Tameka "Tiny" Harris, rapper T.I.’s wife, has unexpectedly become the poster child for eye-color change surgery after she publically revealed her new surgically implanted ice-gray-colored contacts. Although Harris is more than pleased with the results of her operation, the procedure has robbed others of their sight. It’s unknown whether Harris’s involvement with eye implant surgery will lead to an increase in operations, but it’s still important to understand what these procedures involve and the risks they pose to patients.
On her Instagram account, Harris revealed that she had her eye operation done at BrightOcular. According to the company’s webpage, they use “United States developed artificial iris implants made of a thin, flexible, biocompatible, colored medical grade silicon.” The implants are advertised as being used to treat cases of eye abnormalities, such as ocular albinism, or to help those who suffer from extreme photosensitivity. However, the before and after photos are void of any signs of albinism and instead filled with seemingly cosmetic brown- to blue-eye color transformations.
To be fair, the entire world’s population actually has blue eyes beaneath the common brown. It’s just that we can only see this blue coloring in about eight percent of us. Blue is essentially the lack of pigmentation. For most of us, depending on the genes we’ve inherited from our parents, our eyes develop an assortment of pigmentation to help protect them from the sun’s harsh rays. Blue eyes are a fairly recent genetic mutation in the human race that causes less pigmentation to form on the iris.
For those who want to lighten their eyes without invasive implants, there are procedures available where a doctor will slowly strip away an individual’s dark eye pigmentation with a laser to reveal the colorless iris underneath, which we perceive as being blue. This procedure takes many treatments, and it will often be weeks before the full color change is reached.
STROMA is one such company that offers this laser eye-color-changing treatment, although at the moment it advertises that the procedure is not currently available to the general public. “Due to the relative cost and complexity of releasing a cosmetic medical device in the United States, we expect to release the procedure outside the United States first,” reads the website.
These procedures do not come without their own list of dangers. Eye implants may cause “infections, ocular hypertension, iritis, corneal edema, hyphemacorneal decompensation, endothelial cell loss, natural lens opacification, and photophobia. Implants can be removed if any side effects occur,” according to the BrightOcular webpage. Laser surgery runs the risk of causing pigmentary glaucoma, a condition that can seriously affect an individual’s eyesight.
Our fascination with blue eyes is complicated. Up front, favoritism toward those with lighter features is tied to lingering remnants of colorism left over from European colonization. However, a piece of our preference for big blue eyes comes from way before European countries were formed, never mind colonizing other continents.
Preferring blue eyes may be partly instinctual. "This [blue eye] gene does something good for people. It makes them have more kids," explained Dr. John Hawks from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to LiveScience. The blue-eye mutation sprung up in a single man between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, and although scientists aren’t sure why, it was very popular when it came to mate selection. Thanks to sexual selection, the blue-eye mutation rapidly spread across the European continent, and today some over 80 percent of the population has blue eyes.