The eyes have it

The demand for cosmetic contact lenses continues to stay strong as brands roll out more colours and styles to beautify the eyes. The cosmetic lens segment made up 13 per cent of total contact lens sales in 2010 and grew to 19 per cent -nearly $16million- last year.

According to research firm GfKAsia, cosmetic contact lens sales have been on the rise for three consecutive years.

In Singapore, cosmetic lens wearers are mainly females, from students to professionals,managers, executives and businessmen (PMEBs), between 18 and 35 years old and from all income levels. Consumers are very brand-conscious and prefer to buy from well-known and reputable brands that can be trusted, says Ms Jasmine Lim, account director for Home & Lifestyle, GfK Asia.

Daily and monthly disposable lens types are the most popular,making up more than 95 per cent of the total cosmetic lens sales.Ms Lim attributes the good take-up rate of daily disposable lenses to Singaporeans being discerning and well-informed in this area.

To cater to rising demand,more brands are introducing new types of cosmetic contact lenses and are spending more on advertising dollars to win over consumers.

BothClearLab SG, and Johnson and Johnson Vision Care (JJVC) have seen an increase in the cosmetic lenses segment Mr Fabian Teo, sales manager (Asia), Clearlab SG, says that move customers who used clear lenses are switching to cosmetic lenses. This year, the company has to date sold about 15,000 pairs as compared to 8,500 pairs the whole of last year.

Its range of cosmetic lenses in Singapore consists of 27 colours and will be increased to 35 later this year. It will also launch one-day disposable cosmetic coloured lenses. He says that 70 per cent of their customers are plano (non-power) wearers.

Aside from coloured lenses, iris enhancers in particular are very fashionable.

These are lenses that are coloured to simulate limbal rings (the dark circle around the iris) to make eyes appear bigger and "more alert".

Ms Shirley Loh, professional affairs manager, JJVC, says that its bestselling product is the 1 Day Acuvue Define in Natural Shine. Acuvue Define lenses are designed to enlarge Asian eyes while the shade of Natural Shine consists of the grey limbal ring and gold colour pigments to give the eyes a natural sparkle.

A JJVC poll showed that the top three factors influencing a woman's choice of beauty enhancement lenses include safety, comfort, and the natural effect on eyes. Acuvue lenses are said to provide adequate moisture and oxygen to the eye and block UV rays, ensuring comfort.

Dr Cheryl Lee, ophthalmic surgeon and medical director, Pacific Eye Centre, says that the safety of cosmetic contact lenses is dependent on both the commercial production andwearers' personal habits.

She adds that risks of wearing these lenses are similar to non-cosmetic lenses and include micro trauma and abrasions from removal of the lens, dry and uncomfortable eyes.

"Contact lenses act as a barrier of oxygen to the cornea so it can suffer from hypoxia and new vessels may grow as a result which is not good.Of course, the dreaded risk is an infection but all the other problems are more common and cause more discomfort," she says

"First-time users should be taught how to handle the lenses and practice good hygiene.

The fit of a contact lens is important as well and it can be assessed by the practitioner."

For those who wear these lenses, Dr Lee advises: "Wear the lenses for short periods of the day and do not swimor go for facials or steam baths while wearing them. Personal hygiene and cleaning regimen is important.

"Daily disposable lenses do not mean they are safer with regards to getting an infection. Throw them away after one day. Don't sleep wearing them and don't wear them for a prolonged period."

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