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When Were Colored Contacts Invented?

People all around the world enjoy having colored contact lenses for cosmetics and aesthetics purposes. But have you ever wonder how and when were colored contacts invented?

People wear contact lens for many reasons. Some opt for contact lenses to alter their eyesight and improve their vision. Others put them on just for aesthetics and cosmetics reasons. 

However, contacts have come a long way. From clear contact lens which is basically to enhance eyesight problems to colored contact lens which are made to change eye color.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

History Of Contact Lens

To understand how the development of colored contact lens, one must know the history of the clear contact lens first. Let’s dive into a quick brief into clear contact lens’s history before we move on into colored contact lens’s evolution.

1508 – Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex of the Eye

It all started with Leonardo da Vinci. But, no, no. He was not the inventor of contact lenses. 

He came out with the idea that the human eye vision can be neutralized by placing water directly to the cornea. In his book called Codex of the Eye, Leonardo da Vinci depicted a man submerging his head in a bowl of water to neutralize the refractive power of the cornea. 

But of course, it was only a theory. The technology at that time wasn’t advanced enough to make it happen. In fact, the objective of Leonardo Da Vinci at that time wasn’t about fixing vision. 

He was more interested in exploring the mechanism of accommodation. Accommodation is a process by which the vertebrate eye regulates the optical power to keep a clear image or focus on an object as its distance changes.   

Leonardo Da Vinci’s idea remained idle until more than 150 years later. After more than a century, a French scientist, Rene Descartes took Leonardo Da Vinci’s idea and introduced something new. 

1636 – Rene Descartes’s Glass Tube 

Descartes came up with the idea of placing a glass tube filled with liquid directly onto the corneal to alter the vision. However, it wasn’t really a practical idea. 

His invention did somehow enhance eye vision. But, with a tube on the eyes, blinking would be impossible. The idea was ignored due to impractical usage.

1801 – Thomas Young Improved Descarte’s Invention

After two centuries passed, Young upgraded Descarte’s idea. He reduced the size of the glass tuber to ¼ inch and stick the water-filled lenses to his eyeballs using wax. 

Well, who says design improvement is always good? It was an absurd renovation and once again left unused.    

The Early 1880s – Dr Adolf Fick Invented Refractive Power Contact Lens

The evolution of clear contact lens was making good progress starting in the early 1880s. Dr Adolf Fick together with his other colleagues managed to invent the first contact lens with refractive power to improve eyesight. 

Not only that, but the new invention also allows the wearers to blink. It is a huge difference from the previous invention. 

The technological advances in the next few years make it more convenient for other inventors to improve the contact lens functions and features. Over the years, new innovators come up with better modifications for contacts to make them appear more comfortable, durable and breathable. 

Enhance Your Look With Colored Contacts

When Were Colored Contacts Invented?

It was in the 1930s when colored contact lenses were invented. Since then, it started to make huge differences in the world for people with eye problem or for those who prefer to have different eye color.   

1930s – The Emergence Of Color Contact Lenses

In the late 1930s, a Metro Goldwyn Meyer makeup artist approached a Beverly Hills ophthalmologist regarding the possibility of changing an actor’s eye color. The makeup artist was asking whether changing the actor’s eye color from brown to blue for the upcoming movie purpose is achievable.

when were colored contacts invented

Reuben Greenspoon, the Beverly Hills optometrist managed to change Henry Hull’s eyed using the ceramic material for his character in the movie “Miracle for Sale”. He attached the lens and ran through a kiln to merge the glass and ceramic together. He then left a round aperture of 4 millimetres for Henry to see through.

Since then, a lot of movies utilized colored contact lens to enhance their actor’s characteristics. The usage of colored contacts can bring the actors costume to life and make their role more realistic.

For example, Audrey Hepburn used colored contact lens in the movie “Wait Until Dark” to portray a person with blind eyes. The late Micheal Jackson also put on colored contact lens to create scary effects in his music video “Thriller”.

1980 – Colored Contact Lenses Widely Commercialized  

Colored contact lenses were finally accessible to the public in the 1980s. They are no longer exclusively produced for the moviemaking industry only. 

Manufacturers such as Bausch & Lomb and Coopervision were perfecting their techniques to mass-produce their colored contact lenses. More people are able to enjoy colored contact lens for either to fulfil their personal beauty purpose or just for fun. 

Today, colored contact lenses have been popular because they can change people’s appearance drastically and dramatically. 

Colored contact lenses are available for both prescription and cosmetic use. For cosmetics use, the contacts are usually called Plano, decorative or zero-power contacts. They basically have no corrective power.

Although colored contact lenses usually used for cosmetics purpose, it is important to know that they are basically medical devices. Therefore, it is essential to have a prescription to purchase them even if you have perfect eyesight. 


Now that you know how and when were colored contacts invented, you might want to appreciate them much better. With a vast choice of shades to pick from, you can have any colors of the eye at any time.

It is nice to be able to play around with your eyes’ colors to either complement your outfit or to achieve your desired eye color. However, do not neglect your eyes safety and health. 

Remember, always purchase your colored contact lenses from reputable retailers which require a prescription in order to do so. Ignorance of proper and hygienic handling of colored contact lenses may also lead to unwelcome outcomes. 

Head on to Uniqso to look out for your preferred colored contact lens. Whether it is to upgrade your appearance or for cosplay purposes, we provide a huge range of colored contacts for you to choose from. 

Enhance Your Look With Colored Contacts

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