Special Eye Effects: Transforming Appearances and Changing Lives

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Special effect contact lenses are a piece of Hollywood magic that have transformed celebrity looks on stage and on the big screen. Recently Kanye West sported wolf-like special effect lenses during his performance on the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special, but did you know that he saw an eye doctor first?

VSP provider Dr. Mitch Cassel, optometrist at STUDIO OPTIX in New York City, fitted Kanye’s special effect contacts and has a history of working with some of Hollywood’s finest to create custom looks for movies, such as Natalie Portman in Black Swan and Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street and is responsible for creating a blind eye effect for Robert De Niro in Red Lights.

Getting an eye exam and contact lens fitting is an important step in the process of purchasing special effect contact lenses. Dr. Mitch gives us the scoop:

I can’t emphasize the importance enough of having an eye exam first with an eye care professional to ensure the safety of a patient’s eyes. A proper eye exam is the first step to determine if you can even wear contact lenses, which includes analyzing a patient’s visual acuity and health of a patient’s eyes.

All the actors I work with must have an eye exam prior to a contact lens fitting. Many actors can play a role that requires various makeup applications, including appliances to totally change their look, requiring extreme caution when wearing contact lenses.

I work very closely with the makeup artists and individual actors to help create a look they are attempting to achieve—aged, disfigured, bloody, color changed, dilated, blind, etc. While filming, it is important to maintain control of the actor’s eye health and provide staff members on set to prevent or address any concerns.

Just like wearing any other type of contact lenses, special effect contact lenses need to be cared for properly to prevent complications. I advise my patients never to share, over-wear or sleep in contact lenses. After all, you only have one set of eyes!

Custom contact lenses aren’t just for celebrities. I also have a specialty in prosthetic contact lenses, which can be used for therapeutic and cosmetic eye benefits including reduction of light sensitivity, double vision or even to minimize the appearance of abnormalities caused by traumatic eye injuries or congenital defects.

A scarred or disfigured eye can happen to anyone: in a split-second, someone can lose or damage their eye from a flying cork released from a bottle of sparkling wine, car accident, pencil accidently hitting their eye, or BB gun accident, to name a few.

Using hand-painted custom designed prosthetic lenses to provide a very natural looking eye can make a significant difference in someone’s life. Just think back to when you were younger, perhaps having acne problems and having to deal with that. Now think of what these patients have to deal with on a daily basis—a scarred, horrific looking eye. The psychological benefits to a patient’s life are paramount and the most rewarding thing we can provide. It’s even better than meeting any actor! And I have met many over the years.

Mitch Cassel, ODAbout Dr. Mitch Cassel: Dr. Mitchell Cassel is a 1982 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. He has a group practice in NYC called STUDIO OPTIX, specializing in primary eye care, concentrating on contact lenses with a unique specialty in colored contact lenses. He also provides Custom Color Contacts, including soft lens designs for prosthetic ,cosmetic and special eye effects for over 20 years to eye care professionals and the motion picture and television industries.



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