How to Buy Prescription Glasses Online and Retailers to Avoid

Have you walked into an optical retailer and felt like the selection just wasn’t big enough? Or perhaps you liked a frame but wanted it in a different color, but the retailer didn’t carry it or couldn’t get it. These were problems that I have run into nearly everytime I am in search of a new pair of glasses. You see, I need frames that are wider than “average”, and many retailers only carry a limited amount of frames that are wide. Whenever I would find a frame that would fit, it was often out of my budget

Prescription glasses with case range. Even the optical office that I was working at out of over 100 frames there was maybe a handful that would fit. This made me dread getting new frames, and often times I would just continue to use the same frames.

It wasn’t until one of the opticians at the place I went to told me to just take the model number of the glasses down and check online, and the price was generally better. Working as an optician naturally I had to be opposed to the online world, after all, they were the competition. But I felt like I was just so comfortable doing things a certain way, I never looked for other options. Nevertheless, I had the model number of my frame and I searched for it online. To my surprise, I was able to find the same Ray Bans I was checking out at Lenscrafters online for nearly half the cost!

Since then, I have never purchased a pair of frames at full price from a local retailer again and always did my research before. Today, with the online world quite large, there are many online retailers that not only offer you frames that great prices, but you can also get prescription lenses online as well. In this article, I am going to explain to you exactly how to buy prescription glasses online, what you should have ready, and a few of the top online retailers today.

Have Your Prescription Ready

First thing is first, in order to purchase your prescription glasses online, you will need to have a current prescription readily available so you can upload it. If you are working with a reputable online retailer they will ask you for a valid prescription, if they do not verify your prescription it might not be wise to get your glasses with that retailer.

Although it is not necessary to have your prescription and many online retailers will verify your prescription with your doctor’s office for you, if you have your prescription ready to upload it would cut down on the time that it takes to verify your prescription which is usually 24-48 hours.Women with glasses

It is also important to make sure that your prescription is still valid. Laws can vary from state to state, but generally if your glasses prescription is within 2 years it is still valid. You can check your prescription for an expiration date, occasionally you might find an eye doctor that only write out their glasses prescriptions valid for one year.

You may feel like your prescription hasn’t changed, but whenever you go have an eye exam done, your eye doctor not only checks your prescription but also your overall eye health. Eye exams can detect some hidden health concerns as well, often times before you know about them so it is recommended to routinely get your eyes examined.

Looking For Your Frames

This is one of the challenges when it comes to purchasing prescription glasses online is picking out your frame. Getting a frame that fits your face correctly is crucial when it comes to prescription glasses. I usually recommend for you to go into optical retailers and try on frames until you find one you like and take a note of the model number, but with many online retailers carrying in-house designed and manufactured frames, this might not be an option.

This is where understanding how measurements of frames work come in handy. With eyeglass frames no matter if they are sunglasses, reading glasses, safety glasses or prescription glasses, the measurements are generally listed the same. You will often time find it in three numbers (For Example: 55-18-135). These numbers are the measurements of the frames listed in millimeters, the first number is the lens diameter, the middle number is the bridge size, and the last number is the temple length for example (For Example: Lens Diameter – Bridge Size – Temple Length). I have included an illustration below to help clear up any confusion.

Example of eyeglasses frame measurementsAs you can see from the illustration the measurements from frames are quite simple to understand. If you already currently wear glasses, you might be able to find your frame measurements on the temple, or on your bridge. If there is no measurement you can use the centimeter side of a ruler to measure your glasses yourself.

If you do not currently wear glasses, you can just go into any optical retailer and just try on any frames, and once you find one that fits good, take a note of the measurements of that frame. Once you have those measurements, now you are able to go online and pick out your frame. Don’t worry about how the frames look on you, many online retailers have a way for you to upload a photo to check how the frames would look.

Picking Out Your Lenses

Often times when we go out to purchase prescription glasses, we are so focused on what frame we want and spend little time going through the variety of choices for lenses. While it is important for you to pick a frame that fits good and is comfortable on your face, the lenses are what you use to see out of so let’s take a look at the options so I can help you decide on what kind you need:

