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From your age to your allergies, there are a lot of factors to consider when picking out an eyeglass frame material. Here’s how to weigh your options.
It’s exciting to pick out new eyeglass frames. There are tons of styles that can bring out your personality while keeping your vision sharp.
But there are also so many choices. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make: which frame material you want.
The two main types of eyeglass frames are plastic and metal, says Mike Vaughan, an optician and senior retail operations manager affiliated with America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Atlanta, Georgia. “Within those materials, there are also several different types of frame styles,” he says.
There’s no need to stress about all of the various options. Use this guide to weigh the pros and cons of plastic and metal, so you can decide which eyeglass frames suit you best.
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Pros and Cons of Plastic Eyeglass Frames
Available in a multitude of colors, sizes, and styles, plastic frames are generally durable and easy to wear.
Best for kids. “Many opticians prefer to put children in plastic frames,” says Vaughan. Plastic frames are more durable and forgiving compared with metal ones, which tend to get bent out of shape with the amount of wear and tear kiddos can put on their glasses.
Versatile. From a style perspective, plastic frames can be worn with many different types of outfits, says Vaughan. “They look good if you’re in a suit or if you’re dressed down in a T-shirt and jeans, especially if you choose a black or tortoiseshell frame,” he says. In addition to neutral colors, you can also choose plastic frames in fun, bold colors.
Durable. Plastic frames often last longer than metal ones, says Vaughan. Plastic frames, however, are heat sensitive, so they can warp if you leave them in a hot car. (Try not to do this!) However, if for some reason they are out of shape, there’s still hope for repair. They may be able to be reheated in-store and adjusted again, says Vaughan — a major plus.
Not ideal for active jobs. If you sweat a lot while wearing plastic frames, the colors can fade, says Vaughan. Depending on your job, a pair from the America’s Best Safety Eyewear Program might be the best option for you. Another thing to keep in mind, says Vaughan: “I like that we do two pairs of glasses. You can have a good pair of working frames that you use only for work and another pair that are versatile enough to dress up or dress down outside of your job.” When you buy two pairs of eyeglasses at America’s Best, your eye exam is on us.
More noticeable. Plastic frames are thicker than metal ones. That means it’s “harder to forget that they’re there,” says Vaughan. Plus, plastic frames tend to be a bit heavier when compared with metal, says Vaughan. (The thickness of your prescription lenses will also impact the weight.)
Pros and Cons of Metal Eyeglass Frames
These frames are available in various styles, such as full rim, semi-rimless (where there is no rim on the top or bottom), or rimless (where there is no metal around the lens). The types of metals used in eyeglass frames include nickel, titanium, stainless steel, or alloy (mixed).
Options for those who don’t like the look of glasses. If you prefer the look or feel of “no glasses,” then you have the option of choosing a rimless frame. “These are like wearing nothing on your face,” says Vaughan. “It’s almost as if your glasses disappear. People choose these because they look great.” In terms of style, semi-rimless frames are considered cool and refined.
Lightweight. Titanium is a type of metal that’s delightfully lightweight on your face. Titanium also won’t corrode over time, the way other metals, such as nickel, might. This makes them ideal for people who sweat a lot, including those who work outside in the heat.
Adjustable nose pads. This feature allows you to tweak where the frames rest on your face, giving you an even more precise fit. Plastic frames, on the other hand, have a built-in nose pad that isn’t adjustable. (Not everyone is a fan of this feature — more on that later.)
Can trigger allergies. Some people have an allergy to certain types of metal, such as nickel. According to the Nickel Institute, about 12% to 15% of women and 1% to 2% of men are allergic to nickel, which can cause a rash where it touches the skin. “There are many metal frames that are nickel based, so if your skin is sensitive, you can get a rash or your skin can turn green when your skin oils mix with the metal,” says Vaughan.
If you have sensitive skin, your optician will likely suggest stainless steel or titanium, both of which are gentler on the skin. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks. Stainless steel is durable but not as lightweight as titanium, says Vaughan. And titanium can be slightly higher in price than other metals. It’s a good idea to ask your optician to help you find frames within your price range.
Have nose pads. Many people don’t mind their glasses having nose pads, which are available in plastic or silicone material. Others find nose pads uncomfortable. And the higher the prescription, the heavier your lenses can be, which can weigh down your nose pads (and nose), says Vaughan.
How to Choose
Your first step? Visit your local America’s Best and connect with the optician. Talk about what frames you’re currently wearing and what you like about them — and don’t like. Your optician can guide you toward several styles that suit you most, so you can find the pairs that help you look and feel your best.
Press play for tips on finding the best glasses for your face: