Advice for buying prescription sunglasses online?
July 9, 2014 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Should I bite the bullet and buy expensive prescription sunglasses that I like and know will fit, or are there tips for buying prescription glasses online that I can use to find a good cheapo pair?

Here's the deal: I need some sunglasses. I need them to be prescription, so I can wear them when I drive. I tried buying a $30 pair online, but I think I messed up the pupil distance measurement --- they give me a headache if I wear them too long. They're also not quite right for my big head and round face.

I am on the horns of a dilemma, because I found and tried on a pair of sunglasses I quite liked, from the same place (wareby parker) where I got my regular glasses....for $150, which is about triple what I was hoping to spend. Especially for something that, knowing myself, I am quite likely to lose.

On the other hand, lots of popular styles of glasses look awful on me --- like I said, big head, round face. (There are a lot of squarish/rectangular frames for regular glasses, which tend to look better, but fewer sunglasses options like that, I find). So: is there some more reliable way to measure the pupil distance and ensure I don't screw it up again? Sites which have particularly good set ups for showing how the frames look on different faces? Ways to measure my skull to find styles that will work? What say you MeFi? Is this an issue where I'll be happier in the end if I don't cheap out? Or can this skinflint summer in style?
posted by Diablevert to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Go to costco and ask them to measure your PD. While you are there, buy some prescription sunglasses for $50.
posted by bensherman at 11:28 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I don't have a Costco membership.
posted by Diablevert at 11:29 AM on July 9, 2014

TBH, $150 is really cheap for prescription glasses, let alone sunglasses.

That said, you can go back to your eye doc (probably without an appointment, just call ahead) and have someone there measure your PD.
posted by radioamy at 11:33 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wal-Mart has a good deal on prescription glasses, some frames are only $18.

Your other option is to buy the frames you like, but to have the lenses put in by the optician. You can do this at Wal-Mart, other places may not want to do it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:34 AM on July 9, 2014

If you have health insurance, even if you don't have vision insurance, many health insurance plans will provide some discount on prescription frames and lenses. (If you have Blue Cross/Blue Shield it's probably Davis Vision, and if it's there is usually in very very fine print on your EOB under something called Blue Extras.) It's worth calling the 1800 number on the back of your card to find out.
posted by phunniemee at 11:40 AM on July 9, 2014

It's a lot easier to have another person measure your PD, but I've also done it on myself by taking a picture - just make sure the view is fairly straight on for each eye, otherwise it'll undermeasure. It's also possible you didn't mismeasure, but your discomfort has to do with the lens shape. When I've switched lens shapes dramatically with a new pair, it's caused me quite a bit of headache. If your sunglasses are very different from the other glasses you normally wear, that may be a problem.

Zenni Optical lets you upload a photo to "try on" frames, which I've found super valuable.
posted by obfuscation at 11:40 AM on July 9, 2014

I recently bought prescription glasses online for the first time, warily, and it turned out so, so great.

I used Zenni, and bought three pairs, thinking surely something would be wrong with one or more of them, but all three were perfect. They got my wacky prescription totally right, they all fit comfortably, they're accurate to how they looked on the site, and seem just as sturdy as my $100+ PearleVision pair. Received them in a week (I'm in the US).

3 pairs with shipping was $30. Nobody believes me about this because they are stylish as all hell.

Zenni will tint any glasses they sell for a small upcharge, with a customizable opacity and choice of colors (I haven't used this service, so can't speak on how well it works). Rectangular frames are the only thing that look good on me, and Zenni has a huge selection of them (you can sort by shape).

You can upload a photo of yourself and "try on" glasses that way. It's not perfect but it will give you a sense of how a given pair will sort of look on your face. I found it useful to upload a photo in which I was already wearing glasses I liked. When new glasses are superimposed on this image, I was able to immediately see whether the new frames were crazy bigger than my old ones, etc.

Also useful is that every frame on the site includes every measurement you could possibly need - width of bridge, height of lenses, etc.

