Wednesday, 16 July 2008 | Tags:

Many people have to rely on eyeglasses to see things clearly and do their everyday tasks like driving, reading, and everything in between. Glasses these days are a functional and fashionable accessory, and it's very easy to find a unique looking pair to accent your personal style. But glasses are an expensive purchase, so we find out what you need to know to find the right pair for your needs.

The Basics

  • There are thousands of different frames to choose from and more people than ever are buying designer frames. While it is often hard to tell the difference in designer and look-alikes there is a big difference in price, and often quality too.

  • The most important part of choosing a frame is what it will look like on your face. Depending on the type of prescription you have, certain shapes may be ruled out. Some shapes are also better for specific lenses:

    • Smaller frames with rounded edges and thicker profiles are best for strong prescriptions for nearsightedness (trouble seeing distance). This shape makes the glasses lighter and appear thinner.

    • Smaller frames with sturdy construction are good for strong prescriptions for farsightedness (trouble seeing close). This reduces the weight of glasses.

    • Frames with a larger depth, especially below the pupil, allow for bifocal or trifocal prescriptions.

  • Apart from your prescription limitations, here are a few general rules experts use to select frames for customers:

    • Square faces look better in round, cat-eyed, oval or rimless frames to soften the face.

    • Round faces look better in square, geometric or rectangular styles to sharpen features and create definition. Avoid round glasses.

    • Oval faces can wear almost any style because they have balanced proportions. As a general rule, look for frames that are as wide or wider than the broadest part of the face and avoid geometric shapes.

    • Tapered/Heart-shaped faces should wear minimalist styles, such as rimless glasses. Avoid big frames and bold styles.

    • Rectangular faces should buy curved and rounded styles to emphasize the width of their faces.

  • If you go for a frame with something other than traditional black, brown, silver or gold, the colour you choose should complement your skin, hair and eye tones, but it’s also a matter of personal preference.

  • The fit of your frames is very important. The top of the frame should follow the eyebrow as closely as possible. Frames that fit well should not move around on your face when you smile, bend over, or look up. They should feel comfortable without pinching.

  • Frames today are made out of plastics or metals.

    • Plastic frames are usually more affordable than metal frames. However, they can degrade over time and due to sun exposure, and lose their strength and colour. Plastics to choose from include:

      • Zyl plastic, which comes in sheets, allows two sheets to be fused together to create two-tone designs, or can be cut into intricate designs. It can, however, become brittle over time.

      • Propionate plastic is a low cost option that is injected into moulds so doesn’t generally allow for elaborate colours, and they tend to fade in colour over time.

      • Blended nylon makes strong and lightweight frames, commonly for sports and high performance. It’s easily moulded into wrap-around styles.

    • Metal frames range in price and quality from mixed metal to expensive metals like titanium and stainless steel. Cheaper frames can corrode from contact with perspiration and skin oils. The more expensive metals are both more durable and hypoallergenic:

      • Monels are the most widely used metal frames and are made of a mixture of metals, which makes them malleable and corrosion-resistant.

      • Titanium is a new metal for frames that is light, strong, corrosion-resistant, and hypoallergenic. They can, however, cost a lot more than other options due to the expensive manufacturing process.

      • Beryllium frames are similar to titanium but lower-cost. They resist tarnish and corrosion, which means they’re good for people who have high skin acidity or spend a lot of time around salt water.

      • Flexon frames are a titanium-based alloy often referred to as “memory metal”. It’s supposed to keep its shape when twisted or damaged, and also is a lightweight, hypoallergenic material.

      • Stainless steel frames are a lightweight blend of steel, chromium and other metals. Chromium is resistant to corrosion, abrasion and heat.

      • Aluminum blended with silicon and iron makes for a strong, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant material. They are also costly and are favoured by high-end designers for their unique look.

      • Trical is a mix of titanium, copper, and chrome, and is extremely lightweight and hypoallergenic. Similar to titanium frames, trical is not as expensive.

      • Magnesium is a strong, almost featherweight metal that can be moulded to look as thick as plastic and can be precisely fine-tuned to fit any face.

Other Considerations

  • Where you buy your glasses can make all the difference:

    • Private medical offices offer personal care, private space and a small boutique. However, selection may be limited.

    • Small optical boutiques can special order frames to make up for a smaller selection. Work is often sent out to a lab, so it may take a while longer. You’ll likely find a unique pair of frames at a small boutique, if that’s what you’re looking for.

    • Optical chains tend to offer a wide selection of frames and make glasses the fastest. Most have good quality and good service, and they usually charge less than a smaller store.

    • Optical departments of warehouse clubs like Costco may seem like a strange place to purchase glasses, but don’t scoff. Consumer Reports rate these stores high in quality service and price.

    • The internet is becoming a hot place to shop for almost anything – eyeglasses included. Some online stores allow you to “try on” frames by submitting a photo of yourself. There are often good deals online but it lacks the face to face service, and you’re still playing a bit of a guessing game. It is better to try them on with a trained optician – especially for the correct lens position. Buying contact lenses online, however, is a snap (and a great deal) if you’ve got all your prescription information available.

  • Once you’ve found a pair of glasses you like, there are a couple of things to think about before you buy:

    • Check the return policy and warrantee on the glasses.

    • Remember that soldered joints in low-cost metal frames may not be as strong and the frames edges can be rough.

    • Cheaper glasses often don’t have nose pads or ones are made of hard acetate, which can become very uncomfortable after a few hours.

    • Better quality frames have soft silicone pads – these are more comfortable and help prevent slipping.

    • Regular hinges on cheaper glasses can loosen, wobble or pull out of the sides of plastic frames.vBetter frames offer spring hinges that hold sides firmly to prevent slipping, resist bowing and maintain adjustments.

  • French designer Phillipe Starck created screwless hinges. The frames are embedded with high-tensile cable, which makes them very durable because there are no screws to come loose – but they cost about $600 a pair. 

  • Eyeglasses can be very expensive, so take care of them! Buy a small cloth to clean the lenses and make sure to read the manufacturers instructions. Glasses should be stored in a protective case when they are not being worn and should never be left where anyone could sit or stand on them.

Be Aware

  • If you are wearing new frames and find you’re getting a headache, it could be your eyes adjusting to your new prescription, or it could be that your frames are too tight and putting pressure on the bridge of your nose or the ridges above your ears. Be sure to go back to where you purchased them in order to get them adjusted professionally. Don’t try and do it yourself or you may break them!



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