Eyeglasses Lenses: Types, Features, Replacement

There are different lens materials to meet different needs

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Eyeglass lens material doesn't change the corrective power of your glasses. Rather, eyeglass lens types offer different cosmetic and lifestyle benefits to the wearer.

For example, some offer protection from the glare of computer screens. Others thin out lenses that would otherwise be thick and stick out of a frame.

This article reviews the different lens material options for glasses. You can use this information to decide which eyeglasses lens material type is right for you.

Optician helping customer to choose new spectacles
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Eyeglass Lens Types

The first decision you'll need to make when picking eyeglass lenses is the type of material used to make the lens.

Hi-Index Lenses

Hi-index lenses are made of a special plastic material that refracts light in a different way than regular plastic lenses.

Here are a few reasons why you might choose this eyeglasses lens material:

  • Hi-index lenses can correct vision with less material, making the lens much thinner. The plastics are graded in numbers—for example, 1.50 or 1.67. The higher the number, the thinner the lens.
  • Since the lenses are thinner, hi-index lenses are also lighter and more comfortable to wear. If you have a high prescription, high-index lens glasses can be made to be more cosmetically attractive and appealing.

This eyeglass lens type also has downsides you might want to consider:

  • Hi-index lens materials tend to cost more than standard plastic lenses.

Polycarbonate Lenses

Polycarbonate lenses are made of a type of plastic that is more impact-resistant than standard plastic lenses.

Here are a few reasons why you might choose this eyeglasses lens material:

  • Polycarbonate lenses are also much thinner and lighter in weight. They are considered high index plastic.
  • Polycarbonate lenses also have built-in ultraviolet protection. Because of these properties, it is the lens material of choice for children’s lenses, sports lenses, and safety lenses.

Abbe Value

The abbe value is the number of chromatic aberrations in a lens. The higher this number is, the better the quality of vision through the lens will be.

This eyeglass lens type also has downsides you might want to consider:

  • If you have higher powers or high astigmatism, you might have poorer quality of vision, distortion, or sometimes a halo or color-ring effect in your peripheral vision with polycarbonate lenses. This can happen because it has a low abbe value.

Trivex Lenses

Trivex is a relatively new material that is similar to polycarbonate lenses but with higher quality optics. That means it provides clearer vision.

You might choose this type of eyeglass lens material because:

  • Trivex is lighter in weight than standard plastic but not quite as thin as polycarbonate.
  • Trivex is a more rigid material, making it a better selection for rimless or drill mount frames, and is just as impact resistant as polycarbonate.

Aspheric Lenses

An aspheric lens design gives several advantages to eyeglass lenses.

You might prefer this type of eyeglass lens because:

  • An aspheric lens has flatter peripheral curvatures than a regular spherical lens. This reduces the amount a lens may bulge out of an eyeglass frame, reducing the magnification of the eyes, which improves cosmetic appearance.
  • Flatter peripheral curves also reduce distortions that occur when looking away from the center of the lens, making vision crisper.
  • Aspheric lenses are also much lighter in weight than standard spherical lenses.

Eyeglass Lens Features

When you're choosing eyeglass lens materials, there are also some features or enhancements that you might want to consider.

Anti-Reflective Coatings

An anti-reflective coating is applied to eyeglass lenses to reduce the amount of internal and external reflections on a lens. This coating increases the amount of light transmitted through the lens, which improves the quality of vision.

You might choose this eyeglasses lens material because:

  • The anti-reflective coating decreases unwanted glare and halos at nighttime. It also makes the lenses appear somewhat invisible and very thin.
  • Anti-reflective coating is especially beneficial for people with high prescriptions, people who have a decrease in vision at night, and people in professions in which cosmetic appearance is important.

Scratch-Resistant Coatings

Scratch-resistant coatings are applied to the front and back of lenses in the manufacturing process.

Here is a potential benefit of choosing this eyeglass lens material:

  • While no lens is scratch-proof, this special coating does make lenses harder to scratch when dropped or rubbed against a hard surface.

There is a key point about this type of eyeglass lens that you should know:

  • Most lenses are made with scratch-resistant coating; however, the term scratch-resistant coating indicates a type of “scratch warranty.” While these warranties guarantee against scratches, ensuring the lenses will be remade if a scratch does occur, you need to clarify any warranty on the glasses you choose.

