How To Choose Glasses: Lens Types, Frames, Colors & Fit

how to choose glasses

Choosing a new pair of glasses is exciting – after all, who doesn’t like fresh and clear lenses alongside a new look? But, it can also be a bit overwhelming to sift through dozens of different styles, colors, and materials when shopping for a new pair.

So whether you’re looking for your very first pair of glasses or replacing some that have worn out their welcome, make sure you check all the boxes and end up with a pair you truly enjoy wearing.

What should you look for when choosing glasses?

Choosing a pair of glasses that not only helps your vision but also looks good on you matters. Most of us who wear glasses were a bit self conscious or even embarrassed to first put a pair on, so figuring out the exact style and frame before you do your shopping will make your life a lot easier.

Here are the main things to think about:

  • Your prescription needs
  • The type of eyeglass lens used
  • A frame and color that compliments your face

What kind of eyeglass prescription do you need?

Not all glasses are created equal – that is, before you decide on a stylish frame, it requires you to know the exact type of prescription you need. The type of lens used in your new pair of glasses could mean certain types of eyeglass frames are off-limits, but you’ll still have plenty of aesthetic options to choose from.

Chances are, you don’t have 20/20 or 20/10 vision if you’re trying to find a new pair – so you’ll need to visit an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam before you’ll be given an eye prescription. One thing to be aware of is that eye prescriptions do expire, and you’ll have to renew them as often as required via your local guidelines.

Common vision issues

There are a few main categories of vision issues your doctor may cover, and each of these come with a different sort of prescription:

  • Nearsightedness, also called myopia, for those with issues seeing things that far away
  • Farsightedness, also called hyperopia, for those with issues seeing things close up
  • Astigmatism, which is when someone has vision issues due to their cornea shape
  • There’s also presbyopia, which is a gradual loss of vision usually due to age

Types of prescription lenses

Going a bit further, there are a few common types of prescription eyeglass lenses associated with these conditions, all of which solve different levels of vision loss within our fragile human eyes. Basically, these lenses will correct one or all types of vision issues including not being able to see near, intermediate (arm’s length), or distant objects and people:

  • Single vision lenses, meant to help those with issues seeing things close up or far away, but only correct one issue at a time
  • Bifocal lenses, which are multifocal lenses designed for those who can’t see things that are near or distant, using different sections of the lens
  • Trifocal lenses, a prescription that corrects vision for those who have trouble seeing at all three distances by adding a third section to the bifocal design
  • Progressive lenses, which help those who have trouble seeing at multiple distances, seamlessly transitioning between near, immediate, and distant vision corrections

You may notice that trifocals and progressive lenses sound similar, and they are – the main difference between these two prescriptions is that trifocals use three different sections of the lens to correct vision issues, while progressive lenses don’t have separated areas and are more seamlessly designed.

What types of glasses are there?

Now that we’ve gone over your prescription, it’s time to cover the different types of glasses you’ll be able to choose from when picking out a pair. There’s a lot to choose from, too – blue light glasses, readers, prescription glasses, and more. Your prescription may limit you a bit, but it’s good to know all the different kinds of lenses either way before deciding:

What are the most common eyeglass frame shapes?

Whether you need a heavy duty prescription or just occasionally feel like wearing some non-prescription lenses, you’ll need to decide on a frame shape. There’s more to it than that, however – the shape of your face matters too, which we’ll cover after.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the most popular frame styles out there:

Classic frames

Some frame styles have stood the test of time, cementing themselves as classics and are usually a safe bet depending on your face shape:

  • Aviators, a larger frame style that covers a sizable portion of the face
  • Wayfarers, a rectangular frame style with an exaggerated width
  • Square and rectangle frames, your run-of-the-mill, balanced frames
  • Round frames, a classic circular style worn by icons like Steve Jobs and John Lennon
  • Oval frames, a circular frame style featuring a blend of round and square angles

Trendy modern frames

Not everyone is a fan of the classics – and plenty of other trendy styles have appeared over time. These are a bit more adventurous than the classics, but still work for a variety of styles and face shapes:

  • Browline frames, a style that features a thicker upper frame section
  • Cat-eye frames, noted for their outward flowing angles of varying intensities
  • Geometric frames, which can range from hexagonal to octagonal

Bold specialty frames

Of course, some prefer to take things to the next level by wearing rarer frame styles, setting themselves apart from the norm. This type of frame varies wildly and includes custom-made eyeglass frames, but here are some of the most common ones you may see while out and about:

  • Oversized frames, which usually include chunky rims and bold colors, setting the wearer apart from most
  • Rimless frames, these are glasses without rims supported by the bridge and temple hardware alone – these can look a bit dated depending on how you approach it

Which frames compliment your face shape?

