This Surgery Changes Your Eye Color in 30 Minutes

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It might be new to TikTok and social media, but the eye color change surgery you might be seeing online isn’t actually that new. It’s called Keratopigmentation, essentially cornea tattooing, and the allure of social media videos is catching the attention of individuals who’ve always desired a different color in the eye chromosome lottery.

“TikTok made me do it” is a trend that has even reached seasoned plastic surgeons. Miami plastic surgeon Constantino Mendieta, MD recently underwent the procedure and reveals that he’s harbored a desire to change his eye color for decades. This was the first time he felt he could achieve it, and he, too, was enticed by flashy social media videos.

Image/ Dr. Constantino Mendieta

How Eye Color Change Surgery Works 

A New York City practice called KERATO, led by ophthalmologist Alexander Movshovich, MD, is performing Keratopigmentation surgery. The procedure involves changing eye color by placing specially colored pigments into the superficial cornea. This technique was first utilized in 2013 by Dr. Ferrari in Paris, France, with Spanish ophthalmologist Jorge Alio also credited for advancing the technique in the 2010s.

Today, more patients like Dr. Mendieta have been undergoing the procedure, paying as much as they would for a breast augmentation. Dr. Mendieta says his treatment took 30 minutes, cost $12,000, and was completed in less time than his wife’s manicure.

“I’ve always wanted blue eyes,” Dr. Mendieta confesses, reflecting on the genesis of his journey. “Ever since I was born, I stood up and asked the nurse, ‘Are they blue?’ And she said no. So, I said, okay, ever since.”

Possible Challenges 

Dr. Mendieta had contemplated this procedure for so long that he even traveled to Paris to see Dr. Ferrari, renowned for his expertise in eye color change surgery. However, he was told he couldn’t undergo the procedure due to his cataracts. Undeterred by initial setbacks, including bilateral cataracts and retinal detachments, Dr. Mendieta continued to search for solutions.

“I flew to Paris to get it done,” Dr. Mendieta recounts. “All cataract and then complications from retinal detachments kept me about three years out. So once my eyes stabilized and they’ve done everything, then that’s when I started looking into it again, but then the issue became that I had LASIK surgery.”

Dr. Mendieta ultimately found Dr. Movshovich’s viral videos. “I was on Instagram and I saw this keratopigmentation,” Dr. Mendieta recalls. “And I started seeing some of the results, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this looks insanely good.’“

During his consultation, Dr. Movshovich told him he had found a way to deposit the pigment, even in patients who’ve undergone LASIK. “The procedure was insanely simple,” Dr. Mendieta shares. “I mean, it took my wife longer to do her nails than for me to get this done.”

“He just puts eyedrops on you,” Dr. Mendieta explains. “You go in there, and he puts you in this CT scan looking machine where he gets to look through the microscope.”

Is Eye Color Change Surgery Safe? 

Woodbury, NY office oculoplastic surgeon David Schlessinger, MD, remains wary of eye color change surgery, highlighting potential risks such as infection and vision loss. Despite these concerns, Dr. Schlessinger acknowledges the allure of the procedure, emphasizing the need for further research and long-term studies to ensure safety and efficacy.

“The latest technique uses a femtosecond laser to place pigment within the cornea. It appears to work with low risk. However, anytime you perform a corneal operation on a healthy eye, you run the risk of dry eye, infections, vision loss, and alterations to the cornea. This new form of corneal tattooing is relatively new, and I can’t find any studies showing long-term efficacy and safety.”

What Is Eye Color Change Surgery Recovery Like? 

“The recovery was smooth. Initially, there was about 80 percent blurriness, but it improved rapidly,” said Dr. Mendieta. “By the next day, it was down to 20 percent, and now it’s just around 2 to 3 percent. I do have some dryness, so I’m using eye drops regularly. Dr. Movshovich was thorough in preparing me, so I felt confident throughout. He mentioned that the pigment may lighten over time, like any tattoo, typically lasting about 10 years. Most people are thrilled with their new color, but some may want adjustments. While you can’t fully revert to your original color, Dr. Movshovich is developing techniques to get as close as possible.”

Early Adopter or Wait and See? 

Dr. Mendieta expresses profound satisfaction with the outcome of his eye color change surgery, describing it as the realization of a lifelong aspiration. He shares his delight in choosing a shade of grey, even lighter than blue, which he admits took a brief period of adjustment. “It did take me a couple of days to get used to it,” Dr. Mendieta reflects. “That’s really important too. Part of me was scared and nervous that I just looked different, but now I’m like ‘Wow.’ I love that you go through a few days there where you’re like, this looks a little strange, but in a good way. I really love how my eyes look.”

In contrast, Dr. Schlessinger remains cautious, expressing reservations about recommending the treatment quite yet. “I personally would not recommend this treatment as there is a risk of vision loss and long-term studies aren’t out yet.”

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