  • Lens Material – The first thing you should understand is the different type of lens materials that you might be offered. Different lens materials offer a variety of levels of scratch resistance, impact resistance, as well as clarity. Let’s take a look:
    • Glass – Glass lenses have been around since the beginning. Even though glass lenses offers you one of the best optics out of all the lens materials, they are heavy and isn’t very impact resistant so the lenses are vulnerable to shattering. As an optician often times I would recommend glass lenses for any individuals who works in an environment where they might get a lot of dirt or sand on their lenses, any other material other than glass would get extremely scratched up. Glass lenses are a bit difficult to find online, there are some online retailers that carry it but not many.
    • Plastic – These lenses were introduced in 1947 and used a plastic polymer called CR-39 (Columbia Resin 39). This was the 39th formula of this polymer that was created. Plastic lenses offered great optics and is nearly half the weight of glass lenses. Plastic lenses are still extremely popular today, and online you will find CR-39 lenses offered for free with the purchase of your frame that nearly every online optical retailer. Plastic lenses are not impacted resistant so it can chip and crack and is quite vulnerable to scratches.
    • Polycarbonate – In the 1970s the first polycarbonate lenses were introduced and used for safety glasses. These lenses were ok for safety glasses, but early versions of polycarbonate had little imperfections in it and at first was not acceptable by the optical community. At first, these lenses were designed for helmet visors for the Air Force, and as bulletproof glass that can be found at many banks. Later on, polycarbonate started becoming more popular in optics, offering a lens material that is lighter than plastic and offers far superior impact-resistance than CR-39. Polycarbonate lenses also come with built-in protection from harmful UV rays.
    • Trivex – This is a material that is very similar to polycarbonate, but it has slightly better optics than polycarbonate does. If you had to pick between Trivex and Polycarbonate, I would definitely recommend getting Trivex as you would get great impact resistance, as well as better optics.
    • High-Index Plastic – These lenses are a great choice if you are looking for a lens that is thinner and lighter, usually a good choice for individuals with stronger prescriptions. Thinner lenses mean less material, which translates to lightweight lenses and more comfortable to wear.
  • Lens Treatments – Often times many people do not pay attention to the different lens treatment options that you are able to purchase. These options can help enhance your vision even further than just have basic lenses alone. While some of these options such as the photochromic is not for everyone, there are some that are must haves:
    • UV Coating – Is really only applies if you are purchasing glass lenses or CR-39 plastic lenses as these lenses do not come with built-in UV protection. If you are purchasing either one of these two lens materials, this is a must have a coating to protect your eyes from the harmful UV rays from the sun.
    • Anti-Reflective – This is a coating that not everyone likes, but the reason is there are so many different labs and not all of them use the same coating. This is one of those coatings where if there is a premium option, it is often times worth it to upgrade to it. Quality anti-reflective coatings will be hydrophobic and would provide great glare reduction. However low-quality anti-reflective coatings can chip off, and leave your lenses unusable over time.
    • Photochromic – I have always been a fan of photochromic lenses, The gradual darkening whenever you are outside really helps cut out some of the glare from the sun and makes for a much more comfortable viewing experience outside. Although these are never designed for or meant to be a replacement for sunglasses, there are some quality photochromic lenses out there made by Transition that get quite dark.
    • Blue Light – While not all online retailers offer blue light protection lenses, this is something that I definitely Cat with Mirror Glassesrecommend looking into getting. Especially if you spend extended periods of time looking at electronic devices such as computers, tablets, televisions, or smartphones. Recent studies have shown researchers that blue light can actually be quite toxic to your eyes, even more, research is needed to understand the full scope but it is best to be better safe than sorry. Especially since electronic devices are everywhere. I know most of you have seen those little tablets at each table in some restaurants that you can order your food from, or the kiosks that McDonald’s that you can order your food from, they are all electronic screens! As if we don’t already spend too much time looking at our devices. This is definitely a recommended coating.
    • Scratch Resistant –  Most lenses come with scratch resistant coatings, but if the plastic CR-39 lenses you are purchasing does not have a scratch resistant coating, this is a must-have. Plastic lenses are already vulnerable to scratches even with the coating on, hate to see what it would be like without a scratch-resistant coating.
    • Tint – If you are shopping for a pair of prescription sunglasses, one of your options would be to purchase a tinted lens. These lenses can be tinted in a variety of colors and shades depending on your personal preference. If you are purchasing tinted lenses, always be sure to make sure your lenses have UV protection. It can be harmful to your eyes to be wearing dark glasses without UV protection, as your eyes would dilate, but there would be no protection from UV from your glasses.
    • Polarized – Another option when you are picking sunglasses are polarized lenses. Polarized lenses work by blocking lightwaves that are coming in a horizontal direction. This would be the light that is reflecting off of horizontal surfaces such as large bodies of water, the ground, the hood of a vehicle, or snow. A polarized lens would reduce the glare that would normally obscure your vision.
    • Mirror Coating – For sunglasses, you can get a mirror coating in a variety of different colors. Having a mirror coating on your sunglasses will reflect more light away from your eyes, and is quite helpful at helping you see better. This is especially true for people who spend a lot of time outside in the sun. Some people that are extra sensitive to light find that mirror coated lenses actually make it more comfortable for them outside in sunlight.
  • Lens Types –  While the type of lenses you are able to get is ultimately determined by your eye exam, it is still good to know the difference is between the different types of lens that you are able to purchase. There are actually quite a few specialty lenses, but we will just go over the type of lenses that are most commonly found, take a look below:
    • Single Vision – This is typically the most common lens that many people purchase. These lenses have one power throughout the entire lens. Single vision lenses can be purchased one of three ways, you can either get single vision lenses to help you see far, for intermediate, or for reading, not combined in any form.
    • Lined Bifocal – The lined bifocal is a lens in which you are able to see far as well as up close. The bifocal area for reading is a distinct area that is visible on your lenses. The major disadvantage of a lined bifocal is the lack of an intermediate range for use with a computer.
    • Lined Trifocal – This lens is exactly like the lined bifocal lens, but with an added area right above the reading area that is designed for your intermediate range. You might think you don’t need an intermediate range, but if you think about it, you generally do not look at a laptop, or computer screen at the same distance as you would read a book. So, therefore, an intermediate zone is quite helpful for those individuals who spend a lot of time in front of a computer.
    • Progressive Bifocal – The progressive bifocal is a bifocal lens that has no visible line. The power is blended and gradually goes from your distance power, down to your reading, and because of that, you have an intermediate power in the middle. The major drawback to progressive bifocal lense is there is some distortion in the peripheral vision, this generally doesn’t bother most people, but it does bother some people.

