Scratched lenses
August 21, 2009 2:43 AM   Subscribe

Is anti-glare and anti-scratch coating worth it to you on eyeglasses?

I've been wearing glasses since 4th grade, but this latest set of lenses, for which I opted to get what must have been the most basic offering available, frequently drives me nuts.

I'm probably a year or so into owning these, and they've scratched to hell. That's fine, so have most pairs I've ever had.

What I've noticed is especially bad about these is the glare is obscene. I notice it especially at arena events, but just in general, it's bad news.

The question I'm asking is: what combination of anti-glare/UV/anti-scratch/polycarbonate or whatnot have you found to be the best for your money? Is it worth it to automatically upgrade to their best lens package?

Moreover, is there anywhere great for buying your favorite type of lens online, so that I can pop these out, for a decent price? I have a dual (though uneven) astigmatism, but I doubt that matters much.

posted by disillusioned to Home & Garden (36 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I've had three pairs of eyeglasses with different anti-scratch and anti-glare coatings. They've all scratched and worn off in horrible, distracting ways (like the whole lens was dipped in acid or something) within a year or two. It drives me so batty I end up going back to my 20-year old plain uncoated glass ones often. They're still unscratched. I think glass is a better surface than any of these space-age thingies.

But maybe I have just had bad luck, and there are coatings that actually, like, stay attached and don't make the glasses have a short half-life. Not IME, though. Not yet.
posted by rokusan at 2:56 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have an anti-scratch coating on my lenses and it's peeling off in a disgusting way. It's like it starts with a little hole and then just grows and grows and it's to the point where even if I might not need a new prescription, I can't tell, because I'm having trouble focusing with my wonky, distorted glasses. My last pair had the same thing, and when I went to get a new set, the doctor I bought my lenses from insisted that it must have been a defect of the previous pair. Well, he was wrong. These lasted maybe a year without going off, but a year without a scratch isn't exactly worth it.

I see that rokusan has the same issue. Next pair of lenses I get, I'm going back to no coating whatsoever. It isn't worth the cost and my life is too sedentary to be concerned with the risk of scratching. Maybe if I kayaked or camped or hung around at the beach all day.

Unfortunately for you, I've never gone in for the anti-glare coating. Maybe that stuff works and the anti-scratch stuff doesn't, but were I you, I would avoid anti-scratch.
posted by Mizu at 3:21 AM on August 21, 2009

I've never had glass lenses because I like rimless glasses and (with my prescription) that means the more expensive end of the polycarb lenses.

I tend to have them with the antiscratch coating and I've never had any scratches on the lenses. Mind you, I only take my glasses off to go to sleep, so they're rarely attacked with anything that could scratch them.

I have no idea if my lenses have anti-glare on them. I wear a hat nowadays which cuts out so much glare that I feel like I've gone blind if I forget it.

Anti-reflective is wonderful. The only time I missed anti-reflective I got driven mad by reflected silhouettes of my eyebrows and sideburns. I know how stupid that sounds, but I could actually focus on the individual hairs. With the anti-reflective coating I get the same vary, very occasionally, but it's a faint purple or faint green instead of bright white, and that's much easier to deal with.

Oh, and I tend to keep my glasses for 18m->3y depending on when I start to get headaches. I've never noticed a coating degrading. I tend to use either alcohol wipes or my shirt tails. The last time I used a tissue an optician friend of mind shouted at me and went off on an ten minute lecture about paper fibres and how I might as well use sandpaper on my lenses.
posted by twine42 at 3:25 AM on August 21, 2009

I've never had any kind of coating on my (plastic) glasses, and, FWIW, I've never had a single scratch, and any glare I get is so incredibly minimal I've never considered paying extra to get rid of it.
posted by Mwongozi at 3:41 AM on August 21, 2009

I have PC, lenses with anti-scratch, anti-glare and transitions. This is my 3rd set of lenses with these attributes and I've never had much in the way of scratches or seen the coating degrade.

The brand name of the anti-reflective coating my eye doctor uses is CrizalALIZE. I have Transitions brand photo-graying. I don't know if the scratch resistance has a brand name or not.

Like twine42, I only take mine off to sleep or if they are getting in my way (i.e. when doing pushups or crazy sweating), so the scratch resistance has not been tested to its limits.
posted by chiefthe at 3:43 AM on August 21, 2009

Anti-reflective is mandatory for me, just so that people stand a better chance of seeing my eyes when I'm talking to them. If you've ever stood in the wrong position talking to somebody with no anti-reflective coating on their glasses then I can't understand why you would choose to inflict that upon anybody else.

