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No one knows when daily life will return to something we might consider normal. It’s challenging to plan ahead, but of course, the world keeps spinning, and we need to keep meeting our basic needs.

If you have a refractive error like astigmatism or myopia, glasses or contact lenses are a basic need for you. If you already have a few pairs of relatively new glasses at home, you probably won’t have an issue. However, if you only have one pair, you may want to buy a second pair just in case something happens to damage the first. 

Of course, buying glasses looks different right now, with most optical boutiques and dispensaries closed, or at least working limited hours.

Whether you’re waiting until practices open up, or buying online, here are a few things you should consider before purchasing new glasses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Should I Buy Glasses Online?

With social distancing measures in place, ordering glasses online may feel like your only option, and depending on the provincial and municipal rules in your area, that may be true. However, that does not mean you need to choose an online-only retailer.

A lot of local businesses are now offering ecommerce, meaning you may be able to purchase glasses from your optometry practice without leaving home. Some practices may still be open for in-store orders as well. You will just have to call ahead to find out.

It may be tempting to order from online-only retailers. Still, I would encourage you to support local businesses as much as possible. Putting money back into the local economy is the best way to support your community during a difficult time like this.

Choosing the Right Glasses for Your Face Shape

Even if you have the opportunity to shop in-store, trying sample frames on during a pandemic is not advisable. But how do you buy frames if you can’t try them on?

Generally speaking, you can determine which frames will work best for you based on your face shape.

Chart showing oval, square, rectangle, diamond, heart, and round-shaped faces

Oval-Shaped Face

An oval-shaped face features a forehead and jaw with approximately the same width and a soft, rounded jawline. Typically, oval-shaped faces are somewhat longer and narrower.

Frames that might work for you include:

  • Rectangular frames
  • Round frames
  • Aviator frames
  • Browline frames

Square-Shaped Face

A square-shaped face features wide, prominent cheekbones and a strong jawline. The forehead and jawline are usually around the same width for a square-shaped face.

Frames that might work for you include:

  • Oval frames
  • Round frames
  • Browline frames
  • Cat-eye frames

Diamond-Shaped Face

A diamond-shaped face is a little bit longer with an angular look. It is characterized by a narrow forehead and jawline with wider cheekbones.

Frames that might work for you include:

  • Round frames
  • Oval frames
  • Browline frames
  • Cat-eye frames

Rectangle-Shaped Face

Rectangular faces are sometimes called pear-shaped faces for their wide jaws and slightly more narrow foreheads. A rectangle-shaped face is typically longer than a square-shaped face.

Frames that might work for you include:

  • Aviator frames
  • Browline frames
  • Oval frames
  • Cat-eye frames

Round-Shaped Face

A round-shaped face is nearly as wide as it is long. With a soft, rounded jaw and a shorter forehead, the cheeks are usually the widest part of a round face.

Frames that might work for you include:

  • Rectangular frames
  • Geometric frames
  • Square frames

Heart-Shaped Face

A heart-shaped face is widest at the forehead, rounding down to its narrowest point, the chin. Because the heart-shaped face is often a little bit longer, it can appear quite angular.

Frames that might work for you include:

  • Aviator frames
  • Geometric frames
  • Round frames

Choosing the Right Frames for Your Prescription

Before you actually buy any frames, there’s one important thing you need to know: can the frames you want support your prescription? 

Different powered lenses have different edge thicknesses. That means that some frame shapes, sizes, and thicknesses may not be able to support a high prescription. 

Different lens types and materials work differently, so it’s better to speak with an optician about your options. But here are some general guidelines when shopping for high-prescription glasses:

For Nearsightedness

If you are myopic or nearsighted, you will need lenses that are thinner in the centre and thicker at the edges. That means you may run the risk of getting the “coke bottle” effect, where the lenses look thicker than the frames from the side.

You can avoid this issue by choosing a shorter and more narrow pair of frames.

For Farsightedness

If you are hyperopic or farsighted, you will need lenses that are thicker in the middle and thinner around the edge. You don’t have to worry about the coke bottle effect, but your lenses could magnify your eyes, making you look somewhat bug-eyed. 

You can avoid this issue by choosing generally smaller frames with aspheric lenses to reduce the magnification effect.

Laughing young woman wearing new glasses at home

Choosing the Right Lenses

Most of us spend a great deal of time looking for the frames that suit us most, but not nearly enough of us consider what kind of lenses we need. Lens technology has come an incredibly long way over the last few years. 

Eyewear is now capable of an unbelievably high standard of optical performance. But because so few eyewear buyers look into the lens options available to them, people seldom get the benefit of high-performance lenses.

When choosing your lenses, consider how you spend the majority of your time. Are you indoors or outdoors? Are you driving a lot or looking at computers? There are lenses to improve your optical experience for all of these situations. There are even lenses to reduce eye fatigue.

Ask your optician what kind of lenses they have available. Tell them about your lifestyle and ask which lenses they would recommend to complement your prescription as well as your day-to-day visual needs.

Evaluate Your Options & Make an Educated Decision

Glasses are a truly custom product. For the best results, you need the right frames and the right lenses made from the right materials. 

If you don’t need glasses right away or you have a backup pair, there’s nothing wrong with waiting until the pandemic has subsided and ordering in-store. 

If you do need eyewear in the midst of the pandemic, do some research. Find the best type of glasses and lenses for your needs, then find a reliable local ecommerce retailer. You’ll be supporting a local business and making the best possible decision for your vision.

Written by Kevin Hesterman

DR. KEVIN HESTERMAN
Dr. Hesterman was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. He graduated from optometry at Waterloo in 2000. He and his wife, Rhonda, have three children. He enjoys swimming, biking, and running, having completed several triathlons. Hiking, skiing, and playing the piano and guitar are other interests. He has volunteered with Big Brothers and Big Sisters and was on the executive committee for Optometry Giving Sight, a charity raising money for third world optometry. Dr. Hesterman is currently on the executive council for the Alberta Association of Optometrists.

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