Eyeglass lens materials, coatings, designs, etc.

My current eyeglasses are “2 pair for $99” optical chain cheapos; the reflections from their (uncoated) surfaces and overall “looking through a not quite clean window” performance under certain lighting conditions are starting to bother me quite a bit.

If I were interested in getting a new pair with “optimum” optical performance, what should I be looking for in terms of lens materials (glass, CR-39 plastic, polycarbonate, Trivex), design (aspheric?), brands, coatings, etc?

FWIW I am moderately nearsighted, with (at last check) a single vision -3.25 diopter prescription.

Any thoughts or suggestions are much appreciated, thanks.

I went to Wal Mart optical for my nearsighted, astigmatic eyeballs now requiring bifocals. I did pay more than $99, but I have been very happy with the results. I’m at nearly -9 diopters, so my prescription is definitely stronger than yours.

The exam was as thorough as any I’ve had, and the person who helps you orders the frames also went over lens choices and other options with me, listing advantages, disadvantages, and costs.

So my suggestion is not necessarily to go to them - they certainly aren’t the only people out there - but to at least check them out while comparison shopping.

You’re not likely to have any choice of lens brands other than possibly an “upgrade” to something like Zeiss. I have no idea if a lens blank from Zeiss is any better than one from anyone else, especially since it’s probably going to be ground on the same equipment as the regular ones.

The choice of lens material (glass, polycarbonate, high-index, etc.) is largely governed by the prescription and your choice of frames. Generally, the high-index stuff is required for smaller/thinner/lighter frames.

I do recommend non-glare coating. Even under regular office lighting, I could see my eyes with uncoated lenses, but not with the NG coating.

IIRC, there is at least one optician here. Hopefully they’ll see this and weigh in.

Which material is the most scratch resistant? I’m willing to change what I want in a frame if I can get lenses that don’t get scratched merely from being in the same room as a paper towel.

Glass is, by far, the most scratch resistant. But I find glass to be too heavy. I haven’t had much problem with (the cheapest) plastic with the scratch resistant coating. I also get the anti-reflective coating. I once tried the polycarbonate lenses but had them redone immediately in regular plastic because I couldn’t stand the color fringing.

I recommend using a micro-fiber cloth to clean your glasses. Regular cloth just smears the dirt around. The 12" square ones are easier to handle. Paper towels are abrasive and will leave micro scratches. Windex causes even more damage than paper towels. It attacks the coatings as well as the plastic. Only use cleaners designed for lenses.

It’s my personal opinion and not professional (though I am someone who has worn glasses for 40 years) that Zeiss lenses are better quality. They seem to give a “crisper” image, if that makes any sense, and don’t seem to discolor with time (yes, I’ve had that happen).

However, there is not that much difference, and lots of people probably wouldn’t notice.

Ziess seems to have come down in price over the years.

Polycarbonate in my experience is the WORST for scratches. Just awful. They’re supposed to be the most impact resistant but scratch if you’re in the same county as a paper towel, much less the same room.

Yes, genuine glass is most scratch resistant, but nearly impossible to get anymore. Good luck with that, most places flat out won’t order your prescription in glass.

If price is no object, get a pair that are shatter-resistant. Polycarbonate may be prone to scratching, but are shatter resistant. You do not need high index lenses as your lenses will be thin anyway. Get frames made of titanium, which are really break-proof. My glasses that were made of titanium were smashed with a tennis ball, fell to the ground when I tripped, etc., and the frame did not break. Neither did my shatter-proof lenses, although they did get scratched. You are apparently young enough not to need progressive lenses (no line bifocals). Do not get transition lenses, which darken in brighter light. I had such a pair, but the tinting was not to my liking and it made it harder to see in the shadows on a sunny day.

Ah, and I was just going to *recommend *Transitions lenses! I like mine a lot. My prescription is a lot stronger than the OPs, so if I didn’t have Transitions lenses, I’d *have *to buy another pair of 'scrip specs with sunglass lenses - which I just know I’d always forget to bring with me or lose.

The transition of Transitions is slower in cold whether, so it’s a little annoying to have to wait for them to clear when I enter a building in the winter, but not nearly so annoying as never having sunglasses when I need them!

They also don’t seem to scratch nearly as much as my old polycarbonate lenses with scratch resistant coating. Those sucked so bad, and even the ones that I used the right wipes on eventually got all bubbly as the coating began to lift, which is just as annoying to try to see through as scratches.

Oh, please - the other plastic lenses are also shatter resistant. I’ve never actually broken or cracked a lens despite refusing to use polycarbonate lenses after my first pair became unusable after three months. Get a pair you won’t need to replace in a matter of months due to scratching no matter how well you take care of them.

If you’re engaged in something like sports or, in my case, construction work that involves the potential for flying/scratching/harmful stuff get safety glasses that go over your expensive prescription lenses to protect them as well as your eyes.


I have two titanium frames that I just keep getting new lenses in. You will also need to replace the teeny screws every so often, but the frames themselves will last damn near forever if they’re titanium.

I tried prescription lenses for sunglasses, but there were just so many problems with them - apparently sunglass lenses aren’t constructed for high prescription lenses, which I didn’t know until AFTER I tried getting them.

I use sunglasses that fit over my prescription lenses. Yes, they’re kinda big, but they work well and at $10-20 a pair if they get trashed or lost it’s not nearly as bad as trashing or losing my $300+ glasses.

If I had the income I used to have, before my Big Layoff in 2007, yeah, I’d splurge on script sunglasses but if money’s an issue get the fits-over-your-Rx set. You can find them at Meijer’s, Wal-Mart, all sorts of places. You’ll have to look a bit, because they usually aren’t front and center, but they’re out there.

I think Transitions lenses look like old-lady or old-man glasses.

I’ve seen some very nice clip-over-your-own-glasses sunglasses that look good.

Get your prescription and buy your glasses with all the whistles and bells you want at Zenni Optical online. Your $99 glasses will cost $20 dollars.

I know it sounds strange to order glasses online, but it really works. I’ll never get glasses any where else.