Have Your PD Measurement Ready

Whenever you go purchase a pair of prescription glasses one of the measurements you are going to need is called your PD measurement, which stands for pupillary distance. This measurement is the distance between your eyes from pupil to pupil. Occasionally you will find this measurement written on your prescription, but not every eye doctor will write it down.

The easiest way to obtain this measurement is to get a hold of the eye doctor’s office where you got your eye exam done at, they should have your pupillary distance on file.

If you don’t have contact with your eye doctor’s office, or they don’t have your pupillary distance on file for any reason, you can always have a friend measure it for you. Take a look at the video below by EyeBuyDirect on how to measure your pupillary distance.

As you can see from the video it’s not a hard measurement to take, but you want to have that measurement as accurate as possible or else you could potentially get some unwanted headaches and eye strain.

Where To Buy Prescription Glasses Online

Purchasing prescription glasses online is still new to many people, after all online prescription glasses only account for 4.2% of the market. But, as more and more people turn to the internet to look for opportunities to save money on their eye wear, it is important to pick reputable retailers that you can trust. Below we have gathered a list of some of the most reputable online retailers on the market today that you can trust to make your prescription eyewear.

  • Warby Parker This is probably one of the best known online retailers right now. They offer an amazing home try-on program where you can select 5 frames, and they will send the frames to your house so you can try them on before you Warby Parker Logopurchase them. While their home try-on program is a market changing feature, they have a fairly limited selection of frames and lense so you might not be able to find a frame that you like. They also do not carry any sort of designer eyewear. But you can get a complete pair of glasses with polycarbonate lenses and anti-reflective coating for under $100. Their in-house frames are actually quite well designed and manufactured, you can read our review of the home try-on program here. Warby Parker offers free shipping within the U.S. and its territories, as well as Canada.
  • Zenni You know that 4.2% of the total prescription eyewear market that the online world has? Well, Zenni accounts for 50% of that. Zenni easily has the largest market share for online glasses. Zenni provides one of the most, if not the mostZenni Logo affordable prescription glasses on the internet today. Their mission when they started was to provide everyone with glasses that they can look good in, but be affordable at the same time. They carry thousands of in-house designed and manufactured frames, and you can literally get a complete pair of glasses for $6.95 plus shipping it doesn’t get any cheaper than that. Remember though, $6.95 glasses, means $6.95 quality. But, you really can’t beat the price so Zenni is a great place to purchase back up pairs of glasses, or classes for children since children tend to break their glasses regardless of quality. Zenni also doesn’t carry any sort of designer eyewear. Shipping cost starts at $4.95 for standard shipping within the U.S. and $9.95 international.
  • SmartBuyGlasses – If you are looking for a massive frame selection, SmartBuyGlasses has got you covered. This online retailer carries frames ranging from inexpensive in-house designed frames all the way to a wide selection of SmartBuyGlasses Logodesigner eyewear. For anyone looking for designer frames, this is your place. They have over 180 different designer brands, including Oakley, Ray-Ban, Versace, Giorgio Armani, and much more. The the best thing is that the prices for those designer frames are much better online than they are at your local retailer. Also, a great place to find designer sunglasses as well. SmartBuyGlasses offers free shipping on all their items.
  • Coastal Coastal, a company that started selling contact lenses, is another reputable online retailer that carries designerCoastal Logo eyewear. They also have a wide selection of frames ranging from in-house frames to many designer brands. You can get out of there paying as low as $19 if you go with an in-house brand frame. If you decide to go with a designer brand, they carry over 100 brands including Vogue, Michael Kors, Nike, Gucci, and much more. Coastal offers free shipping to anywhere in the U.S.
  •  FramesDirect – Frames Direct has been around for quite some time, and they have quite a selection of frames as well. Carrying over 200 designer brands such as Maui Jim, Kate Spade, Nike, Prada, Burberry and much more. They also Frames Direct Logohave some in-house designed frames but they don’t have a great selection of them, and their in-house frames aren’t that inexpensive anyways so if you’re looking for generic cheap frames this isn’t your place. If you are looking for designer eyewear though, then it is worth at least a peek to see what they have available. Frames Direct offers free shipping to the contiguous 48 U.S states. Shipping rates to other states and U.S. territories have different shipping rates depending on location.

