thee mist prominent features that white women would love to have. Although I wear contacts, that is all. I don't need makeup! This is my makeup routine. Just like everyone else has a routine. If I see girls with weaves, eyelashes, contacts, boob jobs, etc.Then amen to them. Let them do what makes them fill better. BECAUSE YOU CAN'T PUT A PRICE ON SELF ESTEEm. You people swear like you get out of bed and go to work without doing any kind of "routine". Why do people worry about others, what's important is what is inside. If u don't like what's outside then change it! It shouldn't matter, the same way if u don't like something from inside change it. Everyone of you is beautiful and please don't put a picture of Kim to represent the black community. It's foolish.
My name is Carmel from Los Angeles! Incase anyone knows me:)

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Sometimes wearing colour contact lenses said...

I am a white woman and when I was growing up the "beauty standard" for me was long, blonde, straight hair and blue eyes. How could I have thought I was beautiful with my brown, curly hair and dark brown eyes? I even wore glasses - there was nothing more ugly than glasses. I tried to straighten my hair but it just turned wavy instead. My Mom wouldn't let me die it blonde. The only contacts I could get at the time were just for my vision - at least I didn't have to wear those glasses. My point is that we always seem to compare ourselves to some made-up definition of beauty. I came to see that there are thousands and thousands of definitions of beauty. I will wear colour contact lenses only to change up my looks now and then. But I love my dark brown(now with some gray), curly hair, my dark brown eyes and even my glasses. Wow, I have come a long way!

tom hansen said...

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Anonymous said...

this article had some good points, but the comments are making me so furious... I wear gray contacts sometimes..I think they brighten my face. I love my natural eye color as well. i used to color my hair when i was younger, but now i just color my eyes and that feels natural.also, i am married to a white man, but you know i never noticed that he was white....he is just a wonderful person, and i love him.i don't think people get married just to be with another race-that is ridiculous.whoever said that coud not possibly be married, or even in a relationship because marriage involves alot more than holding hands in public. i agree that if more people looked good with colored contacts, it wouldn't have so much stigma.check out youtube-some people look silly...but there are many people who look very nice.and let's not forget that there are black people born with this color of eye, so what is the problem?

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