As others have mentioned, you must know your PD, but I imagine you could walk into any glasses place at a slow time and they'd do it for you.
posted by jessicapierce at 11:43 AM on July 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

I got my cheap-o sunglasses at Zenni and they sent along a PD measurement ruler with each pair, if you want one, me-mail me your mailing address and I'll drop it in the mailbox. I get compliments on my glasses every day, and no headaches!
posted by Floydd at 11:43 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

You didn't write how you measured your PD, but it might be worth to try this website. (You don't have to write in your email to get the PD)

Sunglass tint (up to 80%) is 5$ on Zenni Optical, and they have pretty comprehensive information on their frames, such as the width. (I've ordered some really cheap prescription shades from them, but not received them yet - at least for Europe they ship from China)
posted by Baron Humbert von Gikkingen at 11:44 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I bought the polarized lenses from Zenni. They are awesome. Pay attention to frame sizes if you have a big head like me.
posted by Jahaza at 11:50 AM on July 9, 2014

to get your PD, you can also ask the most recent place where you got your prescription to send it to you. They may not want to, but if you paid someone to do this in the past they have to give it to you. I would not do the DIY route, so if you can't do this, maybe settle for cheap ones from a place like WalMart or Target or whatever, where there is an optician who can take your info.
posted by bluedeans at 12:08 PM on July 9, 2014

Okay, so, wait. You didn't have the right PD to give the first place you got your sunglasses, but you did have the right PD to give Warby Parker? It's not going to be a different number. Order from Zenni or whereafter using the same number that you used for WP.
posted by Sequence at 12:20 PM on July 9, 2014

Response by poster: Warby Parker has some stores; I went to one, they measured me. I've looked through all the emails and receipts I have from them; no PD.
posted by Diablevert at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2014

Sequence, from my reading it sounds like OP has purchased regular glasses from WP, and later tried on sunglasses there that she has not yet purchased.

At least in the US, you can go get an eye exam and walk out with glasses only, and no prescription nor PD measurement - you have to request them specifically. The place will have taken that PD measurement in order to make the glasses, but doesn't commonly include it on the prescription.

OP, WP might have your PD on file. Worth a phone call.
posted by jessicapierce at 12:39 PM on July 9, 2014

I'll be the sole voice of dissent here and say that I got glasses from Zenni and they were horrible. I got the prescription from my optometrist got the glasses at their shop on-site, and a backup pair from Zenni online. Same prescription parameters, PD, etc. and the glasses from the optometrist that I got to try on before I paid for them look great on my face and were perfect.

The backup pair that I got from Zenni were a waste of money, because the glasses are too big for my face (despite the fact that I even uploaded a picture), and something is off about the lenses because they give me a headache and the world looks wonky. I would never, ever wear them for driving. The only reason I have them kicking around is in case my current glasses break and I don't have a backup pair. They're currently buried in a suitcase under the bed and I pray that won't be unlucky and need them.

Other friends swear by Zenni, but I think your mileage may vary depending on how special your prescription is. My friends who use Zenni and love it by and large have fairly low prescription strengths (less than 4.0) and very low or no astigmatism. I have a very high prescription (about -9.0), strong astigmatism, and my eyes are very asymmetrical (my left eye is worse than my right by quite a significant margin). I need high index plastic lenses. All of these put together make me very dissatisfied with my Zenni glasses because I just can't see right in them. It's true that eventually your brain adjusts for you, but you don't want to be rapidly switching between regular glasses and then glasses that make the world wonky when you drive. I never bothered chasing up Zenni because it's too much of a pain to work through their nonexistent customer service (as of 2011), and I was only out about $80 anyway.

If have a fairly low prescription and nothing is weird with your eyes, I'd give them a try. Why not? You'll only be out another $30 or so. Go to an optometrist and ask them to measure your PD, or get a new prescription if it's covered by your insurance. If your eyes are strange like mine, I'd try to go somewhere in meatspace with glasses that you can try on, and people you can directly complain to if they screw up your making your glasses correctly.
posted by the_wintry_mizzenmast at 12:43 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I beg you: pay the $150 for the glasses you like and spare yourself the hours of searching for frames that you might sorta like, followed by dashed hopes when they arrive and they're not quite right. Life is too short, and radioamy is quite right: $150 for everything is not a bad price at all. (You'd be lucky to walk out the door of a Lenscrafters for less than $300, and it wasn't so long ago that that was one of your cheaper options.)

