About five years ago, a good friend of mine approached her car to find a letter from the guy she’d been seeing. Unlike the “miss you” or “love you” little somethings typically left by someone you’re dating, hers had a rather distinct message: “You’re great, but I’ve always pictured myself with someone who has darker eyes.”
“Darker eyes?!” I exclaimed (once I got the “What a jerk!” and “You deserve so much better!” out of the way). I was in disbelief because I, like so many others, longed for beautiful bright blue eyes like hers, and secondly, I didn’t believe eye color held that much stock when it came to attracting a significant other. I even wondered if my own eyes could ever make or break a future relationship. Depending on the day, my peepers are a muddy pool of greenish, grayish, and brownish colors. I eventually defined them as green, rather than hazel, for the sake of my driver’s license.
Fast-forward several years of beauty writing and neither my curiosity nor my eye color have changed. So I decided to confront both in a quest to finally answer the question: What’s in an eye color? And are people really (really?) passing up potential partners based solely on pigment preferences?
According to Dr. Michael Chernich, the optometrist at LensCrafters who was tasked with answering my every question, I couldn’t have chosen a better time, thanks to the recent introduction of Air Optix Colors, a new line of breathable colored contact lenses from Alcon. Chernich regarded them as “safe enough for wearing every day for 30 days without having to sacrifice health for beauty.” The lenses cost $90 for a 30-day pack, but you can register for a free trial and see an eye-care professional about possible insurance coverage.
I was itching to get my hands dirty with the innovation, but first, Dr. Chernich insisted I undergo a few tests. An eye-care associate named Richard patiently walked me through the equipment. There was the autorefractor to measure refractive error. Then came the non-contact tonometer to measure pressure, followed by Ishihara’s Test (devised to detect colored blindness), a depth-perception test, an Optomap retinal exam (offering a widefield view of the retina), and, finally, a visual field test to gauge side vision. After one more check-in with Dr. Chernich, he assured me I had 20/20 vision (even though there were times I “had to work for it”) and provided my eye measurements.
Perhaps even more interesting were his notes on my limbal ring (the name given to the effect of having a darker outline around the iris) and small pupils (while I never gave notice to them before, a little comparing among friends would prove this to be true).
I was then off to the eye-color dressing room, where I felt squeamish. “I gag at the thought of having to go fishing for mascara goop. What was I thinking?” I thought to myself. Forget that. I couldn’t back out now. I had come so far. After about 30 minutes of practice (all mental), I managed to get my first set of contacts in. And then — the hardest part — to take them out. A few rounds and a little help from a sweet sales supervisor named Luisa later, I decided on three shades that made the biggest difference — honey, brilliant blue, and brown — and went on my way.
Look into my eyes (I’ve always wanted to say that), and, more importantly, keep reading to get some insight into my experience wearing each colored contact.
I chose to debut the honey shade for a date with the guy I’ve been seeing. He noticed right away, and after pointing out an “orangey glow” (always a tough sell, that gent), he grew to like it. He wasn’t the only one.
After my roommates figured out what I’d changed about my look — “no, not my hair” — even Shari, who had originally challenged my experiment (“colored contacts, like from high school?), warmed up. She told me she liked the way the shade made my hair color stand out.
Blame it on my obsession with Twilight, but this ended up being my favorite shade of all — far enough from my usual eye color to make a difference, yet too close for people to call it into question.
Like my own little secret, I also appreciated how well the honey played with my makeup. I’d typically stuck to earth tones with my green-like eyes, but the honey lent itself to a wider range of colored eye shadows and liners, specifically metallics, teals, and greens.
I decided to break out these bad boys for a birthday party I was invited to, because I knew there would be a mix of familiar faces and total strangers.
After about 20 minutes of talking to one of my really good girlfriends (and creepily getting closer and closer to her to prompt her to say something), I asked if she’d noticed anything different about me.
“Well, your eyes are blue,” she said casually. When I asked her why she hadn’t mentioned anything, she said she noticed right away but didn’t know if I would have wanted her to bring it up.
That wasn’t an issue for the girl who came rushing up to me just an hour later to tell me how beautiful they were, or the guy who approached me to share a similar sentiment later that night.
I test-drove the shade on several other occasions and throughout the span of the experiment, they warranted me the most attention, especially from afar.
Was this because these were the least natural-looking shade of the bunch? Or, as Dr. Chernich would put it, “you want someone to look at you wearing your contacts, not your contacts.” (My natural eye color also leaked through a bit due to that whole small pupil problem I noted earlier.)
While I didn’t experience the newfound makeup freedom like in the case of the honey, I found that the blue shade limited my color choices because it was so bold in and of itself. Overall, I found the blue to be a lot of fun; I consider it to be like the party girl of the colored-contact group.
I tried to space out honey and brown so there was a little more contrast, especially when it came to the people who I spend the most time with. This included those in my “supper club,” a monthly dinner hosted by one of six close girlfriends during which we catch up while chowing down.
Fifteen minutes into the meal, my friend Katie started looking at me suspiciously. “Something is different about you. It’s your eyes. Are they darker? Are you wearing contacts?”
Then they were all on to me, inquiring as to how comfortable they were and noting how they made my vibe seem “warmer.”
The cocoa shade attracted more glances than I’m used to while out and about, and one guy friend noted the brown eye shade, like honey, really “complemented my darker hair.” I’m not sure if it was the attention from the outside, or something from the inside, but walking on the darker side of the beauty street made me feel just a tad sassier than usual.
Did my latest revelation prove that my friend’s ex (the jerk with the breakup note) was actually on to something? After all, Dr. Chernich said customers typically go lighter. Since “rarer than darker eyes, having blue/green eyes makes someone stand out.”
“Those with dark eyes can use brighter colors to stand out” and those with “blue or green use colors to enhance what they already have,” he added.