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Why You Should Invest in Your Lenses

Updated on April 29, 2015

Why Wouldn't You Invest in Your Glasses?

Recently, I was talking with someone regarding buying glasses for my grandmother and mentioned how much they would cost. The response I got was “That’s a nice thing you are doing, although we have never spent that much on a pair of glasses for ourselves, that is exponentially high!”

This response upset me, but I didn't really know why at the time. So I thought about it. Obviously to me my grandma is worth every penny spent after the time she has invested in me and our family members. So the price wasn't really a factor when it came to her. In fact on further reflection, to me, all my family members are worth paying the amount for glasses that she would receive. So what really bothered me about this “exponentially high” price tag? The price? The palpable shock and incredulity of that individual about the cost of these glasses? I wasn't sure.

So I asked a different question of myself and I pose the same question to those of you reading as well: “Why would you not spend this much on glasses for yourself?”

Working in the industry as an Optician for 4 years, it’s easy for me to understand what each add-on is and why you would want to buy these options. But the average person may not have any idea. They may not have someone like me to ask if they are getting “ripped off” or what the actual function is and if it’s worth it.

So, I am writing this to put forth my opinions and basic knowledge for those who don’t know someone in the Optical field and hopefully to answer some general questions.


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My first disclaimer is that I know this stuff is expensive. If you don’t wander into a shop that can crap out a 2 for 1 deal at $69.95 you are going to see a price that is way different than that “Super good Deal” you are used to seeing in ads all over the place. So let us start with what you are actually getting from this deal and compare it to what you get from an independent office.

The cheap glasses "deal" will normally get you 2 pairs of Single Vision (that’s distance or reading prescription only) basic cheap plastic lenses(Referred to as CR39, or allyl diglycol carbonate) with no coatings, no UV protection and no warranties. The frame choices are pretty basic, not too terrible if you are looking for just easy throw on styles that have no real personality to them. Your upgrade cost in these shops is usually for frames with brand names. This first article is mostly about lenses. What’s so terrible about this 2 for 1 deal you ask? Well, here is my first upgrade recommendation and some education for the lenses in your glasses


Lens Material Polycarbonate or Trivex

You really want to upgrade your lens material to Polycarbonate or Trivex for your glasses and not CR39. To be fair to the CR39 die hard Opticians, CR39 has the best optical quality when you look through it, its referred to as the ABBE value. But when you place these materials in front of your average person they would be hard pressed to actually notice any differences at all. So to me CR39 is best if these glasses are for indoor reading or computer activities, but keep in mind not all CR39s are equal! Just like diamonds there are different levels of quality to the plastic blanks. Do you really expect to be getting a good CR39 if you are at a place that can cut these lenses into shape in just an hour?

Polycarbonate or Trivex materials have a few benefits over plain plastic. (Just as a quick FYI both of these plastics were developed for aerospace applications. At one point or another they were/are used as the cockpit material for jets and space ships.)

  1. Thinner and lighter:
    This may not matter if you have little prescription correction.
  2. Impact and shatter resistant:
    This is my most favored feature of these materials, think of it like tempered window glass. This will allow for up to 10x more shatter resistance! Good for kids since they are a little more rough and tumble. In my work experience CR39 chips and shatters all the time. I can get a new pair of lenses in and simply set them down and the edges will chip off. So if your not someone who takes great care of your things you do have the chip risk.
  3. Both Trivex and Polycabonate block 100% of the UV rays without extra coatings needed:
    Sunblock for the eyes! Amazing! This lets us help protect our delicate eyelid tissues from developing Skin Cancer. Issues such as pinguecula or pterygium.

The exact cause is unknown, but seems to be associated with excessive exposure to wind, sunlight, or sand.
The exact cause is unknown, but seems to be associated with excessive exposure to wind, sunlight, or sand. | Source

UV DAMAGE IS REAL! UV protection helps prolong the development of potential eye diseases over the long term.

As a side note to Trivex or Polycarb materials, almost every place you go will include a one time scratch replacement for basic wear and tear if you upgrade to these materials. No it doesn’t cover being run over, chewed on or lost so don’t ask. Basic wear and tear is cleaning scratches or maybe other tiny scratches that happened by accident.

Anti-Glare with Scratch Coating

The next upgrade you should be willing to pay for; Anti-Glare with scratch coating. (You can pay for just a scratch coating which makes scratches less noticed and usually extends the replacement time for your lenses) When anti-glare is applied to the surface of your lenses, it will reduce reflections in general. Typically, this improves the efficiency since less light is lost.

Just like shoes, there is a huge selection of different quality and functional anti-glare products. So the basic rule of thumb: the cheaper it is the less likely it is to be effective and last long term. In most cases, you'll get what you pay for. If you tend to have trouble with lights when driving at night, get an anti-glare. Glasses don’t seem clean? Get the anti-glare coating with Scotch-Guard. Do you do nothing but computer, laptop, tablet or phone work? Gert an anti-glare with a blue blocker to protect your eyes from the blue light emitted from electronics.

The newest anti-glare info out is all about Blue lighting. Since many of our devices are now emitting this type of light there is research that points towards these wavelengths having multiple harmful effects on our health. Unfortunately we need more time to see the long term effects of this type of technology. (Ask your DR about blue lights and Macular Degeneration.) One of the health issues that have the most support is that this blue light messes up our sleep cycles.

According to http://www.health.harvard.edu/ website:

"Blue light has a dark side

Light at night is bad for your health, and exposure to blue light emitted by electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs may be especially so.

Until the advent of artificial lighting, the sun was the major source of lighting, and people spent their evenings in (relative) darkness. Now, in much of the world, evenings are illuminated, and we take our easy access to all those lumens pretty much for granted.

But we may be paying a price for basking in all that light. At night, light throws the body’s biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

But not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown."

Pretty crazy information you may not have realized right? Later they go on to say we should cut off our exposure to these devices approximately 2-3 hours before going to sleep. Can you live that long without your YouTube and Facebook? Well now just imagine what shoving those phones and tablets up into our faces is doing over a long term. Some of these things are not-proven yet, but studies are on-going. The problem that terrifies me should the studies confirm it, is that the damage is not reversible and the end result is blindness.

In Conclusion

To close this out I leave you with this last thought:
Blindness. Poor vision. Think about how your life would be different if you couldn't see. Know someone with crazy thick lenses in their glasses? Ask them about it, chances are they pay for the best upgrades and that’s the best they can get. Think about how much money you spend on things that satisfy an immediate desire. Starbucks 5 days a week 52 weeks at $3.26 is a total of $847.60 on coffee drinks a year. A brand new HD flat screen TV 60’ for the home is approximately $1,200 and ironically you buy so that you can see the programs better…let that sink in. A Coach purse or Steve Madden shoes for $400 or more.

For a comparison here is a ball-park figure for a good quality pair of single vision glasses with frame that does not include any insurance coverage or prompt pay discounts:

1. CR39 plastic: $99

2. Trivex Upgrade: $63

3. Blue Blocker Anti-glare $115

4. Frame Average cost $130

Total: $407

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(By the way this brand from Hoya, referred to as Recharge EX3, is a blue blocker that has been independently tested and was shown to be as hard as or harder to scratch than glass.)

Why wouldn't you spend this amount on your own vision? Your vision which has a much bigger impact on your minute to minute life than almost any other thing you can purchase? For those who are being cost effective get a cheaper frame, and of all the upgrades the Trivex is the best deal for your money on the lenses in my opinion.

So I ask again, Why would you not spend this much on glasses?

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