Not Worth The Penny Saved: Hubble Contact Lens Review
You’ve probably heard of Acuvue, Bausch & Lomb, Ciba and CooperVision, but have you heard of Hubble? They are the Warby Parker of the contact lens industry. They aren’t rebranding someone else’s lenses (Like Costco and Walmart do), they do in fact have lenses that are made specifically for them. Hubble offers direct-to-customer contacts at a fraction of the price of the popular brands and they even have a network of eye doctors that fit their lenses.
The Obvious Questions
Why are the lenses so cheap?
Are they just as good as Acuvue, B&L, etc.?
Are they safe?
Is Hubble a medical device company?
Why Are The Lenses So Inexpensive?
They work directly with a contact lens manufacturer based in Taiwan called St. Shine Optical. Though they do not reveal who they make lenses for, it’s definitely not for the big players in the contact lens market. St. Shine makes lenses for companies that do not have the money or resources to establish their own factory.
In the case of Hubble, they are pushing a business model that they aren’t quite sure will work out long term. (Hubble, the company, has no prior medical device experience.)
They are trying to insert a new business model, not a new product. So why would they spend money on product development if they could just outsource it?
Hubble is backed by VC money. They are willing to take a financial loss for now if it means taking a slice of the multi-billion dollar CL industry a few years down the line.
Are they just as good as the Acuvue, B&L, etc.?
There are 4 parameters that should be considered when comparing the possible comfort and quality of contact lenses:
Oxygen Permeability (Dk/t)
Material: There have been many advancements in this area. Newer soft contacts are made of silicone-hydrogels which provide more oxygen to your eyes.
Water Content: The higher the water content, the more moist and "fresh" your eyes will feel.
Oxygen Permeability: The higher the Dk/t, the more oxygen is passing through the contact lens and reaching your eyes.
Center Thickness: It's not necessarily a bad thing to have a thicker lens. A thicker lens can hold more water and thus keep your eyes feeling fresh longer.
Hubble uses methafilcon A which is a fairly old material. Just about all of the top lens manufacturers have discontinued any line of contact which used this material.
To put it into perspective, Coopervision release their Frequency 55 lens (made with methafilcon A) back in 1999. This lens is discontinued.
Good water content
At 55%, Hubble lenses can be expected to feel moist. They have a higher water content then the Acuvue TruEye but keep in mind you'll want to take everything into consideration. High water content doesn't translate into high quality lenses.
Oxygen Levels are low
I'm not a scientist, but when I look at 18 for Hubble and the next lowest number is 42 for the Biotrue, I'd question the ability of that lens to keep my eyes safe and healthy.
Research has shown that a minimum Dk/t of 24 is suggested for standard wear and a Dk/t of > 87 for extended wear.
As i mentioned above, the center thickness of a contact lens is usually higher in order to allow for more water content. At .08, Hubble lenses are just about average with the competition.
So to answer the original question, i'd have to say no, they are not as good as the competition. Do they correct vision? Yes, but that doesn't mean I'd trust my eyes with it. Vision is everything, I personally take vision care and eye health very seriously.
Look at it this way, the first iPhone was released back in 2007. It was revolutionary for its time and I bet I can still find one and make a call with it. Does that make it equal to the recently released iPhone X? No. It's not even close to the quality standards or tech standards of today's smartphones.
Now don't be too alarmed. These are FDA approved medical devices that Hubble sells so it's not like they are harmful to your eyes, they just don't meet the same high-quality standards as the Acuvue, B&L, Ciba and Coopervision lenses.
Are They Safe?
This doesn't apply directly to Hubble products, but I found a warning letter dated August 26, 2013 in which the FDA informed St. Shine Optical Co. that during an FDA inspection they found that "the method used to ensure that predetermined specifications are consistently met for the manufacture of the (contact lenses), which is based on the power of the lenses. However, your firm’s process validation report does not provide objective evidence to support the relationship between the (contact lenses)"
A Close-out letter dated 6/21/2017 seems to show that St. Shine had addressed the problem.
Is Hubble a medical device company?
No. The two founders (Ben Cogan and Jesse Horwitz) are well educated and intelligent businessmen with no background in the contact lens, eyewear or eye care industry.
As I mentioned above, Hubble is not introducing a new product, they are bringing a new business model into the industry.
I would call Hubble a startup, not a medical device company. They are a VC funded company that saw a business opportunity. I'm not saying these guys are bad or that they are just after the money, i'm just saying they don't have a history in the eye care industry, much less the medical industry.
Read an interview with the founders here
This isn't a cause to not wear Hubble lenses though. Warby Parker is also a startup and they have a decent product. Difference is... their product doesn't sit right on your eye so there is a little more wiggle room in offering a cheaper product.
Let's put aside the fact that these guys knew nothing about contact lens manufacturing and focus strictly on the product. Looking at the data comparing them to the leading manufactures I'd personally rather pay a little more for a better, higher-quality product and know that my eyes are safer, then go the cheap route with Hubble.