Glasses lens technology has developed significantly over the past couple decades, and they’re now more resilient than ever. However, with so many material and glasses lens coating options, picking out the best pair of lenses can be confusing — and expensive. This guide will take the guesswork out of deciding what materials and coatings are right for you. Whether you need glass, plastic, or transitions lenses, a scratch resistant coating or an anti-reflective coating, this guide will help you decide what you need — without breaking the bank.

Lens Materials
Lens Coatings

Glass Lenses vs. Plastic Lenses

Lens Materials

When you are picking a new pair of glasses, there are many options available in terms of lens materials. Modern lenses offer many features such as shatter resistance, UV protection, improved vision correction, lightweight and thin design, and polarization — the days of thick and heavy coke-bottle lenses are over. The following will help you navigate the features of the most commonly used eyeglass lenses:

Glass Lenses vs. Plastic Lenses

Glass lenses are significantly thicker than plastic lenses, which makes them much heavier. The thickness and weight of the glass lenses increases with higher prescriptions. Glass lenses break much easier than plastic lenses, and it is very dangerous when they do, as the glass shatters. Generally, glass lenses are more expensive than plastic lenses.

Plastic lenses are much lighter than glass lenses, allowing them to sit better on the bridge of your nose. Plastic lenses are impact resistant, which means they are less likely to break than glass lenses. Plastic lenses can become scratched fairly easily; however, it is very easy and cost effective to have a protective coating applied to the lenses that protects them from scratching. A coating can also be done for anti-glare. If you are looking for a more affordable pair of reading glasses, plastic lenses are more affordable than glass lenses, but they tend to get costly as you apply more coatings to your lenses.

Polycarbonate Lenses

Polycarbonate lenses are light and thin, making them much more comfortable than regular, plastic lenses. Polycarbonate lenses also offer 100 percent ultraviolet (UV) protection. Polycarbonate is known as a “flexible” material, allowing these lenses to also be extremely impact resistant. Thanks to their comfort, UV protection, and impact resistance, polycarbonate lenses are ideal for children and active adults. The downside to these lenses is that they are more expensive than both glass and plastic lenses.

Trivex Lenses

Trivex lenses are composed of a newer plastic that has the same characteristics as polycarbonate lenses. Like the polycarbonate lenses, trivex lenses are thin, lightweight, and impact resistant. The difference between trivex and polycarbonate lenses is that trivex correct vision better.

High Index Plastic Lenses

High index plastic lenses are designed for those who have a strong prescription. Unlike the much thicker, “coke bottle” glass lenses, high index plastic lenses are much lighter and thinner. Because they are a much better choice than glass lenses, high index plastic lenses are very expensive.

Aspheric Lenses

The main purpose of aspheric lenses is to reduce the distortion of the wearer’s eye, as seen by other people. These lenses are especially important for people who have a strong prescription. The distortion is reduced by having a thinner lens on the outside and a thicker, curvier lens in the middle. For more on going aspheric, read this article.

Photochromic Lenses

Also known as transitional lenses, photochromic lenses can be made of either plastic or glass. This type of lens changes to a darker tint in sunlight, creating a built-in prescription sunglass within a pair of reading glasses. The downside to these lenses is that they do not change tint while in a car, due to the UV-protected windshield.

Polarized Glasses

Polarized lenses reduce glare from reflected light off of water or any other surface. Polarized lenses are ideal for sports or driving. That way, you will not miss that pop-fly baseball, tug at your fishing pole, or sneaky stop sign. Check out our collection of polarized sun readers here.

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Lens Coatings

By applying coatings to your lenses, you enhance the performance, quality, and life of your glasses. There are many different types of coatings that can be applied to your lenses, including anti-reflective, scratch-resistant, anti-fog, mirror coatings, and UV treatment. Remember, each separate coating adds additional cost. Here are the most common lens coatings:

Uncoated Plastic Lenses

By not applying preventative coatings to your glasses, such as anti-glare and anti-scratching, they will not have the best performance possible. Although adding coatings to your plastic lenses does become quite costly, some experts say it is worth the money due to the fact that it will make your lenses more effective and last longer.

Anti-Reflective Glasses

Anti-reflective lenses, also known as AR, are best for reflecting light, especially while driving and extended lengths of time at a computer. Due to the layering effect of AR, some lenses may have a green or purple tint.

Scratch Resistant Glasses

No matter the type of lens, any pair of glasses is never fully scratch proof. The scratch-resistant coating is applied only to give the lenses a harder surface, which makes your reading glasses more resistant to scratches. To help prolong your lenses without scratches, make sure you carry your glasses in a soft case that also has a microfiber cleaning cloth. If you do not want to spend the extra money for the scratch-resistant coating, there are a few things you can do to help with the upkeep your lenses. Paper towels and clothing create scratches, so cleaning your lenses with a microfiber cloth helps prolong their life.

Mirrored Lenses

A mirror coating is applied to the lens to prevent light from reflecting into the eye. The coating actually makes the outside of the lens look like a mirror. The wearer does not see the mirror coating from the inside of the lens, just the color tint of the coating.

Tinted Lenses

Our special guide to lens tints will help you decipher which ones are best for you. For more, read here.

Resources on Lens Coatings

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