When the reclusive French writer Marcel Proust claimed that ‘ The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes,' it's unlikely that he had colour contact lenses in mind.
However, if you accept the old adage that the ‘eyes are the window to the soul' then you'll begin to understand the impact that a pair of coloured contact lenses can really make.
Today coloured contact lenses are big business and are no longer restricted to simply altering natural eye colour. In fact they're available for everything from special effects contact lenses (for novelty use and fancy dress) to light filtering tints that actually help the wearer differentiate between colours. For a more detailed breakdown of what's on the market click here.
Most colour contact lenses fall into the category of ‘cosmetic' rather than ‘medical' devices, and can be bought over the Internet without a prescription (lenses with no corrective power are known as ‘plano'). However color lenses are also available for people who suffer from astigmatism and presbyopia. Colour contacts are available as extended wear lenses, disposable and daily disposable contact lenses.
A number of the larger manufacturers have developed websites to help you choose the right lens colour (where you can electronically mix and match the color of the lens with different skin and hair tones), although they generally do not supply lenses directly to the public. CIBA Vision is the current market leader, with the widest variety of lenses in their flagship Freshlook range.
The majority of colour contact lenses are soft, which means that they are largely made of water and first time wearers generally get used to them quickly. Rigid gas permeable color lenses are currently restricted to Enhancement tints and Visibility tints.