Eyeglass frames are made from a large variety of materials ranging from acetates and hard plastics to metals and metal alloys. Frame manufacturers constantly work to develop new materials for stronger, more flexible, lighter and more beautiful frames.
In considering the optimal material for your eyeglass frame, your lifestyle plays a big role. Children and those with active lifestyles require durable and flexible frames that are resistant to breaks from hits and falls. Those who have skin allergies need to seek out frames made from hypoallergenic materials such as acetate, titanium or stainless steel.
If you want the colors of the rainbow, then zyl (zylonite, or cellulose acetate) is your material. Zyl is a very cost-effective and creative option for eyewear and is extremely lightweight. Particularly popular right now are laminated zyl frames that have layered colors. Look for light colors on the interior sides, which can make your eyewear “disappear” from your visual field when you wear them. An all-black frame, on the other hand, is visible at all times on both interior and exterior sides.
Some manufacturers also use cellulose acetate propionate, a nylon-based plastic that is hypoallergenic. It’s lightweight and has more transparency and gloss than other plastics. If your main criterion for a frame is lightness, then definitely consider propionate frames.
Plastic frames do have some drawbacks. They are easier to break than metal frames, they will burn (but are not easily ignited), and aging and exposure to sunlight decrease their strength slightly. Color can fade over time, but not as much with modern materials.
Metal frames are typically made from a mixture of metals selected for their malleability and corrosion resistance. Though most metal frames are hypoallergenic, it’s possible people with sensitive skin may experience irritation if the rests directly against their face. But this is preventable if the right kind of plating, such as palladium or other nickel-free options, are used.
Titanium and beta-titanium are also popular materials for eyeglass frames. Titanium is a silver-gray metal that’s lightweight, durable, strong and corrosion-resistant. Titanium eyewear can be produced in a variety of colors for a clean, modern look with a hint of color. And it’s hypoallergenic.
Beryllium, a steel-gray metal, is a lower-cost alternative to titanium eyewear. It resists corrosion and tarnish, making it an excellent choice for wearers who have high skin acidity or spend a good amount of time in or around salt water. It is also lightweight, very strong, very flexible making it easily adjustable and it is available in a wide range of colors.
Stainless steel frames and surgical stainless are another alternative to titanium. Qualities of stainless steel frames include light weight, low toxicity and strength; many stainless steel frames also are nickel-free and thus hypoallergenic.
Flexon is a titanium-based alloy. This unique and popular material, originated by the eyeglass manufacturer Marchon, also is called “memory metal.” Frames made of Flexon come back into shape even after twisting or bending. Flexon frames are lightweight, hypoallergenic and corrosion-resistant.
Hinges and nosepads also play an important role in durability and comfort of your frames. Children, in particular, can benefit from spring hinges and nosepads which can keep the frames from slipping off. Rimless or semi-rimless glasses are also an option for those that durability is not a primary concern.
More and more top fashion design brands are coming out with designer eyewear collections to suit every taste and style. Frames come in all colors, sizes, and shapes so the choices are endless in finding a frame that suits your personal style and looks good with your face shape and coloring.