What You Should Know About Choosing Eyeglass Frames

Choosing a frame for your glasses can be a daunting task, but choosing the right frame is important because eyewear frames can truly enhance your appearance, just as your lenses enhance your vision.

Frames come in a variety of colors, and are of varying durability, weight, and price. There are designer brands and less expensive brands, and some are made of hypoallergenic materials while others are not.

Considering these many options, it is important to find frames that not only suit your style and are fitted to the shape of your face, but are also suited for your prescription and lifestyle. It is important to understand the importance of durability, consistency of finish and manufacturer, company reliability, and style appeal. These qualities are not always found in lesser quality frames or vendors.

You should always consult a professional before choosing a frame. If you have never purchased a pair of glasses, you may not know that there is much more to it than just getting a prescription and picking out your favorite frames.

There are other considerations, such as the shape of your face, your skin tone, your lifestyle needs, lens designs, lens features, etc. Most opticians can assess your prescriptions, face shape, and skin tone without you even knowing they have done so.

When you visit your optician, however, they will ask you a few questions about your lifestyle and fashion needs in order to better help you in choosing the right frame.

Lens Considerations When Choosing a Frame

The first thing your optician will do is review your prescription and ask you a few lifestyle questions. They do this because depending on your individual prescription and needs, you may not be able to choose from all the available frames.

It is important to know that lenses can be made in aspheric or hi-index designs for the more difficult prescription. These designs are made with a much flatter curve, so there is less thickness in the lens, giving the eyewear a slimmer, more flattering profile.

This also makes it possible for someone with a strong prescription to wear a larger selection of frames without worrying that the lenses are too thick and noticeable.

Myopic Prescriptions (nearsighted or minus)

These lenses will be thicker at the edges than in the center. If the prescription is less than -2.50, almost any frame size or shape will be suitable, and the lens will have a cosmetically acceptable edge thickness.

Most of today’s fashionable frames are made of plastic or metal with rims thinner than the lens itself. Also popular are rimless mountings that leave the lens edge completely exposed.

For prescriptions over -2.50 a smaller frame should be considered to avoid edge thickness, and when choosing a rimless mounting, high-index lenses should be used.

Hyperopic Prescriptions (farsighted or plus)

These lenses will be thicker in the center. The stronger the prescription, the heavier and more uncomfortable the lens will become for the wearer. The centers of these lenses will also appear to bulge out from the frame.

As with myopic prescriptions, powers less than +2.50 will be able to choose from a larger selection of frames. It is important to remember that thin or rimless frames may not be suitable for these lenses because the edge is the thinnest portion and cannot always be securely fitted into the frame.

Choosing a smaller, sturdier frame will decrease the heaviness of the lenses, making your glasses more comfortable. Also, having adjustable nose pads rather than fixed makes adjustments easier and keeps the heavy lenses sitting in the correct position.

Progressive Lenses (no-line)

Progressive lenses are aspheric by design. A progressive lens is a lens that transitions in power as the eye moves vertically. The reading area is located in the bottom portion of the lens, making it important to choose a frame large enough to have sufficient viewing areas at all distances.

When a frame that is too small for a progressive design is chosen, the reading area will end up being uncomfortably small or unusable.

Lens manufacturers have overcome this problem by introducing “short corridor” progressive lenses with a more compact design that provides larger reading areas for today’s smaller, fashionable frames.

Other Considerations When Choosing a Frame

Eyewear should emphasize your best personal feature, complimenting the shape and coloring of your face. They should fit properly to be comfortable, but also allow you to see through the lenses at the optical center for optimal vision.

Once your optician has reviewed your prescription and asked you a few questions, they will be able to help you choose a frame you like.

Face Shape Considerations:

Round: A round face has curved lines with the width and length in the same proportions and no angles. To make a round face appear thinner and longer, try angular narrow frames to lengthen the face, a clear bridge to widen the eyes, and frames that are wider than they are deep, such as a rectangular shape.

Oval: To keep the oval’s natural balance, look for frames that are as wide as the broadest part of the face, or walnut-shaped frames that are not too deep or too narrow.

Oblong: An oblong face is longer than it is wide and has a long, straight cheek line and sometimes a longish nose. To make the face appear shorter and more balanced, try frames that have more depth than width, decorative or contrasting temples that add width to the face, or a low bridge to shorten the nose.

