What You Need To Know About Transition Contact Lenses (2023 Update)


You step out of your home on a sunny morning to go to work, and then suddenly, a wave of bright sunlight hits your face. To avoid the harsh light, you squint and turn your face away. It has happened to you many times before, so you know the feeling all too well—everybody does. 

For most people, the solution to sunlight is to wear sunglasses. However, contact lens wearers now have another option available to them: transition contact lenses.

The history of transition contact lenses

Photochromic lenses, or more commonly known as transition lenses, have been around for decades. William H. Armistead and Stanley Donald Stookey developed photochromic lenses in the 1960s.

Until recently, transition technology was only available in eyeglasses and sunglasses. This changed in April 2018 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they had approved the first contact lenses equipped with transition technology: the ACUVUE® OASYS contact lenses with Transitions™ Light Intelligent Technology™.

According to Johnson & Johnson (parent company of ACUVUE), the development of their transition contact lenses took more than a decade. The company worked with Transitions Optical, a leader in transition lenses, to incorporate transition technology into contact lenses.

Development of the ACUVUE OASYS transition contact lenses also involved a lengthy approval process. The FDA reviewed scientific evidence before approving the transition contact lenses and performed a clinical study on several patients who wore the lenses during the day and at night.

Johnson & Johnson’s transition contact lenses were considered so revolutionary that Time named them one of the best inventions of 2018. In March 2019, the ACUVUE OASYS contact lenses with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology were made available to U.S. consumers.

How do the ACUVUE OASYS transition contact lenses work?

Like other ACUVUE OASYS products, the transition contact lenses are made with a silicone hydrogel material called senofilcon A. This material is known to provide maximum comfort and vision correction. The difference between ACUVUE’S transition contact lenses and their other products is that the material used in the transition contact lenses contains trillions of customized photochromic molecules.

When the photochromic molecules in the contact lenses are at rest and not exposed to light, the molecules remain closed. In this state, the contact lenses are clear and look like just any typical contact lenses. 

However, a chemical reaction within the contact lenses occurs when the photochromic molecules encounter light. The molecules open up and absorb the light, which causes the contact lenses to darken.

The lenses darken in less than a minute and return to a clear state in about 90 seconds when no longer exposed to bright lights. The transition contact lens can block up to 70% of visible light and provide 100% protection against UVB rays—the highest level of UV protection available in a contact lens.

Source: Johnson & Johnson

According to Johnson & Johnson, their scientists performed many clinical trials to determine the right level of photochromic concentration for the contact lenses. The company wanted to avoid developing contact lenses that would completely alter the wearer’s eye color.

As a result, the transition technology within the contact lens is strong enough to block light and UV rays but not so strong that the contact lenses completely change the wearer’s eye color. 

The appearance of the contact lenses will depend on the wearer’s natural eye color. If the wearer has green or blue eyes, their eyes would temporarily turn a dark brown when the contact lenses are exposed to light. Under direct sunlight, the wearer’s pupils can appear to have an almost solid brown color.

Although the ACUVUE OASYS contact lenses with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology provide 100% protection against UV rays, they are not designed to replace sunglasses. Since the transition contact lenses only cover the iris, they only protect that part of the eye. People would still need to wear sunglasses to protect the sclera, other parts of your eye, and the skin around your eyes from the sun.

Long-Term Use and Care of Transition Contact Lenses

  1. Hand Hygiene: Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching the lenses.
  2. Cleaning Solutions: Use only recommended solutions for cleaning and storing your lenses.
  3. Water Avoidance: Never use water or saliva to clean lenses; these can damage the photochromic technology.
  4. Adherence to Replacement Schedule: Follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your eye care professional to avoid overuse.
  5. Monitoring Lens Performance: Regularly check the responsiveness of your lenses to light and consult your eye care provider if changes are noticed.Regular Eye Exams: Schedule yearly eye exams to ensure lenses and eyes remain in good health.

By following these care guidelines, you can help extend the life of your transition contact lenses and maintain their quality.


The ACUVUE OASYS contact lenses with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology are a fantastic advancement in contact lens technology. They are the first contact lenses of their kind, and they have the highest level of UV protection available in a contact lens. However, they don’t protect the entire eye, so they’re not a substitute for sunglasses. If you want to protect your entire eye as well as the skin around the eyes, sunglasses are still the way to go.