do you see the possibilities?
July 27, 2011 4:08 AM   Subscribe

I need new glasses *and* new sunglasses. Help me understand the possibilities and figure out the best combination.

I want to buy some nice new sunglasses for the summer, and it's also time to update my regular glasses with a new prescription. I never had prescription sunglasses before, and I don't know how common that is, but if possible I'd like to have sunglasses that also has corrective lenses.

One option that I'm considering is to buy a single frame with transition lenses, but I don't know how well they work nowadays (are new lenses able to workaround the problem of not going dark when you're inside a car?)

Another option is that I wanted to buy some brand sunglasses, but is it possible to buy them and add corrective lenses? Is this recommended? Is the price of fancy sunglasses mostly in the frame, or would I be discarding a lot of money in buying one and replacing the lenses that it came with?

Are there other options that I'm overlooking? Basically I think I could do either of the following:
- 1 regular frame with transition lenses
- 1 frame with normal lenses and sunglasses with corrective lenses (if this exists)
- buy sunglasses and replace the lenses with transition lenses (?)
- ignore corrective lenses for sunglasses
posted by just_another_one to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Prescription sunglasses are extremely common. Yes, the biggest markup is the price you are charged for the frames, which is scandalously high, in my opinion. After I just replaced the lenses in my beloved everyday glasses and bought a new pair of prescription sunglasses--to the tune of nearly $600--I lost the beloved glasses. Major blow.

So now I'm going to wade into the world of ordering glasses online. Maybe you should too?

And whether or not you can use a sunglass frame for your prescription depends somewhat on the thickness of the lens, which is dictated by the particulars of your prescription. I wouldn't go buying a frame and cart it into an optician/optometrist expecting them to guarantee they'll be able to use it for your lenses. I've had some shops tell me that a super curvy pair (this is the main problem--curves/distortion at the outer edges) will never work, while others say it's no problem and make it work.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:16 AM on July 27, 2011

I went to Lenscrafters to get my regular glasses, then got my prescription from there and took it online to Zenni Optical to get my sunglasses, which was considerably cheaper and I love them. I've had transition lenses in the past and was really not especially happy with them; they don't adjust fast enough and they didn't adjust all the time.
posted by gracedissolved at 4:18 AM on July 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Transition lenses look pretty weird. Not only do the lenses not adjust perfectly, eyeglasses and sunglasses are typically quite differently shaped. Sunglasses are usually bigger and have thicker, darker frames.

I recommend buying sunglasses and replacing with corrective lenses. I recently did this with a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers and they look great. The price is absolutely in the frame, and they'll give you the non-prescription lenses so if you ever wear contacts you can just swap the lenses. Altogether I only spent about $150.
posted by acidic at 4:24 AM on July 27, 2011

I don't have a definitive answer for you on all points, but I have similar eyewear considerations and these are some of the answers I've found.

1. Transitions are (according to friends and my glasses guy) better than in the past, but they do NOT work while driving. This is one of the most important use-cases for sunglasses for me, so I took a pass.

2. Although you can, in some cases, replace of-the-shelf sunglass lenses with corrective lenses, most high-end sunglass manufacturers sell frames designed for this purpose that your optometrist can a) source for you and b) prepare lenses that are both corrective and correspond to the properties of the brand of sunglasses.

3. The best solution I found was to get contact lenses for use some of the time (when sunglasses use is more common) and a nice pair of regular glasses for use otherwise.

4. Although my contacts are awesome (after years and years of wearing contacts daily, they got kind of uncomfortable for about a year - and that has passed, everything's great again. By magic.) I'm probably going to add a prescription sunglass to my setup soon, just for maximum flexibility.
posted by mikel at 4:25 AM on July 27, 2011

I just created a glasses-related thread on Ask MetaFilter the other day and the good folks here recommended Warby Parker which is a fantastic site for buying glasses. I'll be getting the Nedwin and Langston frames from there as soon as I get my eyes retested. Not sure if Warby Parker is for everyone though; not everyone is into vintage-inspired glasses. But hopefully that site will be as perfect for you as it was for me.

In case you didn't know, the average price of glasses from your typical eye-care center tend to cost $200-$300 while all frames from Warby Parker cost $95. And their frames come with scratch-proof prescription lenses.

I can't really comment much on prescription sunglasses since I've never owned them before, but I know that Warby Parker is going to be selling them right away, but they unfortunately won't come with prescription lenses. In their FAQ it says Right now we only sell prescription eyeglasses without tinted lenses. If you’d like to put tinted lenses in our frames, we suggest you buy our frames without lenses and take them to an optical shop to get lenses put in.
posted by GlassHeart at 4:31 AM on July 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

The one issue I found when buying prescription sunglasses was that I was used to wearing enormous 'fashiony' sunglasses, and there is a limit to the size of lenses in prescription sunglasses, due to the lens curving so much in large sunglasses.
posted by ellieBOA at 4:37 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wore transitions for a number of years but have ditched them this year. They have improved, but
- they still do not go dark enough in most circumstances, especially when driving
- I got annoyed waiting for them to readjust going from outside sunshine to inside lighting.
- I've become more mindful of potential sun damage to my eyes so I wanted the greater protection from proper tinted lenses.
- frames designed as sunglasses are usually larger, protecting the eye from more peripheral light.

