Skip to main content

Should I Buy Cheap Eyeglasses Online?

Should We Buy Cheap Eyeglasses Online ?

It sounds obvious that we always want to pay as little as possible to purchase a product. However, here is an analysis about what you get and what you do not get when ordering cheap eyeglasses online, or buying cheap sunglasses or getting over-the-counter readers at a discount store.

The only thing you may like when buying eyeglasses online is the seemingly low price. But do you know whether they will work, how long they will last, how dangerous they may be to your health? If they break, how inconvenient to find the answer, to fix or replace them? That’s because when buying online, you have limited information about the quality of the product, you cannot ask detailed questions and cannot get accurate information. And if the online glasses don’t work, you will not know how to solve the problem.


  1. Lower Quality vs. Superior Quality.

Low quality products are cheap. For example, the lens material may not have passed the US OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, especially if it has been manufactured outside the USA. Thus, the lens may chip, break or shatter, causing eye injuries. Cheap plastic frame can deteriorate in the sun, and the finish can get bleached by UV rays and the decomposed chemicals may be toxic to your health. Cheap metal frame contains poor quality nickel alloys that can cause skin irritation.

A low quality frame will be rapidly deformed (bent or twisted) causing lens misalignment thus blurred vision (even with the correct Rx). In other words, low quality frame or lenses will not function properly, and deteriorate quickly with time. And if you have to buy a second pair shortly after the first cheap pair breaks, then the expenses would then be doubled, compared to a superior pair that still lasts.

  1. Prescription and PD (pupillary distance) are not sufficient information.

Dr Tran healthy eye center 2Glasses Rx and PD (distance between the centers of the pupils) needed online are only adequate if all customers’ faces have the same size and shape like robots’. In real life, a same frame sits on different faces differently (some of us want to wear it high, others prefer to wear low, women who have long eyelashes will wear lenses further away from their eye balls than usual,…); thus the followings must be considered: 1) the optical center of the lenses relative to the pupil center (segment height) and 2) the distance between the cornea and lenses (vertex distance). Lenses having high prescription or correcting high astigmatism (distortion) will give you distorted vision if they are not properly positioned and aligned with your line of vision: too close, too far from your eyes, too high, too low, perpendicular or tilted, on your face.

Nowadays, digital lenses take into account all those positions of the frame on your face. These important features are not available for correction online.

  1. Poor online technical support vs. personalized attention and fitting expertise at an eye doctor’s office.

If you buy cheap glasses online, you often will have access to a "virtual try-on" feature — where you upload a close-up photo of yourself and then superimpose images of different frames on your face to see how they look. Alternatively, you may order try-on samples to test at home.

Dr Tran healthy eye center 1However, in reality, our facial features are not always perfectly symmetrical like robots’. Our ears may not be leveled, our eyes are not equidistant from the nose, nasal ridges are not of same elevation,… So, technically, if you find a frame that you like, would you be able to adjust yourself the temples, the frame and nose pieces to make the frame fit correctly and comfortably?

In contrary, at an eye doctor’s office, the expert eye care professionals not only can adjust your frame but also know how to select lenses and frames that are appropriate to your activities (sports, computer,…), fit your life style (outdoors or indoors,…), and offer you the image that you desire (chubbier or thinner, younger or more mature, casual or professional,…).

  1. Cheap sunglasses can do more harm than good.

Sunglasses must protect your eyes from brightness, glares and UV rays. Cheap sunglasses although have the label “polarized” or “100% UV protection” may not have an effective filter that blocks all the harmful UV rays that cause retinal damage, but the dark tint, ironically, causes our pupils to stay wide open behind the lenses, which consequently let more UV rays to enter your eyes! Your eye doctor will recommend the right protective sunglass lenses for you.

  1. Cheap reading glasses can cause eyestrain.

It is rare that both of our eyes have equal powers (same prescription). Over-the-counter readers come in equal magnification powers. The readers only make the image larger, but do not make it crispier. Also, over-the-counter readers do not correct for the astigmatism (distortion), a sometimes difficult condition to correct. Unequally strained vision is often the source of headaches.

Moreover, different persons read at different distances. Only personalized reading glasses prescribed by a doctor will give you optimal vision, of both eyes, at your preferred reading distance.


The only tempting reason for buying eyeglasses online, cheap sunglasses and over-the-counter readers is the seemingly low price advertised online. However, you are taking your chance by ignoring all the beneficial things that your precious eyes need and deserve in an eye doctor’s office: clear vision, safety for your eyes, on the spot abundant information about optical products, accurate information about your eye health, and recommendation for the choice of eyeglasses that fit your personality, activities and life style, to your desire. And also, only the eye care professional can help you trouble shoot any eyeglasses and vision-related issues.

Where to go the next time you need a new pair of glasses? Please choose wisely.


Johan Tran, Ph.D., O.D., Board Certified