The advancements in contact lens technology over the past 20 years have been tremendous in terms of ocular health, visual performance and ease of prescribing by the eye care professional. We can customize the contact lens wearing experience to the patient’s ocular status and lifestyle needs, improve vision, achieve a competitive edge and increase patient loyalty all at the same time. New technologies and applications of contact lenses improve patients’ vision and self-image every day. 

The colored or cosmetic contact lens category has been reinvigorated with the launch of a new option. Alcon’s Air Optix Colors was recently introduced with a new palette of colors and the same the lotrafilcon B material we’re familiar with in other applications. By confidently offering our patients colored contact lenses, we give them the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of changing their appearance by simply altering their eye color—as often as they like.

Renewed interest in this category may offer new growth opportunities for your contact lens practice, and could help to retain some who might otherwise drop out. With proper marketing strategies, offering these contact lenses can even create a “niche” that garners word of mouth in your community.

Make the Offer
Some patients may prefer one specific color; others may prefer to alternate between a variety of colors. Still others may be interested in eye color change only on special occasions while otherwise remaining in their existing lenses. 

Fig 1. A front office staff member at EyeCare Professionals of Powell before (top) and after (bottom) insertion of color contact lenses.    

As this category had fallen dormant in recent years, many patients have not been offered them in the past and likely won’t realize that they are candidates for this option. With options available for patients with both light and dark irides, nearly any patient can enjoy the benefits of these lenses. 

Additionally, a recent study found lotrafilcon B and lotrafilcon B color are nearly identical materials in terms of technical attributes.1 This means that existing lotrafilcon B wearers do not require a refit to wear lotrafilcon B color lenses. 

The variety of colors and designs available for colored contact lenses in 2014 are better able to meet your patients’ comfort and appearance expectations. In the past, patients sometimes considered these lenses more a novelty than a genuine medical device, and compliance tended to be even below the usual levels. Make sure to discuss the importance of compliance and not to share these lenses with anyone unless they are properly fit.

SiHy Colors
Silicone hydrogel materials have improved corneal health enough that many wearers have corneal presentations indistinguishable from non-lens wearing patients. Increased oxygen levels limit the amount of chronic limbal inflammation. Certainly, there are many other factors that lead to successful contact lens wear, such as deposition likelihood, movement, modality and wettability. The Air Optix Colors are the initial SiHy color option on the market. This provides an opportunity to offer cosmetic enhancement along with the oxygen permeability available in a silicone hydrogel lens.

Start by fitting a staff member (Figure 1), preferably someone whose job entails a high amount of patient interaction.

Social Media Opportunity
Earlier phases of popularity for this modality missed out on a huge driver of patient interest: social media. Today’s millennials, however, live in an era of omnipresent interaction—with friends, family and complete strangers. 

  Fig 2. A post on Instagram or other social media may create "likes." Make sure patients use a hashtag. This adds a searchable phrase, expanding access to the photo.

Colored lenses offer a perfect opportunity for you to market your practice through social media. Encourage patients to post before and after photos on their favorite social media outlets right from your office! It’ll promote cosmetic lenses specifically and your practice as a whole (Figure 2).

The initial post will generate visibility on social media and, when using a hashtag (#) and a key phrase, it becomes a searchable field accessible by all users of the platform. The exposure could be exponential.

Individualize the Selection Process
Allow interested patients to try on the color lenses on one eye and compare to their current eye color or against another colored lens. They do not have to purchase them on that day and may call back to order them on a later date, but set the stage by making the offer. Allow them—and even encourage them—to take pictures and share with their family and friends. This is instant marketing for your practice.

Be careful, though: there are some unique concerns associated with using cosmetic contact lenses compared to other lenses. Make sure to discuss proper care for these lenses, as they may end up sitting in solution for extended periods of time. This can be of concern if the patient is using peroxide solution, as the peroxide will break down over time. Patients need to be encouraged to clean and disinfect before wearing the lenses again after an extended period of storage. Additionally, focus on stressing the replacement schedule and how often to change lenses after opening the package, whether or not they were worn on a daily basis. 

We are fortunate to practice in a time of great innovation in contact lenses. However, it’s also important to keep in mind the variety of lenses available to us. With the plethora of options out there, mixing some traditional technology with the newest lens options will help keep your practice healthy and growing. Our contact lens department needs the attention. Consider breathing some new life in the color contact lens market by reintroducing them to your patients.  

1. Miller, J. Fitting Success of a New Color Silicone Hydrogel Contact Lens in Lotrafilcon B Clear Sphere Wearers. Poster presented at Optometry’s Meeting, 2014, June.