Another alternative is to acquire frames you like and take them somewhere to have prescription lenses put in. I order genuine Ray-Ban Wayfarers when they're on sale online somewhere and then take them to my local Four Eyes, which will install prescription sunglass lenses for something like $50.

If you can't find any frames that you like on Zenni, you might take up on their "first pair free" promotion (I assume you can upgrade the lenses to tinted lenses for some fee). I've used this before and got an okay pair of glasses from it, but - surprise, surprise - they didn't fit quite right and are now in a drawer somewhere. I do think their frames are nicer than Zenni's, by and large.
posted by ndg at 1:00 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you near a For Eyes? I've gotten a couple pairs of prescription sunglasses from them in the past as part of their "2 pairs for $99" deal. You could get two pairs of sunglasses and then it'd only be ~$50 each. They're great quality and when I bought glasses there they had a pretty decent selection of frames included in their 2-for-$99.
posted by jabes at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2014

I've bought about 6 or 7 pairs of glasses online, from various vendors. One pair (in a 3 pair order) wasn't quite right. I kept it as a back-up pair because it was so inexpensive I didn't feel like dealing with a return. Finding PD is very easy! I always look straight into a mirror and put a (non-permanent) marker dot over my pupils and then measure that distance between the dots. I haven't had any problems. One possibility--your expensive frames might be cheaper online somewhere. I tried my current pair in a store but bought online as the online price was about $200 cheaper for the frames. When I buy online without seeing the frame first I measure my favorite pair to get an idea of the size I want--this is listed with the frame. I also generally know that a frame that looks bad on me at Lenscrafters will still look bad on me even if it's sooooooo cheap online.
posted by bluespark25 at 3:00 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck with online glasses from GlassesShop, though I should add the caveat that I don't wear them full-time.

For measuring the pupil distance, I poked a pinhole in two Post-It notes and stuck them on a ruler, moving them until I could see through both.
posted by Shmuel510 at 4:53 PM on July 9, 2014

[Shmuel510, you linked to The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, not GlassesShop]
posted by oceanjesse at 7:10 PM on July 9, 2014

[Oops. Cut'n'paste fail. Thanks for the catch!]
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:35 PM on July 9, 2014

I've used Goggles4U many, many times and have always been very happy with the high-quality frames and lens grinding. I'd recommend them any day. They're also super inexpensive!
posted by yellowcandy at 8:28 PM on July 9, 2014

Based on my personal experiences with sun glasses, I often experience what I call the "Ray-Mart Effect": The more expensive a pair of sunglasses costs is inversely proportional to the amount of time it takes for them to get lost/broken. YMMV
posted by NoraCharles at 8:43 PM on July 9, 2014

Walmart is the devil, but they have really cheap glasses and sunglasses. Maybe you can buy one pair to get your pupil distance from them and order additional pairs online.

I tried to get my pupil distance from a glasses store after I had gotten my glasses months earlier and they absolutely refused to tell me. I went through managers and they said they couldn't tell me, which was a lie. I guess they REALLY don't want people buying glasses online.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:22 PM on July 9, 2014

I can make you feel better about spending $150 on proper sunglasses — I just dropped $600 on mine, and I'm absolutely delighted with them.

Seriously, pay up and get the job done properly. These are your *eyes* we're talking about here. Please take care of them.
posted by ZipRibbons at 2:06 AM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in Canada and I've bought classes from ClearlyContacts with varying success. However, they had free returns, so there was no risk. One thing they have trouble doing is placing the pupil vertically in the frame, so I even with the correct pupil distance, some of the larger lens options had the optimal focal point below where my eyes were. So I would recommend it if you can find a place with free returns, and recommend getting a smaller or vertically narrow pair. And yes, you should be able to find an eyeglasses store that will give you your pupil distance for free, it takes a few seconds.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:39 PM on July 10, 2014

Warby Parker actually have an online tool for measuring your pupil distance which I've found quite useful. You need to have a webcam and some kind of card with a magnetic strip --- it uses the strip to create a ruler.

Staring into a webcam actually gave me a touch of the red eye you get in photos --- which was actually useful in this instance to help pinpoint the center of the pupil. For me it was easier than doing it in a mirror, since I have to take off my glasses to do that.
posted by maggiepolitt at 4:21 PM on July 13, 2014

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