Do not ignore corrective lenses for sunglasses. I love my prescription sunnies. I currently have 2 pairs of glasses (one pair was damaged so I got a second pair to save on wear & tear and to have a spare in case I lose or damage a pair), 2 pairs of prescritions sunglasses (1 pair I've had for ma years, had the lenses replaced, lost them, bought a new pair, then had the first pair returned) and 2 pairs of non-prescription sunglasses should I decide to wear contacts (which I only do once or twice a year - I have a small supply of the daily disposables).

It really comes down to convenience (do you want to carry a 2nd pair of glasses all the time so you can swap between glasses & sunglasses?) and cost of buying 1 pair of frames vs. 2 (or more if you are me) pairs of frames?
posted by goshling at 4:54 AM on July 27, 2011

Higher end sunglasses will allow you to replace the lenses with prescription lenses at your local optician. I found this quite expensive because in addition to the cost of the frame, I needed to get the special thin, high-index lenses because the lenses had to be quite large compared to my normal glasses. But it was totally, totally worth it.

Some opticians will have a discount on prescription sunglasses if you buy a pair of regular prescription glasses at the same time.

I find most opticians to be very expensive, and honestly, that's fine for your primary pair of glasses, because you want a pair that you're totally happy with, but for sunglasses, you have a bit more flexibility. I've found that the prices at See Eyewear are very good, and they have nice sunglass frames at a reasonable price, and there's a location in SF.

Because in the summer I find myself wearing sunglasses a lot, I've decided to wear contacts over the summer months so I'm not always carrying around a second pair of glasses everywhere I go and switching back and forth. In colder months, I wear sunglasses less often, and when I do wear them, I usually a jacket or other layers into which I can slip my glasses.
posted by deanc at 5:28 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just went into a large mall with the initials JCP and got a reasonable deal on exactly what you're looking for. They had a $1 sale on frames and then offered $99 prescription sunglasses with any standard glasses purchase. I don't know if you have a JCP near you or if the deal is still going on, but you may be able to work out a similar deal if you shop around.
Note that the price was a bit more than $100 after the cost of the lens and the extra "options" I wanted (scratch coat, UV, etc).
posted by mcarthey at 6:05 AM on July 27, 2011

My husband buys prescription eyeglasses that come with sunglasses (non-Rx) that attach to the corner of the frames with magnets. I'm not sure what brand, but a quick Google search came up with this.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:12 AM on July 27, 2011

Another person who has Transitions lenses.

Mine are several years old, so they may be slightly better now - but I still would not get them again. They don't work in the car, and (more annoyingly for me, as I don't drive much) they take forever to change from dark to light once you go inside.

If I go inside after being out on a bright day, it takes several minutes for my lenses to go back to normal. They get dark relatively quickly, but the reverse is not true. Luckily for me, my eyesight isn't that bad, so I can take them off if it's dim and I can't see well, but it's annoying.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:39 AM on July 27, 2011

I don't have transition lenses but can tell you my perception of them: they are rarely entirely clear, so the wearer seems to be concealing a defect like strabismus by wearing slightly tinted lenses indoors.

Seconding the choice of Zenni for online orders.
posted by Dragonness at 6:55 AM on July 27, 2011

I currently wear transition lenses, need to get new glasses, and will not get transition lenses again. As others have said, fashionable regular glasses frames are not necessarily the most effective sunglasses frames.

Also, transition lenses don't photograph well - the part of your face behind the lenses looks yellow. A small consideration, but for me, who makes a point of wearing my glasses in photographs, it was annoying.
posted by booksherpa at 7:06 AM on July 27, 2011

I tried transitions lenses again recently, and honestly, I'm still not a fan. They're just not responsive enough, and they tend to keep a little tint in them while indoors, which makes things look too dark and, I suspect, makes me look weird. I never wear them.

And I nth Zenni Optical. They're dirt cheap, and at least as good quality as anything I've gotten elsewhere. Clear prescription lensed glasses start at about $7, and prescription sunglasses (with a choice of tints) start at about $15, as I recall. They also have clip on sunglass shades, if you prefer that. I've converted my whole family over to Zenni, and everyone's been happy with them.

Also, because they're so cheap, you can get a few different styles at a time, so you've got several to choose from.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:01 AM on July 27, 2011

I got a regular pair of glasses with transition lenses from my optometrist, then ordered cheap prescription sunglasses from Zenni Optical. I was worried about the quality of the sunglasses, but they are pretty nice. I like the transition lenses but I use the Zenni sunglsses for driving and at the pool.
posted by candyland at 9:04 AM on July 27, 2011

I just discovered Zenni Optical, too. It's lovely to have a back-up pair of glasses that didn't cost me an arm and a leg, and as someone who has *never* been able to keep from losing her prescription sunglasses, they are fantastic. One pair for the car, and one for the purse!
posted by smirkette at 9:28 AM on July 27, 2011

If I were looking for a pair of sunglasses that were high quality, fashionable (in a timeless sense), and reasonably priced, I'd buy a pair from Randolph Engineering and have my optician replace the lenses with a pair of high index, polarized sunglass lenses.

Honestly, transitions lenses are the calculator watches of eyewear.
posted by deanc at 9:39 AM on July 27, 2011

another vote for zenni. just got a set of polarized sunglasses a few weeks ago. they've been great!
posted by lester at 10:14 AM on July 27, 2011

I also have transitions lenses and will not get them again. They take a really, really long time to clear, especially if it's cold.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:13 AM on July 27, 2011

I got some dirt-cheap prescription sunglasses (with progressive lenses, because vea verily, now I am forty) from goggles4u

They're not high-quality, but for $50, they were fine for what I typically do to sunglasses over summer running around with children and such.
posted by pantarei70 at 11:42 AM on July 27, 2011

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