Websites To AVOID – Buy At Your Own Risk

Caution Tape

In our research here at Eye Health HQ, we have ran across a couple websites that seem to try to mimic the look of an official website, and have many trendy looking frames that are in-house made. We were excited at first to find a website online with such trendy and wild frame styles, But upon further research, these websites are not legit and you may or may not get what you ordered correctly. Or even worse you are giving your personal information to these websites.

  • Zeelool – This website honestly looks like it is trying to mimic Zenni. They have many in-house style frames that look nice in the photos but you really don’t know what you are getting. A quick look at Trustpilot shows many complaints of Zeelool Logopeople waiting over a month for their glasses. Some people even reported that their glasses came in broken, and they had a hard time getting them replaced by the company. Reading through their website you can tell that it could have potentially been run through a translator and not actually written, or it wasn’t written by someone with a great deal of knowledge when it comes to English. The biggest red flag when it comes to this company is that if you try to find reviews you will find plenty of “5-star” reviews that are written in very poor English, so we believe they are creating fake reviews as well. So, Zeelool shows many red flags of a scam, or shady online retailer so buyers beware.
  • Voogueme – We believe that this website is run by the same people that run Zeelool. If you take a look a the website VoogueMe Logoyou will notice that even though the content that is displayed on the website is different, the general look of the website is the same as Zeelool. This website seems to be slightly newer than Zeelool and there has not been much information on it. This website seems to be trying to catch the trend of people that want over the top wild styles of frames, with eye-catching colors and accessories on the frames. While the designs of the frames might catch you, Voogueme has many reflags of a scam or shady business as well, so buyers beware.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to buy your prescription glasses online and what you need to purchase them, you are now ready to make your prescription glasses purchase. We have listed a handful of the most popular online prescription eyewear retailers above, but if you want more options to pick from check out our “Best Place to Buy Glasses Online” article to find more online retailers.

What are your thoughts on purchasing prescription glasses online? Let me know below! Also if you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to leave them below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.


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About Huy Le ABOC, NCLEC 92 Articles
Huy has been working in eye care for the last 10 years as an optician, and vision center manager. He is coming to you as an expert in the field, as well as a long time eyewear user. He is bringing his expertise and unbias opinion on optical technology, frame styling, contact lenses, and eye health. He is on a mission to educate the world about the importance of eye health, as well as provide everyone with helpful tips so you can save money on all your eye care needs. Huy is certified by the American Board of Opticianry as well as the National Contact Lens Examiners and is a State Licensed Optician in the state of California. Huy is currently one of the full-time writers and editors at Eye Health HQ. When he is not writing for Eye Health HQ, you can find him working on his car, at the movies catching the latest Marvel movie, or lifting weights at the gym.

3 Comments

  1. I like a polycarbonate frame. The colour choice would be fully transparent one. My lenses would be high index because I had a bad eyesight. It is all from video games and computer daily at young age. I think it is difficult for me to buy online. I worry it would not fit well. Some frames are extra wide or the side legs are just not comfortable. I’m not sure. If I am buying a replacement glasses of the same one I have right now, I will not have much worries.

  2. Blu light sunglasses! Exactly what I needed but have to admit, it’s still a new concept and most glasses I’ve come across which have blue light filters are mostly gaming glasses and those aren’t really comfortable to be worn whole day, especially when doing chores or when we’re outside.

    Which blue light filtering glasses would you recommend for everyday use?

    • Hi Riaz, if you currently wear prescription glasses you can just get an added blue light blocking coating, If not I would definitely recommend checking out GUNNAR blue light glasses as they have one that is almost clear, designed for individuals that need to work in true color. Thanks for stopping by. 

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