Contact lenses that darken when exposed to light? Check out the new Acuvue® Oasys with Transitions™ Light Intelligent Technology™
The innovative contact lenses change from clear to dark in less than a minute, helping your eyes adjust to fluctuating light conditions, while also blocking out harmful UV rays. A scientist explains how it all works.
Hate that feeling of having to squint whenever your eyes are exposed to harsh light?
Now, you may not have to, thanks to the new Acuvue® Oasys Contact Lenses with Transitions™ Light Intelligent Technology™ which automatically darken when exposed to bright light.
The first-of-its-kind contact lenses—which offer the highest level of UV protection available in contact lenses, including 100% protection against UVB rays—darken in less than a minute, and fade back to clear in about 90 seconds when you’re no longer in bright light. As a result, the two-week reusable lenses continuously adapt from clear to dark and back again, helping your eyes adjust to changing indoor or outdoor light conditions more effectively than your eyes could do on their own.
“Trillions of photochromic molecules are spread throughout each lens,” explains Zohra Fadli, Director of Sphere-Light Management-Lens Care and Global Platform Lead, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., who oversaw the project for more than a decade. “These molecules are highly responsive to both UV light and certain kinds of bright light, so when they’re exposed to either, a chemical reaction occurs that makes them change structure and darken.”
It’s such truly innovative technology that Time named Acuvue Oasys with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology to its list of the 50 best inventions of 2018.
Research found that people who wore these photochromic contact lenses had faster photostress recovery, less squinting on average and improved chromatic contrast compared to those who wore the leading reusable contact lens.
A detailed look at how the innovative contact lenses work
Curious to learn more about how this is all possible? We break down the process in four steps:
1. The lenses are composed of a material called senofilcon A, a material already used in Acuvue® Oasys lenses that’s widely known for its exceptional performance when it comes to both comfort and vision correction. “We took that senofilcon and incorporated customized photochromic molecules inside of them,” Fadli explains.
Photochromic molecules have been used to make sunglass lenses for years, and Johnson & Johnson Vision worked with Transitions Optical, the leading provider of photochromic eyeglass lenses, to combine the groundbreaking Transitions Light Intelligent Technology with its advanced Acuvue contact lens material.
“If you were to look deeply at the structure of most of these molecules, you would see they are closed like a container,” Fadli says. As a result, when these lenses are at rest—meaning they are not exposed to UV or light rays—the contacts are clear.
2. As the molecules pick up on light rays, a chemical reaction occurs that causes them to change their structure. “As soon as they are hit with UV or light rays, the closed molecules open up,” Fadli says. In response, they darken and absorb the visible light—all in under a minute.
3. At full activation, the lenses can block up to 70% of visible light. Johnson & Johnson Vision scientists conducted numerous clinical studies before they finally found the “just-right” level of photochromic concentration: “strong enough to effectively block out light and UV rays, while also minimizing cosmetic changes,” Fadli says.
“They will not get as dark as sunglasses. If they did, people with light-colored irises, such as blue or green, would have their eyes temporarily appear to turn to a hazel or brown color,” she explains. “We didn’t think people would want to use a contact lens that would completely mask their eye color.”
It’s also important to note, says Fadli, that the contact lenses aren’t a replacement for sunglasses. While the lenses do provide UV protection to the areas they cover, other parts of the eye, as well as the surrounding skin, are still exposed to UV light, so sunglasses should be worn to help protect the entire eye area whenever you’re outside.
4. “The moment the UV or bright light rays are removed, the lens will begin to change again,” Fadli says. “The photochromic molecules start closing, and the lens begins returning to its original clear color.” The lenses fade back from dark to clear in about 90 seconds, when going from the outdoors to the indoors.
Johnson & Johnson Vision’s research, presented at the 2018 American Academy of Optometry Annual Meeting, found that people who wore these photochromic contact lenses had faster photostress recovery (vision recovery after bright light exposure), less squinting on average and improved chromatic contrast (when one color stands out more than another) compared to those who wore the leading reusable contact lens.
Learn more about Acuvue Oasys with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology, including the product’s UV and safety information.