A woman is looking straight ahead while trying on clear eye glasses. There are shelves of glasses behind her.

Tips For Getting Hypoallergenic 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 frames are more hypoallergenic? How do you know which 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 help you see things clearly. Here are 5 tips, for shopping for shades, which my doctor helped teach me

1. Consult your optician

Opticians are not just glasses salesmen. They are your glasses best friend! Always get glasses properly fitted by a licensed optician. These specialists are professionally trained to fit your frames to your one-of-a-kind face shape, ears and head. Otherwise, your 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 or frames while adjusting them. In other words…don’t try this at home!

2. Lightweight glasses

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

3. 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 can begin 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 for me, and the lightest metal and the strongest metal. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s also more durable. I look for a label that says nickel allergy free and or pure or 100% titanium. This will accommodate contact points on my temples, the sides of the head.

4. Plastic frames

The lower quality plastic frame is made of injected plastic, leaving the frame color as a coating on the outside. This material is often made out of petroleum-based nylon, and some people do react to petroleum products. You can often tell, 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 frame available I've found currently is cellulose acetate. You can get nose pads made out of cellulose acetate, but silicone would be softer. 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. There is another high end proprietary material in the plastic frame industry made by OPTYL. This material is also considered to be hypoallergenic.

5. Nose pads

Better quality nose pads are made from silicone. Less expensive frames can come with nose pads made of plastic of unknown origin and can cause sensitivity in some wearers. Silicone may not be 100% allergy free, but it is my best bet. If you are reacting to silicone, ask your optometrist if they recommend ordering 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.

Glasses experts

I’ve learned a lot, since I picked out my first pair of plastic frames as a child, and I learned most of it from my go to glasses expert, my optician. Once you need glasses, you usually need them for life. With this in mind, before you shop for your glasses, you should shop for an optician 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 need to answer my many questions, and the time I take to fit, and refit my glasses just right. Otherwise, my glasses frames will rub and irritate my sensitive skin.

I’m so grateful to have found the right 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, and the patient providers who serve us so well!

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