Finding the Right Glasses

I have needed prescription glasses, with bifocals, since I was an eight-year-old child. Back then, I could pick out any frame that looked nice to me, and wear it without issue. But, since I developed contact dermatitis, and chronic hives, my choice of glasses is now determined by the materials with which they are made: plastic frames; metal frames; nose pads. How do you know whether plastic or metal glasses frames are more hypoallergenic? How do you know which glasses nose pads are best for sensitive skin? When you suffer from a contact allergy, or sensitivity, and are shopping for glasses, you may become overwhelmed with optical options. Have no fear, I’m here to help cut through the confusion and see things clearly.

Here are my top 6 tips for shopping for sensitive shades!

Schedule an appointment with an optician

Always get glasses properly fitted by a licensed optician. Opticians are not just glasses salesmen. They are your glasses’ best friend! These specialists are professionally trained to fit your frames to your one-of-a-kind face shape, ears and head. Otherwise, your glasses frames may rub, and irritate, your sensitive skin. Opticians have access to special equipment, specifically for this purpose, so that they will not damage your glasses frames while adjusting them. In other words… Don’t try this at home!

Lightweight frames for sensitive skin

If you want as little of the glasses frames to touch your skin, buy lightweight, “invisible glasses,” “frameless glasses” or “rimless glasses.” These glasses frames are made of the lightest metal and the lenses are held in place by a thin, clear, plastic strip that looks like a fishing line. Depending on the prescription, they can weigh only a few ounces.

Avoid reactions from nickel

Metal frames: In the category of metal glasses frames, nickel allergy is the most common one. Sometimes plastic fronted frames will have metal arms. The nickel that comes in contact with skin will begin pitting, scratching the skin and causing irritation and allergic reaction. An inexpensive solution is to coat the inside of the arms with clear nail polish! Titanium is the least reactive metal, and the lightest metal and the strongest metal. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s also more durable. Look for a label that says nickel allergy free and or pure or 100% titanium. This will accommodate contact points on the temples, the sides of the head.

The best types of plastic frames for Chronic Hives

Plastic frames: Lower quality plastic glasses frames are made of injected plastic, leaving the frame color only as a coating on the outside. This material is often made out of petroleum-based nylon, and people, with sensitive skin, can develop contact dermatitis to petroleum products. You can often tell, simply by looking at the top of the frame, that the color or print is more superficial and does not go all the way through. The highest quality plastic glasses frames, currently available, are made from cellulose acetate. Unfortunately, glasses frames are not always labeled with their materials. One way to tell if a frame is made of cellulose acetate is that the color will go all the way through the frame and not be painted over it. If price is not an issue, there is another high end proprietary material in the plastic frame industry made by OPTYL. This material is also considered to be hypoallergenic.

Preventing skin irritation

Nose Pads: better quality nose pads are made from silicone. Less expensive frames may come with nose pads made of plastic, of unknown origin, that can cause skin irritation, due to skin sensitivity, in some wearers. Silicone nose pads, for your glasses frames, may not be 100% allergy free, but it is your best choice to avoid contact dermatitis. You can get glasses nose pads made out of cellulose acetate, but silicone is softer. If you are reacting to silicone, ask your optometrist if they can order nose pads made out of 100% titanium. They are metal, so they might feel a little foreign at first because they won’t have the soft cushion of silicone. But, if your sensitive skin is allergic to silicone, titanium metal might be your only safe choice.

Finding the right doctor

I’ve learned a lot since I picked out my first pair of children’s plastic glasses frames, and I learned most of it from my go-to glasses expert, my optician. Once you need glasses, you often need them for life. With this in mind, before you shop for your first pair, or next pair, of glasses, you should shop for an optician. Find an optical advisor who puts you at ease, by answering all your questions and whose opinions you truly trust. Research opticians online to read reviews and weigh your options. It took me many years to find a provider that possessed the patience I needed, to answer my many questions, and the time it takes to fit, and refit, my glasses frames just right. Otherwise, the arms of my frames will rub my sensitive skin, and I will develop contact dermatitis from the irritation. I’m so grateful to have found the right glasses specialist now. Not only is he an excellent listener and patient provider… He also answered all my questions to write this article. To show my appreciation, and help others get a great glasses fitting, I went online and left him a glowing review. Here’s to those of us with sensitive skin, who wear glasses, and the top opticians who serve us so well!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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