A soft corneal contact lens comprising a soft, highly oxygen-permeable, polymeric lens having formed on the surface thereof an ultrathin, optically clear, impermeable barrier coating. The barrier coating is tightly cross-linked and comprises the reaction product resulting from an electrical glow discharge polymerization process conducted in a gaseous atmosphere and will prevent diffusion into the lens of lipids and other large molecules from the eye's tear film. The lens is formed from silicone or polyurethane. The gaseous atmosphere consists essentially of compounds selected from the group consisting of hydrocarbons; halogenated hydrocarbons; halogenated hydrocarbons and hydrogen; hydrocarbons and a halogen; and a mixture of any two or more of these compounds. The surface of the fully formed lens is highly hydrophilic which is accomplished during the polymerization process or in an additional step comprising glow discharge in the presence of oxygen or argon.