Are These Mysterious Contacts the New Anti-Aging Secret?

woman with freckles looking up through leaves of tree

 Sabine Arnold / EyeEm / Getty 

Everyone knows that your eyes can give away your age (hi, crow’s feet). But what about your actual eyeball—like, the round thing in your socket that allows you to see? Now there’s an interesting plot twist. In this day and age, we can pretty much anti-age any part of our bodies: our face, our hands, our thighs, and even our hair. We also know—through science, thanks—exactly what traits make us more attractive to others so we can focus our sculpting, lifting, and tightening efforts. And yet, there’s always something else, isn’t there? In this case, I’m talking about your limbal rings. If you’re like I was and have no idea what those are (and are possibly feeling slightly offended because are you seriously telling me I have to anti-age my eyeball?), I encourage you to put aside your incredulity, keep scrolling, and read on.

The Study

In 2011, a researcher by the name of Darren Peshek led a study at the University of California, Irvine and discovered an interesting phenomenon: Both male and female faces with defined limbal rings were perceived as more attractive than identical faces with no limbal ring. Which is great and all, but like, what the heck are limbal rings? The study calls them the “dark annulus where the iris meets the sclera”—in normal-people terms, it’s basically the line that goes around your iris. We’re all born with more-defined limbal rings, and with age, they become less prominent. So next time you’re mad at someone, feel free to add in a “And your limbal rings are so not defined!” to really hit them where it hurts.

In the study, men looked at identical images of the same woman, one with more defined limbal rings and one without—and the photo with defined limbal rings was deemed as more attractive. The exact thing happened when women looked at photos of men. Since limbal rings are thickest from infancy through your early 20s, this surprising feature is yet another indicator of your age. And up until now, there was nothing you could do about it…

The Contacts

You might associate colored contacts with bad Halloween costumes or ’90s raves, but the latest breed of eye color–enhancing contact lenses want to change that. Acuvue just released a new line of contacts, called 1-Day Define, that are meant to accentuate your natural eye color and define your limbal ring, while Alcon’s Air Optix Colors offer “subtle enhancements” to your eye color, as bolder and more striking options (Brilliant Blue, Gemstone Green, and Honey, to name a few). Just like how applying eyeliner accentuates your eyes and mascara takes your lashes to new heights, these new contacts are meant to define and bring out the sexy irises you already possess—oh, and maybe just help you look younger in the process.

When Acuvue invited me to speak with Dr. Elise Brisco, an optometrist who carries these contacts in her practice, I jumped at the opportunity—my boring brown eyes were in need of an update, albeit a natural-looking one (as an Asian, you can really only change your eye color so much before it's obvious you're wearing colored contacts). “A person’s eyes are often the first thing we notice about someone,” she told me. “Enhancement contacts like 1-Day Acuvue Define make your eyes appear brighter and more awake. They use light effect patterns to bring out natural highlights and define the limbal ring.” She emphasizes that Acuvue’s version isn’t meant to change the color of your eyes, but rather enhance their existing beauty. “They add depth and dimension to your eyes without changing your natural color or masking it,” she says. “Plus, the added contrast makes your eyes look brighter, whiter, and more awake!” My interest piqued, I decided to give them a try.

My Experience

There are three levels of the Acuvue 1-Day Define lenses. In order of intensity, they are Natural Sparkle, Natural Shimmer, and Natural Shine. I decided to go with Natural Shimmer, because the photos of Natural Shine were vaguely Kewpie doll–esque, and a naked baby with giant pupils wasn’t necessarily the look I was going for. The contacts actually felt softer and more comfortable than my everyday contacts, and I didn’t find that my vision felt obstructed at all, except when I was staring into a computer screen at work. As for my eyes, my boring browns suddenly looked brighter, sparklier, and clearer. I felt like I had a hidden superpower, similar to when I used a $99 pheromone potion without telling my boyfriend. With my cool, limbal-defining contacts on, I certainly felt more attractive (debate is up on whether or not I actually looked more attractive, because my boyfriend did not notice anything different about me, even when I stared beseechingly into his eyes and screamed, “WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT MY FACE?”). Female friends, however, said they saw a difference and liked the natural definition—one friend noticed them right away without me even saying anything, while another one had to peer straight into my soul eyes before seeing the difference. One other side effect of these contact lenses: I didn’t feel the need to wear as much makeup. No, my irises were defined and shining, and I didn’t need copious amounts of eyeliner to feel confident batting my (small, Asian) eyes anymore, thank you very much.

I save these contacts for special occasions—when I want to feel particularly foxy-slash-confident—but can definitely see the appeal in wearing them every day (except for the part where they slightly blur my vision when trying to read). I’ve seen the AirOptix Colors in action as well and can attest to their beauty. At their event, one brown-eyed editor tried on the Sterling Grey shade, and her entire face instantly looked brighter. I would recommend the AirOptix Colors to anyone looking for a bold (but still natural) eye color update, and Acuvue's Define lenses for those looking for a more subtle enhancement. Either way, the latest crop of colored contacts is leagues ahead of the mostly sea-green version from the '90s, and for that, we should all be grateful. 

Keep scrolling to see the Acuvue Define lenses in action!

Woman wearing Acuvue Define Lens contact on her right eye
Courtesy of Acuvue

Left: Without Acuvue 1-Day Define

Right: With Acuvue 1-Day Define

You can buy the Acuvue 1-Day Define and AirOptix Colors online, as well as in person at your local provider.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Peshek D, Semmaknejad N, Hoffman D, Foley P. Preliminary evidence that the limbal ring influences facial attractivenessEvol Psychol. 2011;9(2):137–146.

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