Ultraviolet Protection

Ultraviolet treatment is applied to lenses to protect against harmful UV sun rays that can accelerate the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.

The main benefit of this type of eyeglass lens material is that it protects your eyes from the damaging effects of the sun. The UV treatment is easy to put on the lenses and is often included with the purchase of eyeglasses.

Polarized Lenses

Polarized lenses are usually used to make sunglasses. They are available most commonly in grey or brown tint but many other colors are available.

Here are a few benefits of using this type of eyeglass lens material:

  • Vertically polarized lenses decrease bright glare and reflections by blocking horizontal polarized reflected light.
  • Polarized lenses can be very helpful for people who work outside. For example, this type of lens is often used by fishermen who work in bright light that's being reflected off the water. The lenses can help them see deeper into the water.

Photochromatic Lenses

Photochromatic lenses have a special chemical coating that makes them change to a dark tint in the sunlight and turn clear indoors.

The benefits of using this type of eyeglass lens material include:

  • Photochromatic lenses are great for people who do not wish to carry a separate pair of prescription sunglasses.

There are also some points to consider before choosing this type of eyeglass lens:

  • Photochromatic lenses will not change behind the windshield of a car—the windshield prevents most of the UV light from reaching the lens. However, there are some new lenses on the market that claim that they will change slightly inside a car. Ask your optician or optometrist about these options and try a sample, as it may not get dark enough for you.

Eyeglass Lens Enhancements

There are also some other optional eyeglass lens features you might choose, including:

  • Prescription sunglasses: If you wear prescription eyeglasses, you can also get a pair of sunglasses that have your prescription. These eyeglass lenses can be made with the same features, coatings, and styles as regular sunglasses.
  • Hydrophobic lenses: This eyeglass lens material works like an anti-reflective coating to help prevent smudging. The water-repelling feature is a good choice if you want eyeglass lenses that don't smudge.
  • Anti-fatigue coating: If you do a lot of computer work or reading, eyeglass lenses with anti-fatigue coating might help prevent eyestrain.
  • Blue light blocking: This type of eyeglass lens might help reduce the effects of blue light from your phone and computer. Some people think reducing blue light exposure can help you sleep better.
  • Readers: If you just need to wear glasses for up-close vision (like when you're reading), eyeglass lenses that magnify are a good choice. These "readers" can be bought over-the-counter at your local pharmacy, grocery store, and online without a prescription.
  • Non-prescription: If you like the look of glasses but don't actually need them to see, you can get eyeglass lenses with no vision correction.

Eyeglass Lens Replacements

If you want to change or replace eyeglass lenses, talk to your eye healthcare provider. While you can buy eyeglass lens replacements online, it's not a good idea to try to replace your own glasses lenses.

Eyeglasses are very delicate. If you try to take the lens out, you might damage it or the frame of your glasses.

A Word From Verywell

If you haven't been to the eye doctor in a while, you might be surprised by how many eyeglass lens types are available. You can choose the eyeglass lens material that meets your needs and lifestyle. You can choose the lens materials and coatings that match your style and vision needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which eyeglass lens type is best?

    There is no one type of eyeglass lens that's right for everyone. The eyeglass lens type and eyeglass lens material that is best for you will depend on several factors, including your vision correction needs and lifestyle.

  • Can I get new prescription lenses in my own frames?

    If your eyeglass prescription changes, ask your eye healthcare provider about updating your glasses. You might be able to keep the frames you have or pick new ones, depending on what changes to the lenses are necessary.

  • Can opticians put lenses in my frames?

    Your eye healthcare provider can change or replace the lenses in your eyeglasses if needed. You may be able to purchase them in the office, from an eyeglass shop, or even online.

  • Can I put new lenses in old frames myself?

    Eyeglasses are very easy to break, especially lenses and frames. If you want to change the style of your glasses, it is best to ask a professional.

  • What do eyeglass lenses cost?

    The cost of eyeglass lenses depends on what they're made of and whether they have special features, coatings, or enhancements. Sometimes, you can save money if you buy new eyeglass lenses only (not the frames) online instead of from your eye healthcare provider. However, you'll need your eyeglasses prescription to make sure you get the correct lenses.

  • How soon can I get new eyeglasses?

    Often, a full pair of glasses take a week or two to come in. However, some places can make eyeglass lenses in an hour.

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11 Sources
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.
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