This is the hardest part when it comes to finding the perfect pair of glasses – matching your face shape with a complimentary glasses frame. Because we all have unique face shapes and bone structure, certain styles of glasses will look more natural on different people.

That isn’t to say you can’t wear a specific style if you really want to, but over time designers have nailed down some of the best frames for specific face shapes:

Oval face shape

Oval shaped faces are often considered one of the easiest to find frames for, with balanced proportions that work with a variety of styles. If your face is oval, you have a lot of different options to choose from – your creativity and personal style matters more here, as most pairs will look decent on you. You’ve got our permission to go ahead and brag about your perfect face shape to anyone around you willing to listen, we’ll wait.

Our Choice: The Anning

Round face shape

If your face is equal in terms of length and width, and has softer angles or round features like full cheeks and a rounded chin – you’re going to want to look for styles that compliment a round face.

The best frame shapes for a round face are usually those that add a bit of angularity and structure like square and rectangle frames, and frames that have strong flat browlines which contrast with your natural soft features. However, you’ll want to avoid round glasses or those meant for smaller faces – these will accentuate your round features, and we’re looking for contrast here.

Our Choice: The Carver

Square face shape

Similar to a round face but featuring sharper angles from defined jawlines and equally proportioned cheekbones and brows, a square shaped face will be equal in terms of how wide or long your face is. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between round and square shaped faces, so feel free to try on a variety of glasses if you aren’t quite sure.

If you have a square face shape, avoid square or rectangular frames – which draw attention to your already angular features. You’re going to want to look for rounded glasses frames that soften sharp angles: the right frames will both compliment and contrast with your features, softly framing your face.

Our Choice: The Franklin

Rectangle face shape

Rectangular shaped faces are very similar to square faces; the main difference is that your face will be longer than it is wide – complete with elegant features like strong but thin jawlines, tall foreheads, and longer noses.

You have more options with a rectangle face shape than square, but you’ll still mainly want to look for round or curved frames that draw attention away from your longer features. Square frames can also work – you mainly want to avoid rectangular frames or thin frames that emphasize your face’s length.

Our Choice: The Kepler

Heart face shape

A heart shaped face will have a wider forehead and brow area, which gradually slopes into a narrow chin and jawline, and may feature defined cheekbones. Similar to both square and rectangular faces, heart shaped faces are one of the more common types – lots of people have angular faces.

For this reason, you’ll want to wear frames that draw attention towards the bottom half of your face, filling the space: look for square frames that are wider at the bottom or feature big lenses like aviators, and avoid frames with wide top halves.

Our Choice: The West

Diamond face shape

Considered by most to be the rarest face shape, a diamond shaped face will be widest in the middle of the face with a relatively narrow forehead and chin that are roughly the same width. While that sounds complicated, it’s actually one of the easiest face shapes to find glasses for alongside oval faces.

If you have a diamond shaped face, hunt down a pair of oval or round glasses – these shapes will accentuate your angles without drawing too much attention to them. You could even experiment a bit with cat-eye glasses and frames with wider top halves. The only shape you may want to stay away from would be narrow frames that bring too much attention to your unique diamond facial features.

Our Choice: The Roebling

What colored glasses compliment you?

After you’ve figured out the best frame shape for you, it’s time to think a bit about what colors look best on you – including your eye and hair color as well as your skin tone and complexion. Some of this will be personal preference, but we can also use a bit of color theory to help narrow down your choices.

First, ask yourself this: do I want to blend in or stand out?

Basically, you can either compliment your unique colors with similarly colored frames that help you blend in, or pick contrasting colors that make your eye, hair, and skin tones pop compared to the frame color.

Eye color

Like the old saying goes: eyes are a window to the soul – and they’re usually the first place someone will look when you meet. So make sure you think a bit about the best color pairings for your eyes, especially if you want them to stand out:

  • Brown eyes pair well with black, tortoiseshell, green, red, and even orchid frames
  • Green eyes work with sage, tans and golds, reds, and some blue or green frames
  • Blue eyes are best paired with other blues, gray or silver, artichoke, or contrasting tortoiseshell and black frames

If you have hazel eyes, you could easily get away with any colors that look good with green or brown eyes; if you have gray eyes, you’ll likely want to stick with some of the colors that pair well with blue eyes.

