Buying Glasses: Local or Online?

Most of us do a significant portion, if not the majority, of our shopping online these days. So for anyone who needs to purchase glasses, the question of whether they can do the same on that front has certainly come up. Today, we provide an overview to help you make that decision.

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The Online Purchasing Process

While no two websites are the same, the basic process is going to be more or less the same across the board. You’ll be asked to select the frame style and color you would like, followed by your choice of lens type. (Including the various lens add-on features like anti-UV (ultraviolet) coating, or extra scratch protection.)

The next major step will be entering your prescription information, along with the distance between your pupils (the black center of your eyes). This is important, as getting the distance right means the lenses will be properly placed in the frame.

In order to compensate for your inability to try on frames as you would in a store, some companies include a feature that allows you to upload a picture of yourself so you can see how the glasses you’ve selected will look on your face. A few of these can also give tips to help you make the best frame choice for your needs and face shape.

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Advantages of Online Buying

Apart from the obvious convenience of being able to make your purchase from home, there are some other upsides to shopping online:

You will have access to a multitude of different sites to browse, and a wider variety of styles, colors, and other features than you are likely to find at a single physical store. Also, there is a good chance you’ll save some money by buying online. A Consumer Reports survey found that shoppers saved up to 40% by buying their glasses online.

When shopping online, it is also much easier to look up reviews of companies or specific products to help you make a more informed purchase.

Disadvantages of Online Buying

All that being said, there are some ways in which the good old fashioned in-store method of picking out and purchasing glasses still holds an edge.

Obviously, being able to physically try on frames is a huge benefit. It’s also harder than it sounds to measure that important distance between your own pupils. Some experts even say it’s as hard as cutting your own hair. A hands-on approach with someone right there to assist you is, in this case, probably more precise. WIth fewer degrees of separation, you are also less likely to wind up with glasses with the wrong prescription or other problems.

Especially for people with more complicated needs such as progressive lenses, it is recommended to visit a store in person so you can be more certain all the important measurements are correct. People don’t always realize that part of what makes a proper fit of a frame is the lens positioning in relation to your eyes. With no ideal frame of reference, online companies will likely put your vertical center of vision in the geometric center of the lens, which is not ideal for everyone. In person, the professional can ensure that the lenses are positioned exactly right on your face. Additionally, a doctor you see in person will have a better understanding of your lifestyle to make proper recommendations

Opticians are trained to help patients navigate the various options involved in choosing a pair of glasses, and this training enables them to make better recommendations. Having another set of eyes judging how a pair of glasses looks on you goes a long way to ensuring you make the right choices.

When making a purchase online it’s also easier to miss or to simply forget to check the return policies (the amount of time you have to make a return can vary greatly). You should also check whether the site you are looking to purchase from takes insurance; not all do.

Finally, glasses ordered online may not look or fit how you expected them to, due both to things looking different online as opposed to in person (where you can see frames on your face in the mirror), and due to potential errors, which are not all that uncommon with online ordering.

What About Online Prescriptions?

What About Online Prescriptions?

If you’re buying glasses online already, it’s not a huge leap to start considering getting your prescriptions online as well. Some websites do offer this through a built-in eye test. But are they as accurate as the ones you get in-person from your local optometrist or ophthalmologist?

The answer seems to be a solid no.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), a recent study found that nearly half of all glasses (44.8 percent) ordered online either contained an inaccurate prescription or didn’t meet safety standards designed to protect the eyes. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the lenses failed impact resistance testing – a major safety issue. Children’s glasses performed even worse, with 29 percent failing impact testing.

What About Online Prescriptions?

What About Online Prescriptions?

Ultimately, the choice is in your hands. Be sure to factor in the complexity of any eye conditions you might have, and what sort of product you need, before deciding whether to shop online or not. In matters of health, the easy, convenient way is not always best, though it can be perfectly fine. Happy shopping!


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Common Questions

Hardly anything is necessary when it comes to lenses, aside for the proper fulfilling of the Rx. However, there are things to be done that can improve the overall optical experience like adding an anti-scratch/anti-reflective coating to your lenses. So, let's make a distinction from the get go to avoid confusion later. All anti-scratch coatings are also anti-reflective or anti-glare but not all anti-reflective coatings have a scratch resistant quality. This is important when deciding on what type of AR to get on your lenses. Every AR is constructed differently and some offer just the refractive qualities of an AR while others incorporate the scratch resistance element as well. While it isn't necessary there are a myriad of benefits to choosing a scratch resistant coating for lenses. Not only do you get the benefits from your standard AR lenses but you'll also get that smoother, hydrophobic, scratch resistance which can contribute to an increase in lens longevity. Meaning, with a little bit of care, you'll get a lot more wear.
This is another tricky one because there's no one size fits all approach. We have to consider the patient, diagnoses, frame and Rx before we make a determination regarding AR coatings. Generally speaking, with the people who fit into "normal" Rx ranges and diagnoses most AR coatings would suffice. It really depends on usage of the Rx but your standard Super Hydrophobic Anti-Glare coating would be a good place to start for anyone.
Computer glasses are used to see at an intermediate range, thusly named. They are a composite of the sphere power of an Rx and about half the addition. When combined we'll have a prescription for intermediate or computer glasses that will let us work comfortably at that range.
It's a lengthy process from start to finish but we'll go over the broad strokes of it. Now there's two different ways of producing lens blanks, the disc that makes a lens. The first method was a blank was ground down into the proper dimensions that would constitute a specific Rx. The newer method is that blanks are "cast" into a mold that is already the proper measurements for a given Rx so no grinding is needed. After the blank is finished it's sent out to an optician. The optician then uses a combination of machinery to size the blank into the frames they belong to. After all of this, you'll have a finished pair of glasses.
The great thing about style and fashion is it's a matter of preference. There are no wrong answers. With darker skin tones you can pick a shade that is similar to the skin which will offer a slight contrast and that could be appealing. You could go darker for a bolder look. You could also go to the other end of the spectrum with something very bright and light to have a high level of contrast. It's really about the persons personality as much as aesthetics and what they enjoy and feel like they can pull off.
While not necessary, Anti-glare treatments are generally recommended for glasses and for good reason. Anti-glare or anti-reflective coatings come with a bevy of benefits. They eliminate glare from incoming light which provides for more crisp vision. Also, most anti-glares come with secondary benefits such as scratch and water resistance which helps to keep the surface clean and clear.
The best way to select a frame is in person and with an experienced optical sales person. As helpful as pictures are, nothing will give a clear perspective like actually trying on a frame. Aside from that, an experienced optical professional will know the other factors to consider to get you into the right frame such as: age, complexion, gender, style, etc.
Barring any circumstance or diagnosis that would warrant frequent check-ups the general rule of thumb is yearly. At your annual eye exam you should have your prescription checked alongside the medical portion of the exam.
Buying Glasses: Local or Online?
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While buying glasses online may be easy and convenient, and in some cases cheaper, than buying them in a physical store, the disadvantages overall outweigh the potential benefits. Remember that your glasses are first and foremost a medical devices to help you see better; it’s vital to get everything right when buying a new pair. 

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