Turning Brown Eyes Blue

November 18th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

One eye color-changing procedure has some people seeing red.

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The Responsibility Project

Greg Homer, founder of Stroma Medical in Laguna Beach, Calif., told the New York Daily News that he has developed a laser that will irreversibly turn brown eyes blue in a 20-second procedure that won’t damage vision, all for around $5,000. He has already tested it on a dozen people in Mexico, removing small patches of brown pigment from at least one eye in each volunteer.

As you might guess, the procedure is causing a bit of a stir. “People like the depth of a light eye,” he told the Daily News. “Eyes are like the windows to the soul, and a light eye is like an open window.”

Before you get too angry about Homer’s apparent distaste for those with darker eyes, he says that we all have blue eyes; it’s just that some people have a pesky layer of melanin pigment covering their baby blues. The procedure uses a special laser to zap a patient’s cornea, disrupting the melanin pigment. The color change occurs gradually over three weeks.

Is it dangerous? A spokesman for the American College of Ophthalmology told CBS News that the released pigment “has to go somewhere,” and added, “A potentially blinding condition called pigmentary glaucoma is known to be associated with the chronic seepage of melanin into the fluid of the eye.” Dr. Brian S. Boxer Wachler, an ophthalmologist and director of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Beverly Hills, Calif., verified that brown eyes are covering up blue eyes underneath. But, in an interview with MSNBC, he said that safety is the “big question mark on this technology.” Cases of eye trauma and inflammation also can disrupt pigment on the iris and cause patches of blue to show through. He said before he would use it, he would have to see studies to show it doesn’t cause increased chances of glaucoma or cataracts because of damage to the eyes’ natural lenses.

But perhaps more importantly, as Time magazine pointed out, people’s desire to change the color of their eyes could be viewed as “tantamount to dismissing family ties.” While Homer has been reiterating in interviews that brown eyes are just as nice as blue (he just wants to give people a choice), Time posits, “The switch feels like adherence to an old-fashioned, golden-haired, blue-eyed, Barbie-based notion of beauty.” The article suggests that we’ve failed to globalize our notion of what’s attractive and works against the message we’ve been sending to young girls in recent decades – that beauty comes in all shades and sizes.

Just a fashion choice, or a cultural backslide? Tell us.