There’s an unnecessary amount of mystery around buzzwords like Hydraclear, used to describe technologies embedded in your contacts (in this case from Acuvue). Are they just empty marketing terms? A lot of online resources don’t go far enough to provide context to explain what these technologies are for, why they’re important, and how they compare with others. We previously wrote about Hydraluxe, a similar feature found in Acuvue Oasys 1-Day. However, if you’re curious about Hydraclear Plus, read on.
What is Hydraclear Plus?
Hydraclear Plus is a comfort-promoting contact lens technology developed by Acuvue (manufactured by Johnson & Johnson) and found in their Acuvue Oasys daily disposable line of contacts, specifically: 1-Day Acuvue Trueye, Acuvue Oasys, Acuvue Oasys for Presbyopia, Acuvue Oasys for Astigmatism, and the newly launched Acuvue Oasys Multifocal. Hydraclear was 1st introduced in 2003 with Acuvue Advance and has been iterated upon with Hydraclear ‘Plus’. Like Lacreon and Hydraluxe, Hydraclear is a heavily marketed feature by the brand, even figuring into the contact lens name itself and packaging, ie “Acuvue Oasys w/Hydraclear Plus.”
Hydraclear Plus consists of 2 components:
- A wetting agent that hydrates the eye and reduces friction and discomfort
- A specially designed material infused with this agent, not just at the lens surface but throughout the material (think of a sponge), allowing it to be released throughout the course of a day
The wetting agent comes in the form of Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), an FDA-approved water-soluble polymer (a class of materials made of long, repeating chains of molecules). The ‘secret sauce’ of Hydraclear Plus comes not only in the use of PVP but how it’s incorporated into the contact lens structure (referred to as a ‘matrix’). This formulation has been patented by the company. Note that Hydraclear Plus is not related to UV protection (which these lenses also include as a separate feature), but is limited to promoting eye comfort.
Why is Hydraclear Plus needed?
Hydraclear is designed to ensure stable tear film, which is necessary in supporting eye comfort and health. What is a tear film? Tear film is a naturally occurring thin layer of liquid that covers our eyes and serves to protect them from the environment while maintaining comfort and optimal vision. Wearing contacts can upset the functioning of this essential film, and thus manufacturers must design methods to stabilize or enhance this film. Enter Hydraclear Plus and its PVP wetting agent that mimics the lubricating function that natural tear film provides.
Beyond the technical reasons, there are a couple of external forces driving the development of technology like Hydraclear and others. The 1st are expectations from contact lens wearers to see continual improvement in the issues they face while wearing contacts, including dry eyes and other ailments. The other is competitive pressure from other manufacturers attempting to do the same, in an environment where large improvements in materials and design are hard to come by.
On the performance requirement side, Johnson & Johnson claims that 6 out of 10 wearers of daily contacts experience a decline in performance over the course of a day. The drivers of this decline include dealing with multiple activities and switching between environments throughout the day (use of digital devices, commuting, exercising, and family time in a single day). Wearers of this group consistently report ‘tired eyes’ from this challenging environment. One of the root causes of this ‘tiredness’ is the need to support eye hydration, so manufacturers use agents embedded in the lens that supplement what your eye naturally provides (in the form of a tear film), with an additional wetting agent (in this case, Polyvinylpyrrolidone).
The other reason for the inclusion of Hydraclear is down to marketing. We’re not referring to the technology itself but to its branding and promotion. In a sometimes crowded marketplace where product differentiation is difficult because materials and technologies are so similar, companies are forced to further differentiate themselves with unique names and branding. This is not a cynical take, nor is this phenomenon exclusive to this brand, but it’s a reality of an industry that’s fairly mature already. Computer chips get faster every year but contact lenses don’t always get more comfortable with each passing year. It’s a much more stable industry. Calling out ‘Hydraclear’ may help consumers identify and understand differences between brands.
How Does Hydraclear Compare with other Contact Lens Technologies?
One of the more interesting comparisons is between Hydraclear and the brand’s other technologies that sit alongside it, found in the brand’s other contacts. These technologies include Lacreon (used by 1-Day Acuvue Moist) and Hydraluxe. What’s known is that all 3 (Hydraluxe, Lacreon, and Hydraclear) follow the same approach of infusing wetting agents into the lens material. The wetting agent used is also the same, Polyvinylpyrrolidone. The differences boil down to lens materials (some lenses use hydrogel, others use silicone hydrogel), and differing replacement schedules (Hydraclear lenses are 2-week lenses, while Hydraluxe lenses are daily disposables). These differences dictate the amount and formulation of wetting agents used, but the approach and objective for using them is the same. There is no published data detailing the exact differences in formulations between these very similar technologies. Overall, despite the brand’s decision to use 3 different names to refer to the same tech, we don’t think it’s relevant for wearers to choose a lens because one uses Lacreon, while another uses Hydraclear. Once again, this is a method of differentiation used for marketing purposes. The fact that Acuvue uses this technological approach to address comfort and eye health in all of their lenses is what’s important.
What’s our take at Lens.com
We sell the complete line of Acuvue contacts, including those that use Hydraclear Plus, and find they are very popular, highly rated lenses with our customers. Acuvue Oasys w/Hydraluxe occupies the #2 and #5 spots on our top 10 contacts of 2021 and boasts an average user rating of 8.3 out of 10. We find that our customers love many of Acuvue’s contacts as this family of lenses claims 5 slots out of 10 in our top-10 list. Popularity however doesn’t mean everything, and competing lenses have similar technologies which they also heavily promote. We think Hydraclear Plus, just like sister technologies Hydraluxe and Lacreon, are the real deal but only one of a number of factors (like material type, water content, and breathability) that you and your ECP should consider in finding the best contact lens for your particular situation.