The implication that Gaga “inspired” the trend is weightless in both pieces; and both writers tacitly acknowledge this in some capacity describing how the trend began in Asia. From Saint Louis:

The look is characteristic of Japanese anime and is also popular in Korea. Fame-seekers there called “ulzzang girls” post cute but sexy head shots of themselves online, nearly always wearing circle lenses to accentuate their eyes. (“Ulzzang” means “best face” in Korean, but it is also shorthand for “pretty.”)

Now that circle lenses have gone mainstream in Japan, Singapore and South Korea, they are turning up in American high schools and on college campuses. “In the past year, there’s been a sharp increase in interest here in the U.S.,” said Joyce Kim, a founder of, an Asian pop fan site with a forum devoted to circle lenses. “Once early adopters have adequately posted about it, discussed it and reviewed them, it’s now available to everyone.”

With Gaga out of the way, both stories then go through the familiar this-trend-could-be-dangerous motions. But there doesn’t seem much to it. From Schiewe:

Perhaps the biggest tiff that doctors such as Salz have with these lenses is that girls can buy these without a prescription. No prescription means no sizing or fitting of the lenses to the eye.

“Each eye is unique and has different curvatures. There isn’t just one size,” Salz said.

For those who wear contacts that are too tight, the risks include swelling of the cornea, redness or corneal abrasion. Contacts that are too loose will move around and can also cause irritation and redness.

These and other highlighted problems—sleeping in the contacts can lead to infection, ill-fitting contacts can cause visionary problems—are hardly unique to circle lenses; they’re the caveat for any contact lenses. So, in sum: these big contacts are dangerous… just like little contacts.

We’re not saying there’s no story here, but the reporting’s not there to back it up. And though other write-ups on the lenses have taken a similar tact tack, we’d expect better from these two coastal pillars. There’s nothing to show for the pop star connection, and the danger angle feels like a bit of a beat-up. The L.A. Times seems says as much in its piece.

Dr. James Salz, clinical professor of ophthalmology at USC, says the lenses aren’t radically different from the older colored contacts used for years to change people’s eye color, “except that before, the contacts weren’t also trying to enlarge the color of the iris.”

And while both articles point out there is greater concern here because the lenses are not being prescribed but bought online, and thus there is no proper medical instruction, this is the case with all un-prescribed medications bought on the Internet. And we’re not seeing stories about those.

Must be the Gaga factor, even if it’s not there.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.