Sunday, September 2, 2012

Online Shopping: To Buy, or Not To Buy?

I've had a few questions concerning online shopping for frames, particularly for my ECO's. Online browsing can be a good way to get an idea of what you want, but you never have any idea of knowing how they will look on you until you've seen them on you in a mirror.

I've never ordered glasses online firsthand. I got my ECO's from my clinic. You can always search for them on various websites. If you know the model number and manufacturer, you can do a google search, which will direct you to a variety of online optical shops. You can also shop around and see if you have any local optical shops that stock ECO frames.

There are a few factors to keep in mind while browsing. Shape is important. As I mentioned in my previous post concerning makeup, aesthetics rely heavily upon balance. If you have a round face, stick to square shapes. Round shapes will make you look rounder. If you have more square features, choose a round frame to soften your look. If you have a wide face, don't choose a tiny frame. If you have a small face, don't choose a huge frame. Pay attention to the top of the frame front- do they make you look angry, or sad? Or do they flatter the shape of your eyebrows? Again, it's hard to determine this without trying them on. Of course, some sites allow you to upload your own photos and superimpose glasses onto that picture, but this seldom looks realistic.

Cute, but honestly not the best shape for my face.

Also keep in mind what colors (if you choose to steer away from the basic black) look best against your skin. In nearly all cases, stay away from white! It will make even the pearliest of teeth look lackluster at best, yellowed at worst. In addition, if you're pale, it may make you look tan or even jaundiced. However, if you are dark skinned and have very white teeth, I'd actually encourage you to try out a white frame-- but please, for all that is good and gothly, DO NOT buy a white frame before seeing how it looks on your lovely self! If you have a rosier complexion, some shades of red may make you look as though you're perpetually blushing.

See? Terrible.

As far as choosing the correct frame size, you want it to be just right. The best thing to do is to visit an optical shop and try on frames. This is a good way to see what sort of styles are on the market as well as what sizes fit you best. Obviously you don't want a frame that will fall off of your face, but at the same time, you don't want it squeezing the sides of your head because then your only options will be to have the optician bow out the temples, which may look funny  (we in the optical business call that "pumpkin heading" the frame), or not stretch anything and let the temples leave indentations in the side of your head, which can and will cause headaches. Also be certain that the temple is long enough to wrap around the bend of your ear half way. Be sure to write down the size of the frames that fit best. The frame size may be something along the lines of 50-18-130. The first number, in this case 50, is the eye size. The eye size is the distance from the outer edge of the lens to the inner edge in millimeters. The second number, 18 indicates the bridge size, or distance between the innermost edges of the left and right lenses (the part that fits over your nose). Lastly, 130 in this instance, represents the length of the temple, commonly referred to as a "leg" or "arm" by the general public.

Most of the time the frame size can be found on the inside of the temple. If you have trouble finding the frame size, as an optician on duty. =)

Now please keep in mind, it won't have to be a Cinderella fit, because 99% of glasses need to be custom fit and adjusted to the patient, but you do want to make sure it's a pretty close fit.

Hipster Cinderella

Another measurement you will need is your PD. or pupillary distance. As the name suggests, it is the measurement between your pupils in millimeters. This MUST be taken by an optician. Many online sites tell you to use a ruler and do it yourself in the mirror- THIS IS A VERY FAULTY METHOD!! These online retailers are less concerned about quality and more concerned about getting your business (and your money!). An accurate PD is important because it lets the optical lab know where in the frame to place the sharpest point of vision. Picture a lens blank as being a target. The very sharpest point is in the center of the lens blank (the circular lens before it's cut to fit into the frame). The lab needs to move the bulls eye in the frame to fit over *exactly* where your pupil will be. When they determine the exact inset of where your pupils will be, they then cut the lens to fit into the frame shape.  If this is off, your pupils will not align with that sweet spot; if it's off by too much, you may get headaches from prism. Prism is required in some prescriptions to force your eyes to work together. However, if you don't need it, your eyes cannot work together, hence the headaches.

