Plastic or metal sunglasses, which are best for you?
When it comes to sunglasses frame materials, is metal or plastic better? Each style has its pros and cons.
For example, metal frames tend to be more durable and lightweight, but plastic frames come in a wider selection of colors, shapes and styles.
But which is the better frame material for your next pair of sunglasses?
Let’s weigh the advantages and disadvantages of these two sunglass frame material types so you can make the best choice to confidently step into the sunshine.
METAL OR PLASTIC? Shop sunglasses frame styles (using the checklist below) at an optical shop near you or online.
The benefits of metal sunglasses
If you prefer to keep it lightweight and classic, you can’t go wrong with sunglasses with metal frames.
Metal frames are usually relatively thin, making them a great lightweight sunglasses option for everyday wear. Metal is also durable and resists corrosion. Metal frames also usually are outfitted with nose pads to help keep your sunglasses in place and prevent slippage (for a more comfortable fit).
Metal-frame sunglasses are typically made of aluminum, nickel, titanium or stainless steel, and come in a variety of styles, from iconic aviators to classic round frames.
When shopping for higher-end metal-frame sunglasses, consider aluminum and titanium. They’re both flexible, strong and corrosion resistant. Titanium sunglasses also are hypoallergenic, making titanium a great choice for those with skin sensitivities and allergies.
Metal sunglasses made from beryllium and stainless steel are also popular choices, due to their strength and resistance to corrosion. In fact, beryllium is especially appropriate for those who spend a lot of time in or around salt water and other abrasive environments.
Do you play sports or wear performance sunglasses? Look for metal sunglasses made with monel or flexon. Both are exceptionally malleable, and flexon will return to its original shape after twisting or bending.
Note that metal sunglasses may not work for lenses that require a strong prescription. Due to their thinner frame construction, metal frames may be unable to accommodate the heavier, thicker lenses.
The benefits of plastic sunglasses
Want to protect your eyes from the sun and make a stylish statement? Check out plastic frames.
Plastic sunglasses frames are usually thicker and available in a wide variety of colors and styles, making them a terrific option for both non-prescription and prescription sunglasses. Plastic frames are also generally less expensive than their metal counterparts, but designer sunglasses (whatever the material) can get pricey.
When shopping for sunglasses, some plastic frame options may be a better option than others, depending on your lifestyle, prescription needs and your sense of style.
On the hunt for some colorful shades? Check out frames made of zyl (zylonite, or cellulose acetate). These lightweight frames are available in every color of the rainbow and are typically hypoallergenic.
Optyl is another option, known for its malleability, and optyl also is available in a variety of shapes and styles.
If you’re more concerned with durability than fashion, consider nylon and blended nylon frames. Nylon and nylon-blended sunglass frames are strong, lightweight and easily molded, making them a good choice for wraparound styles and sports-friendly activities.
Polycarbonate frames are also a popular choice for sport and safety sunglasses as they provide high-impact resistance.
While plastic sunglasses can be quite durable, excessive sun exposure may cause plastic frames to discolor and fade over time.
Plastic or metal sunglasses, pros and cons
Each frame material comes with its benefits and drawbacks. We’ll compare metal and plastic sunglass frames based on a set of factors you likely will consider when shopping for your next pair of shades:
PRICE: Plastic sunglasses frames are usually cheaper than metal frames. However, note that designer sunglasses will cost more, regardless of the frame material.
PRESCRIPTION NEEDS: Metal sunglasses frames are almost always thinner than plastic options, so if you require a strong prescription, metal frames may not be able to accommodate thicker sunglass lenses.
DURABILITY: Depending on your preferred outdoor activity, each material has advantages. Plastic sunglasses are more likely to retain their shape even on impact or when jostled, which makes them a good choice for most sports. Metal sunglasses tend to be more malleable and therefore easier to readjust if they’re bent out of shape.
LONGEVITY: Most metal sunglasses will be corrosion-resistant. Many plastic styles, by contrast, will fade and discolor over time.
STYLES: Metal sunglasses tend to be a little more practical and classic, whereas plastic is available in a seemingly endless array of shapes and styles.
COLORS: Looking to make a colorful statement? Go with plastic frames for your sunglasses. Some titanium shades are available in colorful styles, but metal sunglasses are usually only available in gold, silver and other metallic hues. Plastic frames can be found in any color (or color combination) under the sun.
READY TO PICK YOUR SUNGLASSES FRAMES STYLE? Shop for the perfect sunglasses at a local optical shop or online retailer.
Page published in March 2020
Page updated in November 2021