How to Buy Prescription Glasses Online


I’m addicted to buying glasses. It’s like some sort of weird compulsion I’ve developed now that online glasses shops exist, allowing me to buy whatever type of glasses I want for really cheap.

When I was younger there was always this sense of dread when it came to choosing glasses. I knew I’d be stuck with them for a good two to four years, they’d be crazy expensive (thanks, Mom and Pop, for footing that bill), and the process would be long and tedious. Plus, I had to be absolutely certain it was the right look for my face because there was no going back and I was terrified of change. It was not fun for me.

If you’ve never worn glasses – or even if you have, but you don’t need to wear them all the time – it’s hard to understand what life is like for us four eyes. Glasses aren’t just an accessory, or the things that help us see; they become part of your face. (Sidenote: the only thing on my list of things not to say to your glasses-wearing friends is “whoa, you look weird!” the moment you see them without glasses. That’s our actual face.)

My glasses are part of who I am, and now that I’m older I also like having options. So for my fellow glasses-wearing ladies, here are some tips for buying glasses online without breaking the bank or ending up disappointed with your purchase.

1. Know which frames you like.

Before you even log onto a website, it’s worth it to take a trip to a local glasses shop and try a few frames on. Bring a friend to snap photos of you in them. This will give you a better idea of what you look like in each and which you like. Do you prefer thick frames? Rimless? Rectangles? Round? Cateye? Knowing what you don’t like is sometimes just as important. There’s no point in buying glasses, no matter how cheap, if you know from the get-go you hate how your face looks in the frame.

2. Get measurements.

If you can do this without feeling like a weirdo (and you shouldn’t feel like a weirdo because you’re awesome and wonderful and lovely!) bring some measuring tape to figure out the width of the frames you like, as well as the preferred height of your lenses, length of the arms, and other measurements on the frame you feel particular about. (I learned this through trial and error. I don’t like lenses larger than 40 mm on me, for example.) Check those measurements against any frames you look at online to increase the likelihood you’ll feel good wearing the glasses.

3. Know your prescription.

This is super easy if you’ve just recently visited the eye doctor because he or she will have handed you a piece of paper with all you need to know. If it’s been a while, just give your doctor’s office a call, and they should be able to provide you with the information. You will need: your pupillary distance (for adults, this number is typically anywhere from 54–68 mm); and your sphere, axis (if you have astigmatism, like me), and cylinder for your right eye (OD) and your left (OS). Here’s a sample prescription for a person with astigmatism:

Screen shot 2012-10-27 at 10.45.01 PM

4. Find a reputable site.

Whenever you’re getting a “deal” on something, it can feel a little unnerving. Is this company legit? Am I going to be ripped off? If you stick to websites that people you know have ordered from, chances are you’re totally fine. Personally, I’ve only ever ordered from, and my experience has always been great. (I think I’ve placed four or five orders now.) Their frames are cheap, and they offer specialized lens options as well. They also arrive in a decent amount of time — usually three to four weeks, which is not bad considering I just ordered them from the comfort of my living room.

Other websites I’ve heard good things about, but can not personally vouch for, include: Zenni OpticalCoastal, and Go Optic. When in doubt, check the Better Business Bureau or stick to sites you or someone you know has already used.

5. Try them on.

Well, sort of. What you’ll need to do is take a photo of yourself sans spectacles and upload it to your computer. This can be challenging considering some of us four eyes are all but blind without our glasses. If possible, enlist the help of a friend, family member, or boyfriend/girlfriend. (If your pet is super smart, I guess you could ask it to help, too?) Make sure you are looking straight at the camera to give you the best idea of what the glasses will look like on your face. When you upload it onto the site to “try” the glasses on, be sure to check what they’ll do with the photo after. Some, like GlassesShop, don’t save the photo. Others do.

6. Stick to the basics.

For your first ever online glasses purchase, keep things simple. I followed most of the guidelines that the website gave me in terms of which lenses to choose (I have bad eyes, so my prescription requires a thinner lens to make sure I don’t wear Coke-bottle glasses). Once you start to feel more comfortable ordering from the site, then you can branch out and order sunglasses or try different lens tints.

7. Buy, wear, enjoy.

After you buy your glasses, you should receive a confirmation of your order. Keep an eye out for when you’ve been charged and look for a second email letting you know your order has shipped. (These are standard online purchasing tips, but still.) Try to be patient, as your glasses may take some time to arrive. If you’re anything like me, you’ll forgot you ordered them until one day a glorious box arrives on your doorstep and you’re like “OMG MY NEW EYES ARE HERE.” Try them on and enjoy your new face!

Do you have any tips? Website suggestions? Things I missed? Feel free to share in the comments!


12 responses to “How to Buy Prescription Glasses Online

  1. (Sidenote: the only thing on my list of things not to say to your glasses-wearing friends is “whoa, you look weird!” the moment you see them without glasses. That’s our actual face.) This made me legit snort. Why are you so funny?


  2. So I recently discovered from their TV ad and they will actually send you frames to try on for free! I’m waiting for mine right now. I’ll let you know how it goes.


  3. I used to work in optical and I think I can add a few more pointers. Once you get your prescription look at it, or better yet if you can, look at your lenses on your current pair. If it’s thick in the middle you have a plus, which is basically farsightedness. If it’s thick near the edges, it’s a minus and you’re probably nearsighted. If you have a really high minus, like Crystal, I’d recommend getting a thicker frame to keep the edge of your lenses from sticking out funny. However a high plus (like me) can’t get away with larger, round frames or we look like bugs, or in my case I literally look like John Lennon. You can also buy really cute frames and then take them to your local eye place and have lenses made for them. We did it all the time and there was never an issue about not buying frames from us.

    Also keep in mind that by US law, your prescription only lasts a year so make sure your exam is current. I think it’s stupid too.


  4. The savings when buying online is amazing when compared to shops. I’m wearing progressive lenses myself, which makes it a bit more intricate buying glasses online. Thus far, I have only found one site that can guarantee correct placement of these lenses in a frame (requires uploading a few pictures). I used and they are amazing. Plus they are much less expensive than most of the other sites (maybe Zenni is less, but I have had less success with them). And all their lenses include AR and scratch coatings.


  5. Pingback: Hits and myths: Will reading in bad light ruin your eyesight? – South China Morning Post | Shane's Weight Loss & Health Blog·

  6. I will have to second Rob’s comment: I get all my glasses from because they include all coatings at no charge (with a 1 year warranty). What really convinced me was this article they have which outlines step by step exactly how to buy a frame that will fit without ever trying it on:

    I think I need to buy a spinner rack to put all my glasses on… I’m addicted.


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