Diagram of a lens blank- yes, my circles are FAR from perfect.
Your PD is taken in one of two ways. The old fashioned way is literally taking a ruler and measuring between the pupils while the patient looks at the optician's eye. Most of the time, opticians don't measure the space between the inner pupils, but rather from the temporal edge (nearer your ear/outside) of your right iris (colored portion of your eye) to the nasal edge (nearer your nose/inside) of your left iris. The second way to take a PD, and in my opinion, easier way, is with a device called a pupilometer. These remind me of children's viewfinders. The patient looks through one side, at a target, while the optician looks through the pupilometer. The optician sees two little windows, framing each eye, and a tiny pinpoint of light on each pupil. There are two vertical movable bars inside the device that can be moved horizontally with sliding switches on top. The optician moves these bars so that each bar completely bisects the light. The optician can then get the digital measurement from the pupilometer's topside. If neither of these methods have been used on you, be wary if you are told a PD, because it's likely you haven't actually had your PD measured at all. A PD is not a part of a prescription, so it will not be written on your prescription sheet and taking a PD is not a part of a routine examination. 
Old fashioned way of taking a PD.
High tech way of taking a PD.
Optician training device.

Now here is where the frame size and the PD relate to one another. Ideally, you will want your PD to match up with the frame PD. The frame PD is the eye size plus the bridge size. Remember our previous example (54-18-130)? Take 50 + 18, and you will find the frame PD of 68. Try to pick a frame with a PD close to your own for optimal thinness, however, be sure that the frame is a good fit- that it feels comfortable, as mentioned before.

Another factor to keep in mind is your prescription. The higher the script, the thicker the lenses will be. (However, you can choose to upgrade from basic plastic to a higher index material, such as polycarbonate or Trivex to help thin out the lens). If you, like yours truly, has a higher prescription, try to stay away from larger frames-- they will be thick and heavy. If you have a high minus prescription (extremely nearsighted), it's smart to choose a small shape with thick plastic sides. The closer the edges of the frame are to that sweet spot of vision, the thinner the edges will be, since minus prescriptions are thickest on the sides. It's also a good idea to stick with smaller eye shapes with high plus (farsighted) scripts to decrease lens weight. If you have a high plus prescription, STAY AWAY from rimless and semi-rimless- the thin edges are more likely to to chip.
Bisected side view of a plus lens blank.
Bisected side view of a minus lens blank.
Now, if you are dead set on buying online, I would highly recommend picking something with adjustable silicon nose pads. Noses, like people, come in all sorts of different sizes and shapes (and they're all beautiful!). In addition to being able to be adjusted to fit different sizes of noses, silicon nose pads are also designed to rock to fit on a variety of nose shapes. So please, there is no need to complain to your optician that your nose pads are "loose and jiggly"-- we can't tighten the screws because they're supposed to be that way! :p

All this having been said, adjustable nose pads are found primarily- 99.9% of the time-- on metal frames. Plastic frames, however, do not come with nose pads, but rather feature a notch for the nose. It's best to try these on to make sure they fit your nose comfortably!

Back to my main point, I firmly believe that it's best to buy your glasses from physical stores- no shipping cost, less wait time, you have some idea of how it will fit you, and there is a person working there whose job is to help you find the perfect frame for *you* {and your wicked sense of style}.

Image not mine, but too cool not to share.

Love and hugs,
Sea, the Gothic Optician, A.B.O.C.


  1. Replies
    1. Eye exams vary, depending on the clinic you visit and what part of the country you are in. In addition, your insurance may cover part or all of your exam if you have vision coverage. My clinic charges $120 for an exam (that is, self pay without insurance), but places like Walmart offer them for a bit less.

  2. I actually have 2 pairs of glasses from Zenni Optical, after having gotten good reviews from friends, & I am very satisfied with my purchases. In one case, I bought only the frames & had the lenses fitted by my regular optometrist (bec. I have VSP & hadn't used my lens allotment for the year ;-). The frames are excellent quality & exactly what I needed (I use them for historical costume events). The second pair, I got prescription sunglasses (which I knew would be far too expensive at my regular optometrist), & I love these. The quality of both frame & lens is great. Neither is my everyday pair of glasses, simply bec. I don't need another pair for that purpose, but they're fantastic for the uses I needed. Also, excellent customer service & fast shipping, so I'd recommend them!

    1. Really now? Well it seems I'll have to redact my statement on Zenni. :)

      I may have to check them out first hand and do a review sometime in the future.