Eventually the coating wears off. And at that point I simply get new lenses added to my old frames, if I'm still happy with them. I probably do this every two years, and in that time there is a decent chance that my prescription has changed - however slightly - anyway.
posted by puffmoike at 3:47 AM on August 21, 2009

I love anti-glare coating! I had never tried it before I got this pair of glasses (1.5 years ago), mainly because I didn't want to pay for it (I now have vision insurance!). I'm not sure if I have anti-scratch coating, though. My glasses are scratched though, but not too badly. I did once have an experience with what I believe to be the coating getting messed up: once I managed to get hot wax on my face, including my glasses, therefore ruining my lenses. Luckly my warranty covered that.
posted by majikstreet at 4:31 AM on August 21, 2009

For what it's worth re: polycarbonate, my brother got hit in the face with a basketball while wearing his glass lensed glasses. Lucky for him the broken glass missed his eyes and only shredded his face. He looked like a racoon for a while.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:37 AM on August 21, 2009

I have the get-darker-in-the-sun coating, because the guy threw it in for free. I know it's good for my eyes, but I hate it because it takes 20 minutes for the shading to fade away indoors, and I look like someone who thinks it's appropriate to wear lightly shaded sunglasses indoors.
posted by Pants! at 5:04 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

For what its worth, I have polycarbonate, with the scratch resist and anti-glare- the "upgraded" package from LensCrafters. I never experience ANY problems with my glasses, glare, scratches, etc. Also the coatings don't seem to wear off- and I clean my glasses with my t-shirt alot.

The only time I have any sort of annoyance is when there are dust particles, smudges, water spots, etc. on my glasses and then they really mess with me. Other than that, no complaints whatsoever!
posted by kraigory at 5:18 AM on August 21, 2009

If you get plastic lenses, you're almost certainly going to get a scratch-resistant coating. If you get A/R, the anti scratch is included.

There are pretty much three levels of A/R. There is the cheap kind that will peel off like people are describing, there's the good kind that will last no matter what you do, and there's the really expensive that is easier to clean. I wear the middle one. I don't take very good care of my glasses, and they only have a few light scratches.

Polycarbonate (or any other material) won't help you see any better, but they are lighter, and therefore more comfortable. Also, poly or any kind of high index automatically includes UV protection.

How much astigmatism do you have, and are you wearing bifocals? Assuming it's 2.00 or less and no bifocal, you'll be getting factory A/R coated lenses. If that's the case, I've found that Pentax lenses perform the best, but there are a lot of brands that are pretty much the same.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 5:37 AM on August 21, 2009

Also, you'll get much better service at non-chain optical shop. Some are expensive, but most are pretty competitive with the big chains. And it wouldn't hurt to mention that you're trying to decide between them and LensCrafters.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 5:41 AM on August 21, 2009

Mine are from my local optometrist and have anti-scratch and anti-glare. They are about 6 months old and look pretty good. They problem people describe with the coating coming off in a crazy pattern is something I remember from older glasses but haven't noticed recently. I get new lenses every two years or so and they are expensive ($400 or so) but then my prescription is very high (-10 ish plus astigmatism).

Bonus #1: For people with high prescriptions, definitely shell out for the thin lens upgrade, and get frames that hold the smallest surface area lens you can stand. You will have to get used to the blurry area around the edges, but you won't look as ridiculous. This is because lenses get thicker as you go out from the center, so big lenses are crazy thick at the edge.

Bonus #2: I started swimming again recently and discovered that you can buy prescription swim goggles! They are as cheap as $20 and I found one brand that goes up to my -10 prescription ... I can see great even though I have astigmatism. I think mine were like $25 from A lot of people I've talked to are unaware of these and either walk around blind at the pool or do something crazy like wear goggles over contacts.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:18 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention that the specific lenses I bought are called Crizal and are warrantied against scratches for 1 year. The guy in the shop said if I have any scratches at all in that time I should come back and get a free replacement lens.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:24 AM on August 21, 2009

I miserably regret getting my anti-glare coating. Within a few months I dropped my glasses on the pavement and I was met with several new pockmarks, all coating-deep.

Don't get it. If you do and end up feeling the same way I did, you can strip it off yourself with Armour Etch, a harsh chemical. (Warning: I have not actually done this myself, but will if I get fed up with continued pitting.)
posted by spamguy at 6:32 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I first started wearing glasses, I got the cheapest lenses with no coating. The glare on those was so bad that I hated wearing them. All I could see was my eye looking back at me.

After that, I have always gotten anti-glare. I have polycarbonate lenses. I've never even heard of the coating peeling off. Looking at the replies so far, I suspect that your compilation of replies to this question will just be a lot of anecdotes going both ways, with no clear answer as to which is better.