Base-Down Triangle: A base-down triangular face has a narrow forehead and widens at the cheek and chin areas. To add width and emphasize the narrow upper third of the face, try frames that are heavily accented with color and detailing on the top half, or cat-eyed shapes.

Base-Up Triangle: This face has a very wide top third and a small bottom third. To minimize the width of the top of the face, try frames that are wider at the bottom and are made of very light colors and materials, or rimless frame styles.

Diamond: Diamond-shaped faces are narrow at the eye line and jaw line, and have broad cheekbones that may be high and dramatic. This is the rarest face shape. To highlight the eyes and soften the cheekbones, try frames that have detailing or distinctive brow lines, or try rimless frames or oval shapes.

Square: A square face has a strong jawline and a broad forehead, plus the width and length are in the same proportions. To make the square face look longer and soften the angles, try narrow frame styles, frames that have more width than depth, and narrow ovals.

Color Tone Considerations:

Skin, eyes, and hair have color bases that fall into two categories: cool tone or warm tone. Cool has blue or pink undertones and warm has peach or yellow. Olive skin is considered cool because it is a mixture of blue and yellow.

Brown eyes can vary from light amber, a warm tone, to medium brown-black, a cool tone. Sixty percent of Americans have cool toned skin. Some examples of frame colors best suited for these tones are below:

Cool Tones: Black, rose-brown, blue-gray, plum, magenta, pink, jade, blue, and darker tortoise.

Warm Tones: Camel, khaki, gold, copper, peach, orange, coral, off-white, fire red, warm blue, and blond tortoise.

Frame Styles:

There are many types of frames but these are the most common:

Full Frame: Composed of plastic or metal materials, and has a rim that surrounds the lenses entirely.

Semi-Rimless (or grooved rimless): Composed of metal or a combination of both plastic temples and metal frame front. The lenses are only partially surrounded by metal and held in place with a nylon cord, usually on the bottom portion of the lenses.

Rimless (or drilled rimless): Composed of only three metal parts, two temples and one bridge. The glasses are assembled by drilling two sets of holes in each lens and attaching the temples and bridge directly into these holes. The lenses are not surrounded by material at all.


Plastic: Plastic frames are lightweight and come in an array of color options. Zyl is the most common plastic frame material; it is nylon based and hypoallergenic. Nylon can be easily molded for the more popular wrap styles.

A drawback to plastic frames is they need special care when warming during adjustments because they can easily pit, and the finish can be damaged if overheated. They are more easily broken than metal frames, and exposure to sunlight decreases their strength slightly.

Color can fade over time, but this happens less with premium manufactures. They will burn, but are not easily ignited.

General Metals: Most frames in the US are made of metal. Some metals can react with skin chemistry, but this is preventable by using metals that are palladium or nickel-free. Monel is the most common metal frame material because it resists corrosion.

Beryllium is also popular because it also resists corrosion and tarnish, making it an excellent choice for wearers who have high skin acidity or spend a lot of time in or around salt water.

Titanium is extremely lightweight and will not rust, and because of its strength it can be made thin. It has been used for everything from the Gemini and Apollo space capsules to medical implants such as heart valves. Titanium can be produced in a variety of colors and is hypoallergenic.

Flexon is a titanium-based alloy. This unique and popular material, invented by the frame manufacturer Marchon, is called a “memory metal,” meaning that the frames come back into shape even after twisting, bending, and crushing. They are 25% lighter than standard metals, hypoallergenic and corrosion-resistant.


Wood, Bone, and Horn: Although less adjustable and much more expensive than other accents, this material is appealing because of its unique beauty.

Leather: Leather is not as durable as other accents, but it provides an interesting and fashionable look.

Semi-Precious or Precious stones and Rhinestones: Popular choices are onyx, turquoise, and Swarovski crystals, but even diamonds can be used for a luxurious touch. Rhinestones are less expensive and often create a flashy or retro look.

How To Choose a Frame Based On Your Fashion Preferences

So now that you know more about what is available to you, and now that you have been educated by your optician, you will need to decide which frames you like the best, depending on your style and what is currently in fashion.

New frame styles are generally released quarterly, but they sometimes come on the market monthly. There will always be the old standby styles, but if you wear eyeglasses and you are interested in following the latest trends, what better way than with new frames?

Typically the frame material, quality, and accents determine the price of the frame, but if you’re looking for a top designer your frame cost may bit a higher, depending on the name.

Sources and References:
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  • All About Vision, Opticians Handbook, Ophthalmology Times and Vision Rx