The Dizzying Menu of Choices and Add-ons When Purchasing Glasses

Many thanks to our newest contributor, Nikki, for writing this – Ann Z

I just spent $1115.00 on lenses and frames for three members of our family and expect to buy our three-year-old’s first pair next month. We are not new to choosing from the long list of options when customizing glasses, though we had our own trials with differentiating which features and add-ons were important, cosmetic or just plain unnecessary.

First, ask questions. Go ahead and say that you need help deciding which options are important, the reasons for each and any cost or benefit.  Most opticians, optometrists, ophthalmologists, and even office staff want you to be genuinely happy with a very useful pair of glasses.  We often do this without our children present because it can take 30 minutes or so to make all your selections (even after deciding on frames) depending on how many pairs you’re buying.


We’ve learned poly-carbonate lenses are the way to go. These are also sometimes called Hi-index or safety glasses, and they are thinner than regular plastic. These are sometimes more expensive for adults, though usually no extra charge for people under 18 for the obvious safety reasons. They’re lighter weight, too, and they have built-in UV protection. Glass does resist scratching better, though. So, if you choose plastic, you’re gonna need coating.


Scratch coating and anti-reflective/anti-glare are also worth it. Often, if you pay the charge for scratch-coating, your lenses can be replaced *for free* for up to one year. So, if you see even one scratch, take them in! Anti-glare is important for two reasons: 1) you seeing out and 2) others seeing in. First, anti-glare helps the glasses-wearer by reducing the ‘halo effect’ around lights. Second, with the coating, others see clearly through to your child’s (or your) beautiful eyes. This is especially nice in photos! Have you seen your reflection in someone else’s lenses? Anti-glare coating solves that, too.

Polarized and UV protection are most often associated with tinted glasses, aka sunglasses. We have chosen Transitions. (Photochromic is the generic term. There are many brands of this. Usually your office will offer just one. They all do the job!)  We love Transitions for several reasons. One is hyper-sensitive to light and these make a huge difference. It is also extremely difficult for a young child to be responsible for two pairs of glasses, and this eliminates the need. Their backup glasses are not Transitions, since they mostly sit in a drawer and are only to be used as a temporary replacement.


Some frames have wire arms or spring-hinges to build in some shock-absorbency. In my opinion, if you’re that active, get the sport glasses. We even have swim goggles that are prescription. (You gotta see the wall, right?) You can find these on-line at swim stores – as long as you know your prescription – and they are surprisingly inexpensive.


Often, frames are under warranty for a year and almost every place will adjust and ‘tweak’ at no cost and as often as you need. Kids’ glasses can get bent just from running to you for a hug, so we are dropping by as often as once a week for adjustments.

Bottom Line

Our children are our top priority. Their vision and eye care top the list of health concerns. Few things are worn as often as glasses – think of the cost averaged over a year. Often, with all these options, my child’s glasses cost $300 or less. I have no stake in the eyewear industry, just in my kids.



2. The Seven Deadly Sins of Recommending Kids’ Lenses by Sharon Leonard, LDO, ABOC-AC, FCLSA

3. Victor Rosario, office manager
Coan Eye Care
Orlando, FL

3 responses to “The Dizzying Menu of Choices and Add-ons When Purchasing Glasses

  1. There are some factual inaccuracies in this article. For example, polycarbonate and high-index are two different materials, not two names for the same thing. Poly is the industry standard for anyone under eighteen, and is often mandated by company or business owners because it (along with another material that’s less well known, called Trivex) is the safest material available. Glass is not widely used, and no one would put a child in that material. Poly always has scratch and UV protection, and anyone charging you extra for these is ripping you off.


    • Wow, Louise, thanks for your help. I’m not an eyeglass professional, though it’s my understanding that polycarbonate is a type of high-index/hi-index. I did mean to convey that polycarbonate is the material used in safety glasses. Certainly did not intend to be unclear — no pun intended! If plastic (non-polycarbonate) is the wearer’s choice, the coatings would be necessary. It’s all of us collaborating that yields the best information.


  2. Louise is right on the high index vs. polycarbonate.

    Some added trivia (Hi Ann!): In Minnesota at least, polycarbonate is required for kids under 18 because it’s shatterproof. Polycarbonate is thinner than the less expensive plastic lenses, so it does thin things down for stronger prescriptions like a hi-index, just not as much. Hi-index comes in a variety of thicknesses – most places will offer 1.60 and/or 1.67 (the higher the number, the thinner the lens). Some specialty labs can go even thinner- if you’re buying from an independent shop they may have that as an option. All of these will usually include UV protection and scratch resistance in the lens itself, and shouldn’t be an additional charge.

    Transitions versus sunglasses can be hit or miss, and worth making your salesperson discuss your lifestyle. I’ve met at least one boy who _hated_ them, because he went to an older school without good UV protection in the classroom windows. That was enough to make them turn dark indoors and cause some teasing. They also don’t cut glare as well as polarized sunglasses would if your family spends a lot of time at a lake or the pool. The upside is that the transitions or a tinted lens won’t interfere with reading electronic displays like a polarized lens can. Almost any shop you choose will have some kind of incentive on getting multiple pairs of glasses if you decide to add sunglasses.


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