I'll give you a Bonus too:
A few years ago, I started ordering my glasses from Zenni Optical online. I can get a full pair of frames/lenses/anti-glare coating for $12. I tend to lose my glasses more than break them or wear them out, so for about $50 I can get 2 pairs of glasses and 1 of sunglasses. They fit fine, they hold up great, and if something happens to them or I don't like them, I don't feel bad about having to replace them.
posted by CathyG at 6:33 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this will help you, but always buy the best. I want to look good and seee well, so no scrimping!

I've never had any problems with excessive scratching or coating peeling or decaying. A friend of mine did have his coating crackle really bad, but the glasses place told him he should have brought them back for an exchange and that a massive fail like that would have been covered.

Thanks feecellwizard for the tip about how cheap prescription goggles are, that is awesome!
posted by Gor-ella at 6:44 AM on August 21, 2009

" Is it worth it to automatically upgrade to their best lens package?"

No. The scratch coatings actually attract scratches, the AR coatings seem to have no effect beyond making your inside glare slightly bluer, and it's all a ripoff. Spend $15 a pair at Zenni and load up on 4 or 5 different styles. You'll still be paying a third of what retail optics cost, and you'll have several years worth of spares and alternates.

Beater glasses are all your glasses will be after your coatings scratch, bubble, and peel anyway, so you might as well pay beater prices.
posted by majick at 6:45 AM on August 21, 2009

I also do the Zenni thing. I wish there was a way to polish out scratches.
posted by mecran01 at 7:02 AM on August 21, 2009

I got "the works" two years ago when I first had vision insurance - all the coatings - and found them to be incredibly annoying because they mad the glasses so hard to clean. I believe it was the anti-glare coating that caused the problem, but I was never able to just wipe my glasses on my shirt - I had to meticulously wash them with special soap and dry them with a special cloth or else they got smudged and were unusable. Forget about going out in the rain - the coating made the drops bead up and leave water spots unless I had my soap and cloth with me. I ended up switching to wearing contacts daily because of the difficulties. My partner had the same exact problem, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't just me being strange.

I got another pair of lenses a year later without any of the fancy coatings and now I'm much happier because I can actually see all of the time without worrying that dust or a bug or a fingerprint or a raindrop will touch my lenses and I won't be able to clean them if I'm out in public.
posted by k8lin at 7:04 AM on August 21, 2009

I had anti glare on my last set of glasses, it was awful. Within less than a year my glasses always looked water spotted, and I had to live with them and the headaches they caused for another year because my insurance won't cover new glasses annually. I have no coating on my current glasses and after a year they're still fine.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:13 AM on August 21, 2009

I got a new pair of glasses with anti-glare coating. Works very well as far as I can tell. For an extra $100 or so that I paid, I think it was pretty well worth it.
posted by Eastgate at 7:16 AM on August 21, 2009

I cant live without anti-glare. I feel like people cant see my eyes and the glasses look "cheap" without it. I havent had any peeling issues in years and even when I did it was way past time for new lenses. I wouldnt worry about it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:39 AM on August 21, 2009

When I was first introduced to anti-glare coating, my optician gave me their "tester" glasses to look at, which had one lens with coating and one without. I noticed right away that the coated lens had five billion more fingerprints than the plain lens, and thought, "huh, people must prod that lens a lot". Foolish trusting me, I bought the coating.

Lo, it came to pass that there were five billion fingerprints on my glasses at all times, unless I cleaned them four times a day with the special magic six-dollar fluid. I was not touching my lenses more than usual. Fingerprinty coating makes reflection and glare worse to the wearer than plain lenses ever would.

The next time, I refused the coating. I spent the extra cash on awesome frames. I am happy.

If other people can't see my eyes, well, maybe they should treat themselves to a couple of polarizer filter monocles and leave me out of their ocular issues.
posted by Sallyfur at 8:53 AM on August 21, 2009

I feel bad for everyone here -- send your prescriptions to my optometrist, because his anti-glare and anti-scratch coating is entirely worth the money. I wash my glasses every few days with some warm water and a dollop of hand soap, but other than that, they're two years in and entirely pristine. My previous pair lasted four years, equally pristine, until I needed a stronger lens.
posted by incessant at 9:37 AM on August 21, 2009

I have been wearing glasses since third-grade. Back then, coating were not available. Once they came on the market, though, I have always gotten lenses with anti-glare coatings. I find it immensely helpful, especially at night. And, for the record, I have never, never, never experienced the sort of crazy coating failures that others up-thread have described. I have to wonder if those were from low-cost importers or they used incorrect cloths to clean them.

