Lady Gaga’s wider-than-life eyes were most likely generated by a computer, but teenagers and young women have been copying them with special contact lenses imported from Asia. Known as circle lenses, these are colored contacts — sometimes in weird shades like violet and pink — that make the eyes appear larger because they cover not just the iris, as normal lenses do, but also part of the whites.
These lenses might be just another beauty fad if not for the facts that they are contraband and that eye doctors express grave concern over them.
The lenses are widely available online, typically for $20 to $30 a pair, both in prescription strengths and purely decorative. On message boards and in YouTube videos, young women and teenage girls have been spreading the word about where to buy them.
The lenses give wearers a childlike, doe-eyed appearance. The look is characteristic of Japanese anime and is also popular in Korea. Fame-seekers there called “ulzzang girls” post cute but sexy head shots of themselves online, nearly always wearing circle lenses to accentuate their eyes.
Kristin Rowland, a college senior from Shirley, NY, has several pairs of circle lenses, including purple ones that are prescription strength and lime green ones that she wears behind her glasses. Without them, she said, her eyes look “really tiny”; the lenses “make them look like they exist.”
Karen Riley, a spokeswoman for the FDA, was a bit surprised, too. She wrote in an e-mail message, “Consumers risk significant eye injuries — even blindness” when they buy contact lenses without a valid prescription.
A makeup artist named Michelle Phan introduced many to circle lenses through a video tutorial on YouTube, where she demonstrates how to get “crazy, googly Lady Gaga eyes.” Phan’s video, called “Lady Gaga Bad Romance Look,” has been viewed more than 9.4 million times. “In Asia, it’s all about the eyes in makeup,” said Phan, a Vietnamese-American blogger. “They like the whole innocent doll-like look, almost like anime.”