Hair color

Just like your eyes, the color of your hair opens up a variety of options when it comes to the frame color of your new glasses. Whether it’s your natural color or just the current tone you prefer to maintain, take some time to pour over some common color pairings:

  • Black hair tends to pair with black or gray, tortoiseshell, and contrasting pink or blue frames
  • Brunette hair pairs well with black, blues, mahogany, and even silver or pink frames
  • Blonde hair looks great with honey, tortoiseshell or brown, and green frames
  • Red hair strikes a beautiful balance with tortoiseshell, other browns, and gold frames
  • Gray hair works with tons of colors including reds, blues, purple, white or silver, and bolder combination frames

Skin tones

You’ll likely fall under one of the main categories of skin tones, and while you don’t have to pair your tone with a certain frame color, some could compliment you more than others. Here are the main skin tones and complexions to think about:

  • Fair skin tones are the lightest on the spectrum, burn easily, and are often described as pale or porcelain in appearance
  • Light skin tones aren’t quite as fair as the above, but still feature lighter hues that are vulnerable to the sun without proper protection
  • Medium skin tones are usually described as olive or tan, and have a much warmer hue than fair tones due to higher melanin levels
  • Deep skin tones burn less often and tan more easily due to their high melanin levels, contrasting with fair tones

Complexion and undertones

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to your skin is the existing undertone – which isn’t exactly the same as your skin tone or color. Undertones are, like the name implies, the underlying colors that give your skin it’s unique appearance:

  • Warm undertones will have golden, yellow, or peachy hues
  • Cool undertones will have a slightly blue, red, or pink hue
  • Neutral undertones combine both warm and cool undertones together

Once you’ve figured out your skin tone and undertone, it’s time to do a bit more color pairing:

Fair and cool complexions may want to try on some tortoiseshell, pink, or gray colored glasses. Fair and warm complexions should be on the lookout for muted browns, earthy greens, or peachy frame colors.

Medium and cool complexions are going to want to look for crimson, aqua, purple, silver, or black frames. Medium and warm complexions on the other hand, could consider artichoke, browns, and other earth tones.

Deep and cool complexions should start by trying on purple, blues, gold, or silver frames. Deep and warm complexions have lots of options, including brown, honeys, and greens – clear frames can also work here.

With all that being said, remember that a lot of eyeglass frames will be a combination of colors or feature less common tones like rose gold, mint green, tortoiseshell, and many unique options. So it’s not always about finding the perfect color – it’s more about striking a balance between complimentary and contrasting colors, and what feels right to you.

What materials can glasses be made from?

The material you choose for your frame isn’t quite as important as how they look or feel on your face, but there are a couple different kinds of construction styles out there. Let’s talk about the three main types:

  • Plastic frames are super common, and are usually made from acetate – which happens to be one of the most affordable glasses materials
  • Metal frames are also a great choice, preferred by many for their sleek and sturdy frame designs that work with most styles
  • Wooden frames aren’t quite as common, but are beginning to rise in popularity as more sustainable and ecologically friendly materials hit the market

How should glasses fit your face?

If you’re new to wearing glasses, it can be hard to know if they fit correctly. However, all it really comes down to is: are they comfortable when you wear them for long periods of time?

The bridge of your glasses should fit snugly on your nose without any discomfort or pain, and they need to stay put – if your glasses slide down, they need to be adjusted. Constantly readjusting your glasses or pushing them up and out of the way gets old fast, although the occasional readjustment is normal.

The other big thing to watch out for is if they’re regularly tilting to one side. While this can just be due to your bone structure, your eye doctor should be able to easily adjust your glasses so they aren’t tilted or distracting while being worn.

Final thoughts

Shopping for a fresh pair of glasses doesn’t have to be stressful – but it does take a bit of experimentation and a small leap of faith if you want to try out a new style.

You should now be prepared to find your perfect pair of glasses, a pair that shows off your unique features by highlighting your angles and tones. If you’re interested in learning more about glasses, make sure to check out the rest of our comprehensive eyeglasses and eye care guides.