Frame Materials and Styles of Sunglasses

Sunglasses are important for protecting our eyes from the sun but they can also be a fun fashion accessory. You know that the lenses of your sunglasses are important for protecting your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun, but how much do you know about sunglass frames? Sunglass frames are available in just about any style imaginable, from durable and sturdy to sleek and sophisticated. Because sunglass manufacturers use many different materials to make frames, you can find options to fit just about any budget, big or small. Frame material, hinge type, and frame style are important factors when selecting sunglasses, as they often reflect cost and durability.

A woman jumping with sunglasses on
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Frame Materials

While you certainly shouldn't skimp when it comes to protecting your eyes, a pair of quality sunglasses don't have to cost an arm and a leg. Sunglass frames are usually made of either plastics or some type of metal.

  • Plastics: Sunglasses with plastic frames are generally the least expensive. There are several types of plastic frame materials, the most common type being zylonite. Zylonite (zyl) frames are easily adjusted with heat and are available in a variety of colors. Another popular plastic frame material is polycarbonate. Polycarbonate frames are primarily associated with sport or safety glasses, as they offer optimum impact resistance and eye protection.
  • Metals: Most name-brand sunglass manufacturers use high-strength, lightweight composite or metal materials to make their frames. These frames generally tend to last longer, even with frequent handling. Metal frame materials include nickel, stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium. Titanium is a premium frame material, as it is strong, corrosion-resistant and hypoallergenic.


Another feature to note when comparing sunglass frames is the hinge. When trying on sunglasses, you can usually tell immediately if you like them, as the frames feel like they fit properly your face.

Hinge styles vary in the amount of tension they place on your temples, depending on the size and shape of your head, and can sometimes be adjusted. Hinges are usually made of either stainless steel or plastic. While stainless steel hinges tend to have longer lifespans, they usually lack flexibility. There are generally three types of sunglass hinges: barrel, spring and interlocking hinges.

  • Barrel hinge: The barrel is the most common type of hinge. The barrel hinge is designed with interlocking pieces on the inside of the frame, held together with a small screw.
  • Spring hinge: Spring hinges are made with a spring, allowing the temples of the frame to press more firmly to your head. These hinges are more expensive but allow for a more customized fit.
  • Interlocking hinge: Interlocking hinges are a lot like barrel hinges, except the hinge is molded directly into the frame. These hinges are commonly used in plastic frames.

Some sunglasses are designed with screws instead of hinges. Screws tend to loosen with wear but are easily tightened with the use of an eyeglass repair kit. Earpieces and nose bridge quality also differ between sunglass frames. The end of the earpieces and temple pieces are often made of plastic materials. Higher-quality sunglass frames tend to have rubber temples, to keep the sunglasses from sliding down the nose.


Various styles of sunglass frames hold lenses in different ways. Common sunglass frame styles include full-frame, half-frame, and frameless versions. Full-framed sunglasses completely surround the lenses. Half-framed sunglasses surround only half the lens, usually the upper portion. Frameless (rimless) sunglasses, a favorite among people who prefer slim lines and lightweight frames, have no rims around the lenses. The lenses of this type of sunglass frame are usually attached to the ear stems.

Besides offering protection from the sun, sunglasses are a major fashion accessory for many people. While it's true that prices of sunglasses vary significantly, quality sunglasses can be affordable. When shopping for sunglasses, spend some time comparing sunglass frames.

A Word From Verywell

Sunglasses are a fun fashion accessory but also provide protection for your eyes and vision. Sunglasses can be found in many stores these days, and are available in many different styles. A pair of shades can be budget-friendly or expensive, depending on the quality of the materials used. 

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Sunglasses: Protection from UV Eye Damage.

By Troy Bedinghaus, OD
Troy L. Bedinghaus, OD, board-certified optometric physician, owns Lakewood Family Eye Care in Florida. He is an active member of the American Optometric Association.