The only caveat I can give is that coatings do tend to amplify the natural tendency of polycarbonate lenses to attract dust and fingerprints. One just learns to deal with it. The coating more than makes-up for the small inconvenience of cleaning-off the lenses a bit more often (with an appropriate cloth, btw.)
posted by Thorzdad at 9:41 AM on August 21, 2009

My newer glasses always seem to be smudgy and are difficult to clean throughly. I never realized before that it is probably due to the anti-glare coating.
posted by orme at 10:18 AM on August 21, 2009

Go with a polycarbonate lens. As long as you carry / transport your glasses in a proper case, you should have no scratch problems. I have an anti-glare coating on mine. I believe with polycarbonate that the antiglare "coating" is actually soaked into the lens .5 mm so it shouldn't really peel off.

If you go for a polycarbonate lens instead of the base plastic, you can probably haggle them to get the anti-glare coating for free. Please note the anti-glare coating is different than the polarized coating and if glare is really really a huge problem for you, you may want to consider getting your lenses polarized. This will cost more and your lenses will have a slight tint.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:19 AM on August 21, 2009

I usually get anti-glare. The one year I went to get a script without I was completely freaked out by the glare. Now I ALWAYS get the anti-glare.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:59 AM on August 21, 2009

freecellwizard, if you bought Crizal lenses, they actually come with a two year warranty, so the guy is cheating you a year. All decent A/R coatings are guaranteed for at least two years, some for the life of your prescription.

All of the people in this thread who've had problems had cheap A/R, except maybe the one who dropped them on the pavement, which would've been damaged with or without the A/R.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 1:41 PM on August 21, 2009

Anti-scratch and glare is totally worth it. You do have to take care of your glasses though--put them in a case, clean them with spray and a soft cloth, etc. You can't just throw them in your pocket and expect them to be in great conditions. Also, most anti-scratch/glare coatings come with year warrantees. I had a scratch on one of my lenses and they replaced them for free.
posted by Kimberly at 1:43 PM on August 21, 2009

The issue with dust and smudges was a problem with older coatings, but not the newer ones. I clean mine with my shirt.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 1:45 PM on August 21, 2009

A possible pattern from reading all of this. Many of the big problems with (horrible useless argh) coatings seem to be with glass lenses, while all of the people very happy with their coatings have plastic (acrylic) lenses. Maybe the coatings adhere better to plastic. That's easy to imagine.

My glass ones: they each lasted maybe a year before getting scratches or developing pockmarky 'holes' in the coating, even though they were all expensive (up to $800!) and from three different suppliers... and even though I take very good care of them. They're all near unusable now, spiderwebbed with a million tiny hairlike scratches in the coating. But the plain glass lenses in my 20 year old plain glass ones, complete with rusted hinges and neatly greening copper pieces are still perfect. 1989 is not quite the height of current fashion, sadly.

I think it's much easier to harm these coatings than it is to harm glass. As soon as I get my hands on an up-to-date prescription, I'm definitely going the online cheap glasses route, because I could buy a new pair or two every month for the same cost.
posted by rokusan at 4:18 PM on August 21, 2009

Like many here, I have PC lenses with anti-scratch, anti-glare and transitions. This is at least my 5th set of lenses with these attributes and I've never had much in the way of scratches or seen the coating degrade. I've been wearing glasses since I can remember with a bit of a gap where I wore contacts a lot and I'm 26 now.
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:32 PM on August 21, 2009

freecellwizard writes "get frames that hold the smallest surface area lens you can stand. You will have to get used to the blurry area around the edges, but you won't look as ridiculous. This is because lenses get thicker as you go out from the center, so big lenses are crazy thick at the edge."

Personally I hate small lenses because they reduce the amount of semi-peripheral vision I get. Nice big lenses mean less head movement and more stuff in focus all at once. However I'm only a -5.50 so it's not nearly as bad as a -10. It's pretty obvious I'm in the minority on this one though as it's getting tough to find frames that support large lenses.

On the coatings: I've had pretty poor luck with anti scratch coatings on plastic lenses; even Crizal lenses. They aren't any where close to being as durable as plain glass which I would buy in a heart beat if Zenni offered it. The mass doesn't bother me, my safety prescription glasses are extra thick glass in heavy duty metal frames with side shields and I can wear them 18 hours a day no problem. Also plastic lense coatings don't stand up to acetone _at_ _all_, DAMHIKT, which is how I know Zenni doesn't offer glass lenses. The degradation usually first presents itself as halos around lights at night. The first time I had this happen I thought I was going blind. Luckily a new set of glasses fixed the problem.

Having said that I'm either a sucker for punishment or an optimist as one of the three pairs of glasses I've got on order has A/R coating. I'm going to see if there is any difference in night driving. The glasses from Zenni are cheap enough that I can afford to toss them in the charity bin when the coating goes bad.
posted by Mitheral at 5:55 PM on August 21, 2009

FYI, I found out that cooking oil splatters eat glasses coatings. So don't cook with your glasses on if you get the coatings.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:05 PM on August 21, 2009

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