Eyeglasses - The Basics
Frame styles branded with high profile designer names like Calvin Klein, Jones New York, and Marc Jacobs continue to be in demand. And even for youngsters who might ordinarily dread the "nerd" factor of wearing eyeglasses, popular fiction characters like the bespectacled young wizard, Harry Potter, have become role models.
Eyeglass Frame Materials
Eyeglass frame materials, too, have been revolutionized with the advent of new plastics and various types of metals. Frames generally are fabricated from plastic or metal, but can be made from any workable material. For safety glasses, you may require an extra tough plastic, such as polycarbonate. If you suffer from skin allergies you might need hypoallergenic materials such as titanium or stainless steel to avoid a skin condition known as contact dermatitis.
Some eyeglass frames have components that can be snapped into place, rather than attached by screws or other means. This type of feature can be handy if you choose to "mix and match" different colored temples with the same set of lenses.
Certain types of eyeglass frames now also are highly flexible, which reduces the possibility of breakage. Spring hinges are also flexible. These types of frames are ideal for kids' eyeglasses, because of the durability factor.
Improved designs of nose pads also contribute to comfort and the look of how eyeglasses are positioned in front of the face. New silicone nose pads, for example, can prevent "slippage" but are so lightweight and soft that they are hardly noticeable.
Eyeglass Frame Styles
Eyeglasses have also become quite stylish as fashion accessories, especially among fans of high end designers. Many people change their frames in the same way as shoes or handbags, with different colors and styles to match their wardrobes.
Multi-colored inlays, composite materials, designer emblems, and enhancements such as insets of precious stones may also be found in popular frame styles.
Rimless styles have become more popular in recent years as an understated way to wear eyeglasses without obvious frames. Rimless styles mainly involve attaching plastic or metal temples directly onto the lenses rather than onto a frame.
New eyeglass frame styles continually are being announced. Innovations in both construction and design include introduction of wood or bamboo in frame materials.
Women's eyeglasses now are available in playful cat-eye shapes, as well as cutouts with elaborate design elements including swirls and angular patterns.
Men's eyeglasses have extra flair this season, with new styles that include classy designer logos and patterns embedded in translucent backgrounds.
Unisex eyeglasses for both men and women include plenty of rimless styles, which are popular as a good, generic fit for both sexes.
Kids' eyeglasses may look similar in style to those worn by adults, but are often more colorful with emphasis on durability to save parents the expense of constant replacements.
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Advances in Eyeglass Lenses
Other reasons for the enduring popularity of eyeglasses include technology advances that make modern lenses thinner, lighter and more attractive than ever before.
Among the most popular eyeglass lenses and lens treatments prescribed today are:
Aspheric lenses, which are not perfectly rounded on the surface, recently have been designed as a way to correct for small distortions in vision that can be associated with more traditional lenses. These types of designs also make lenses thinner and lighter.
High-index materials also are associated with thinner, lighter lenses, because of the more efficient way this special plastic refracts light to help you achieve focus. Because less plastic is needed with high-index materials, lens thickness is reduced.
Wavefront technology lenses are fabricated based on very precise measurements of the way light travels through your eye, which helps sharpen visual clarity.
Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses are thinner, lighter and up to 10 times more impact-resistant than regular plastic lenses, making them the perfect choice for safety glasses, sports eyewear and eyeglasses for children and active adults.
Photochromic lenses have chemical coatings or special internal changes allowing them to quickly darken in bright conditions, and quickly return to normal in ordinary indoor lighting or at night.
Polarized lenses diminish glare from flat, reflective surfaces (like water) and also reduce eye fatigue.
Anti-reflective coating is a popular add-on for lenses. AR (anti-reflective) coating can dramatically improve the look and comfort of your glasses by reducing distracting lens reflections that interfere with eye contact and make your lenses look thicker. AR-coated lenses also reduce glare and allow more light into your eyes for better night vision.
For a quick comparison of eyeglass lens materials, see our article on "How to Choose the Best Lenses for Your Glasses."
Eyeglass Lenses for Presbyopia
Presbyopia is a special challenge for people 40 or older, because the eye's natural lens and internal focusing muscles become less flexible with aging and no longer can accommodate vision at all distance ranges. Presbyopia typically is noticed when print begins to blur, even if you never wore glasses before.
This means that the usual type of eyeglass lenses you've likely been accustomed to wearing, known as single-vision lenses, no longer will work well for you.
Multifocal and single-vision eyeglass lenses available for presbyopia correction include:
Top: These retro-nerd reading glasses are the "Get Smart" style by Eileen West Black Label. Bottom: "Ringleader" by Cinzia Designs.
