Sunglasses: How to Find the Best Frames and Lenses

With Australian summer being just around the corner, now is the right time to invest in a brand new pair of sunglasses. But with millions of different models available nowadays, ranging from just a few dollars up to several hundred, how do you find the best model? While personal preference and budget play a crucial role, there are a couple of other things to consider.

For instance, make sure the new sunglasses provide UV protection. The frame should also be made from durable materials, and the glass should provide enough coverage to protect your eyes and the skin around them which is quite sensitive. That being said, if your budget allows it, try to get a pair from a quality brand like Von Zipper, Ray-Ban, Oakley, Revo, Prada, etc. as these brands have a long history of manufacturing quality sunglasses, as well as replacement lenses that allow you to get a fully customised look.

The Importance of UV Protection


A lot of people take lens darkness for UV-protection, and they couldn’t be more wrong. UV protection depends on whether or not specific chemicals have been applied to the lens, rather than the lens colour or tint-depth. To make sure your eyes are always protected, look for sunglasses that are labelled as blocking 100% or 99% UV rays. This is the main reason why I advocate for buying sunglasses from quality brands. Ray-Ban, Oakley, Von Zipper replacement lenses, for instance, all come with sufficient UV protection that shields your eyes from the damaging impact of UV exposure.

Lens Materials


You’ll find sunglasses and replacement lenses made from glass or plastic. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s up to you to make a choice that suits you best. Glass lenses are usually more scratch-resistant, and they provide superior vision. However, glass is heavier, so the frame and tinting options are more limited. Glass lenses aren’t impact-resistant, and they can be dangerous to children and clumsy people. Plastic lenses, on the other hand, are more affordable and lightweight, which is why most Ray-Ban, Oakley, Revo and Von Zipper replacement lenses are made of plastic. Plastic also allows for additional coatings that help keep your vision clear and comfortable. No matter whether you go for plastic or glass lenses, they should provide UV absorption, be free of imperfections and distortion to ensure protection and clarity.

Lens Coatings


While lens coatings like gradients, anti-reflective coating or polarisation don’t contribute towards UV protection, they help keep your eyes comfortable and your sunglasses looking good. For instance, if you frequently participate in high-glare activities like fishing or skiing, you should consider getting polarised lenses. Polarised lenses aren’t very expensive, but they help prevent eye strain and eliminate glare. Gradient, double-gradient lenses with mirrored coatings are also a great choice for high-glare situations. Not only do they provide an extra layer of glare protection, but they also add a layer of coolness to your sunglasses. You might also want to consider photochromic lenses that automatically darken the sunlight and lighten when in low light conditions. This means you’ll only have to get one pair of glasses for outdoor and indoor use. No matter the lens coating and materials you choose, the lens should be capable of screening out 75-90% light. A good way to test this is to look at yourself in the mirror wearing the sunglasses, and if you can see your eyes clearly behind the sunglasses, they’re not dark enough.

Frame Materials


When you’re shopping for the style and shape of your potential sunglasses, consider whether the frames are durable enough. The sunglass frames should be inspected for flexibility, weight, strength and corrosion- and impact-resistance. You’ll find a wide range of frame materials, ranging from metals such as titanium and monel, to plastics like nylon and zyl. Metal frames are popular due to their corrosion resistance and malleability, but they aren’t as stylish and don’t come in as many colour choices as their plastic counterparts. Plastic frames come in an endless palette of colours and patterns, are more affordable, but are easier to break. Constant exposure to the sun can cause them to lose their colour and strength over time. Every type of frame material comes with distinct benefits and disadvantages, so consider consulting an eyewear professional for recommendations.

Popular Frame Shapes


There are many different frame shapes available nowadays, the most popular of which are aviator/pilot, butterfly and cat-eye.

Aviator/Pilot Frames

These sunglasses typically feature a wire frame that includes a wire across the bridge of the nose. They’re usually bold and big and come with large lenses. Aviator/pilot sunglasses usually come with features such as polarisation and UV protection. Ray-Ban, Burberry and Gucci are a great place to start looking for quality aviator/pilot frames.

Butterfly Frames

Butterfly sunglasses are typically oversized, offering extended face protection from the sun. They’re usually made thinner across the bridge of the nose and eyes, but the frame becomes thicker around the temple area, resembling a butterfly shape, hence their name. These frames are a great way to show some personality and make a fashion statement from the 50s, which is still considered fashion-forward even today.

Cat Eye Frames

Cat-eye sunglasses are characterised by their rounded frames that flare out close to the temples. Most of them feature oval lenses with the extended portion of the eye rim drawing out in an outward and upward point. The most decorative parts of the frame are the brows. In other words, there are different applique, ornamental and sculptural effects incorporated at the top of the rims. Cat-eye frames are considered retro, as they became popular in the 50s and 60s. Versace, Prada, Von Zipper are just some of the brands that provide high-quality cat-eye sunglass frames.