Sights set on Hollywood - Prince of Wales' ophthalmologist uncovers colourful history of contact lenses
Professor Minas Coroneo AO, Department of Ophthalmology, Prince of Wales Hospital, recently published an article in peer-reviewed journal The Ocular Surface exploring the early history of coloured contact lenses.
Professor Coroneo said the topic sparked his interest and that of his co-authors – Hans-Walter Roth, Institute for Contact Lens Research in Germany and Ezra Maguen, American Eye Institute – as in recent decades, a vast industry has grown around altering or enhancing eye appearance.
“Our research found the conjunction of contact lens development and Hollywood during the 1940s led to early adoption of this new technology – particularly by actors as it meant they did not have to wear glasses and could alter their eye colour,” Professor Coroneo said.
“It's possible that Ronald Reagan's acting career may not have occurred had he not used these contact lenses for his short sightedness.
“We also explored this correlation in connection with Hollywood's most iconic actress, Marilyn Monroe.
“Our research uncovered Monroe's eye colour changed in both published images of her and in some of her movies, suggesting she was short-sighted. Based on these findings, it's likely she ‘overwore' contact lenses and would have needed treatment with adrenaline eye drops to keep her eyes uninflamed,” Professor Coroneo said.
The article, titled Was Marilyn Monroe myopic and an early adopter of coloured contact lenses? A review of the evidence and the early history of coloured contact lenses, also observed how Monroe's bright, shiny eyes created an association of this aesthetic with youth and attractiveness.
“Pursuit of this beauty standard has driven the development of newer procedures in ophthalmology – advances in both refractive laser surgery and contact lenses have increased the safety margin of these interventions, freeing many from the need to wear glasses,” Professor Coroneo said.
“Eye whitening and iris colour alteration by use of contact lenses or coloured implants are associated with significant risk and poor outcomes – as such, in the future, its likely we will see newer iris laser procedures to change eye colour continue to develop,” Professor Coroneo said.
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