- Bifocals. Traditional bifocals have only two ranges of vision near and far with a distance zone established in the upper portion of the lens, and the lower zone enabling near vision tasks such as reading located on the bottom half of the lens. The zones are separated by a noticeable line.
- Trifocals. These lenses have three different zones for seeing at varying distances near, intermediate, and far and can be custom made for you to accommodate your lifestyle or occupation.
- Progressive lenses. These lenses have many advantages over bifocals and trifocals because they allow the wearer to focus at many different distances, not just two or three. Because they have no lines, progressive lenses allow a smooth, comfortable transition from one distance to another. They are a much better option for active, multitasking people.
- Variable focus lenses. Available both in electronic and manual designs these are innovative new multifocal lenses that offer a larger field of view than conventional bifocals, trifocals and progressive lenses and can easily be adjusted to give you the power you need for any task.
- Reading glasses. Reading glasses can be obtained with or without a prescription. Basically, they provide single-vision lenses that sharpen near vision for people with presbyopia and/or hyperopia.
From a timeless aviator look to the sophistication of new designer styles, sunglasses are as common in outdoor settings as seashells on a beach. These days, the debate among sunglass wearers focuses on protection versus style. As much as sunglasses make a fashion statement, they also serve as an important device to protect your eye's health from damaging UV rays.
- Plano sunglasses. You can find non-prescription sunwear in a variety of frame materials, including plastic and metals such as titanium, aluminum and stainless steel. Popular options include polarized lenses for driving and fishing or mirror coatings.
Clip-on sunglasses that can be bought at the same time as your regular eyeglasses are designed for an exact match. Magnetic attachments also have greatly increased the popularity of clip-on sunglasses. When buying plano sunglasses, make sure they're optically ground and absorb 100 percent of harmful UV rays if you want the best vision and eye protection.
- Designer sunglasses. These styles, often branded with popular names such as Armani, are generally sold in high end boutiques or department stores and tend to mimic current fashion trends.
- Prescription sunglasses. Ideal for prescription eyeglass wearers, these eliminate the need for sun clips. Recently, prescription sunglasses have become more available in the retail marketplace.
- Kids' sunglasses. Youngsters can achieve a trendy grown-up look in sunglasses or go for more whimsical styles, such as brightly colored, cat-eye shapes.
Eyewear for Sports Vision and Safety
People who are passionate about certain sports and recreational activities often begin to see a need for specialized eyewear, with added features that provide extra protection or vision correction beyond what is found in an ordinary pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses.
Ski goggles come in several different lens tints, to increase your ability to see bumps and ice on the trail, depending on what the lighting conditions are at your favorite slopes. Many ski goggles are sized so they can be worn over regular eyeglasses.
Shooting glasses for hunters or rifle and handgun enthusiasts need to be extra tough and scratch-resistant, as well as specially tinted to enhance contrast and clarity of vision in the outdoors.
Protective eyewear in the form of sports goggles, made in many shapes and sizes, is essential for sports such as baseball, where a hard-hit line drive can permanently damage an unprotected eye.
Sports eyewear for teens and young athletes is especially important because a large percentage of sports-related eye injuries occur among teens and young children.
Safety glasses and goggles in some work environments, such as construction sites, are required by law. But even if safety glasses aren't mandated, it's still very prudent to wear them when you work or play in circumstances where your eyes are exposed to hazards such as dangerous airborne particles and debris.
Advice for Buying Eyeglasses
Your appearance, personal taste, and lifestyle provide the best guide to finding just the right eyeglasses for you.
When selecting frames, make sure you analyze your face shape and coloring so that you find the most flattering look. While it's fine to admire what a favorite celebrity might be wearing, remember that the same style might not be the right look for you.
Also, buying eyeglasses or sunglasses online may not be the best choice, because you'll be unable to try them on before buying. You could get lucky with an online purchase, but you never know for sure until you see how a frame really fits your face.
It's also important to keep in mind that some frames just aren't right for certain types of lenses. Progressive lenses, for example, often don't work well in today's smaller, stylish frames. And it's best to choose a small, symmetrical frame that centers on your eyes if you have a high prescription. It is a very good idea to consider your lens selection first before buying frames.
Finally, even after you've tried on frames first, you may find that you just don't like the look or that the lenses aren't quite right for your vision correction needs. So be sure you ask your eye doctor or optician in advance about return or refund policies for prescription eyewear.
[Page updated November 2014]