If you are buying glasses, choosing the type of frame is a major decision. You’ll want to consider comfort, positioning, durability, appearance, and price.

How They Feel

Check for comfort at the bridge of the nose and ears, where glasses touch your face. The lightest glasses are usually the most comfortable. Look for thin plastic or metal frames.

With metal frames, know that they have a nosepiece of rocking pads (small adjustable plastic pads) that are unlikely to slip and can be easily adjusted—an advantage over plastic frames, which usually have a rigid nose support. But rocking pads concentrate the weight on a small surface, which is uncomfortable to some people. If this is a problem for you, consider a model with an inserted molded plastic nosepiece instead of rocking pads. Metal frames also might irritate your ears.

How They Are Positioned

Eyeglass frames are designed to position lenses to provide maximum visual acuity. Some frames may position lenses too far from your eyes, or too high or too low. If the frames slide down your nose, you won’t get the full benefit. The stronger your prescription, the more critical the positioning. If you wear your glasses for driving, sports, or other activities requiring peripheral vision, make sure the “temples” (the two side parts of a frame that extend behind the ears) are located above or below the eyes, not directly alongside them.

How Long They Will Last

Barring accidents, glasses should last three or four years, and many wearers want to change style at least that often. If you plan to keep the frames longer—or the frames get knocked around a lot—strength and durability are important. Both depend on the frame materials, their thickness, and their craftsmanship.

The strongest metal frames are usually made of titanium, with flexible hinges and smooth welding wherever two pieces of metal are joined.
The strongest plastic frames are made of nylon, but these tend to be thick, heavy, and plain. Among other plastic types, the strongest usually have at least moderate thickness, metal reinforcing within the full length of the temple and flexible hinges.

How They Look

Whether you buy specs in person or online, you’ll need to try them on. That will ensure they suit the shape of your eyebrows and cheekbones, spacing of your eyes, height of your nose bridge, and size of your noggin. The conventional wisdom is that people look best in frames shaped differently from their face—square or oblong rims for round faces, round rims for square faces, and wide shallow oblong rims for narrow faces.

Consumers’ interest in style and brand names gives optometrists and opticians extra leverage for steering them to spendy frames. The best approach? Try on multiple frames and choose what you like. Then look at prices, and if your favorite costs too much, ask a staffer to show you a similar-looking cheaper frame.

What Staff Recommends

The staff at an eyeglass outlet can help you select frames by suggesting comfortable, flattering models. But ask them to explain their recommendations, and be suspicious if they invariably recommend the higher-priced—and usually the most profitable—frames.

How Much They Cost

Frame prices vary tremendously. Prices for decent-quality frames range from less than $40 to more than $1,000.

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Types of Lenses for Eyeglasses

Eyewear stores offer several types of lenses and add-ons. Here’s a rundown of options—and what’s worth the extra money:

Regular plastic—Most customers can stick with this least expensive option.

Glass—These lenses are more scratch-resistant but slightly heavier than regular plastic. A better option than regular plastic if you often slip your glasses into a pocket or purse.

High-index—If you have a strong prescription, these lenses have a strong capacity to refract light, meaning they’re thinner and lighter than regular plastic, and let you avoid the “Coke-bottle” look. Available in plastic and glass.

Polycarbonate—A super-durable variant of high-index plastic lenses, this is a good choice for sports specs or if you have boisterous children or grandchildren. While federal regulation requires both glass and plastic lenses to resist breakage from moderate impacts, they’re not unbreakable. But polycarbonate lenses are up to 10 times more impact-resistant than regular plastic.

High-definition/digital—Some vision centers push this technology, which uses a digital scan of patients’ eyes to create custom lenses to provide a clearer, crisper view. HD lenses usually cost 25 to 35 percent extra.

No-line progressives—Increasingly popular choices if you need multifocal lenses (bifocals or trifocals) and don’t want lines through your lenses. But these lenses are far more expensive than regular bifocals or trifocals, and require special care in fitting to avoid vision distortion.

UV blocking—A popular add-on that helps lessen the development of cataracts. UV coating especially may appeal to you if your eyes are heavily exposed to UV radiation—for example, if you work or spend a lot of time outdoors, particularly at the beach or at high altitudes.

Anti-reflective coating—Reduces reflection from your side, which can be helpful if you do a lot of night driving.

Scratch-resistant coating—Nearly all lenses now come with a layer of this; without it, high-index and polycarbonate options would be scratched up before you leave the store.

Polarizing—Reduces glare from reflective surfaces such as water, snow, and glass. Most people don’t need it.

Photochromic—UV-blocking lenses made with materials that darken with increasing sunlight exposure. However, because car windshields also block UV rays, these lenses won’t do you much good while driving.