You Get What You Pay For: 5 Reasons To Stay Clear Of Cheap Eyeglasses

cheap eyeglasses

Nowadays, every time we scroll down Facebook it seems we are constantly bombarded with offers for cheap eyeglasses — that look almost as good as the top brands — from online and discounted stores for a fraction of reputable retail prices.

Just remember, if it looks too good to be true. It probably is. While a pair of fake Ray-Bans might look legit from a distance, it is important to realize that there are plenty of reasons to buy ‘the real deal’ when shopping for such a vital accessory. Everyone wants to look cool with their new glasses, but remember that eyeglasses’ principal purpose is to protect your precious eyes. It’s nice to save cash, but not when it puts your well-being at risk. After all, you wouldn’t buy a knock-off car seat or bicycle helmet would you?

With that in mind, here are some reasons why skimping on eyeglasses may not be the bargain deal it’s made out to be:

1. Cheap eyeglass frames break

Lower prices mean lower quality. Cheap eyeglasses are often made of inferior materials that break easily. Although a popular, and cheaper choice, plastic frames are far more likely to crack or shatter compared to metal frames, and their overall strength is easily diminished by sunlight exposure,  age, and facial oils. Of course many quality glasses also include plastic in their frames, however materials such as stainless steel, nickel silver metal (alpaca), or cellulose propionate (used in Ray Bans) are added for strength.

Buying your first pair may be inexpensive, but once you have added on repairs, replacements and the hassle of returning time and time again to a store, then is it really worth it? Most cheaper stores will even charge restocking fees, or won’t accept returns at all. With prescription glasses in particular, investing in a quality brand that will last years is essential.

2. Cheap lenses scratch more easily.

Lenses and lens coatings vary significantly between professional retailers and discounted stores. Cheaper, low-quality coatings on cheap, discount eyeglasses will not only scratch more easily but shows signs of fingerprints and other marks faster than those coated in a higher quality substance.

A study published in the Canadian Journal of Optometry, evaluated 154 cheap online eyewear orders and found that 28.6% of the glasses contained at least one lens that failed a component of optical analysis. Some retailers selling cheap prescription glasses manufacture lenses in their own optical labs, rather than using a optical laboratories that specialize in eye care services.

3. Cheap eyeglasses will not leave you looking your best.

Whether it’s due to the sun’s UV rays, or rain, cheap plastic frames will fade, bleach and roughen over time. Cheap metal frames are no better. They often contain nickel alloys which can be highly sensitive to the skin, causing irritation or discoloring. Distortions in cheap plastic can also often make it harder to see clearly through lenses.

Despite copycat designs, cheap eyeglasses will never have the same appearance as top retail brands. Made of nylon, and other low quality materials, cheap eyeglasses will leave you looking second best. And no one wants to be called out by their friends for wearing knock-off glasses. Red face.

4. Cheap eyeglasses are not designed specifically for you

When buying eyeglasses at discount stores, the chances are that the staff will not be qualified to offer the right level of expertise on selecting the right prescription. Most discounted stores do not ask for an opticians script when receiving an order, and if a user is given a set of glasses which are inaccurate this could cause headaches and eyestrain. Cheap progressive lenses, often sold in cheap drugstore reading glasses, usually have a smaller viewing areas which add to discomfort and restrict sight.

And most importantly… you probably won’t be able to see properly.

And on top of that, your glasses won’t fit right. Cheap glasses usually follow a one-size-fits-all rule, and are less likely to complement your facial structure.

5. Cheap lenses can be harmful to your eyes.

Buying sunglasses from cheaper stores can actually do more damage to your eyes. The level and quality of UV protection from made-up brands or generic brands are not guaranteed to give you the ultimate protection from the sun.

Wearing cheap eyeglasses can be damaging to your health. You wouldn’t buy fake medication or fake sunscreen, so why do the same for your glasses? Buying over the counter, cheap eyewear can leave you vulnerable to eye diseases and inaccurate prescriptions, which a licensed optometrist would be able to pick up on.

Many 40+ years olds these days need reading glasses and so turn to drugstores or cheap retailers. Dr. Eli Peli, professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School highlights the dangers of the increasing easiness to buy inexpensive glasses these days. “If you think you have solved the problem on your own, you may delay or even avoid getting regular eye exams,” says Dr. Peli.

When buying eyeglasses, customers expect high quality fitting and prescription expertise and good follow-up service, most of which cheap stores cannot provide. Investing in a top quality brand will not only make you look your best, but will insure your eyes are properly protected.


  1. Great Tips ever 🙂 I was really benefited a lot from reading your post. You are right Low prices-price glasses are not good, It is not durable anymore

  2. People want to wear different eyeglasses on different events and places they visit often. Cheaper eyeglasses are affordable for them to enjoy style and variety of colors while keeping the budget in control. But the less you pay the less you get, when prices are lower for a product then quality is also compromised. If you buy branded eyeglasses, that will give you the comfort over quality and stronger frames.

  3. If you buy really cheap $6 to $19 frames + lenses, then material used to make frames and lenses is cheap and not recommend for Optical Use.

  4. I have extremely high myopia and unfortunately for me, a pair of glasses can cost around $400-$600, often not covered by insurance. Because of this, I don’t update my prescription for years and after around 2-3 years, even if the frames are in great shape, the AR layer starts to scratch and impairs vision. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I got new glasses.

    I just started using the cheap glasses sites after I found out I could get a pair for $50-$100! I’ve gotten 3 pairs with varying prescriptions for distance and reading, different frame options, blue filter, etc. I even returned a pair I didn’t like. (Many sites have at least 14 day return policy.) So the argument of quality is irrelevant when I can get 6 new glasses for the price of one expensive one, while updating my prescription or having backup pairs. The sites also have very detailed measurements so finding a pair that fits isn’t difficult if you do research.

    My only issues are that a lot of cheap frames are a matte plastic that doesn’t have a lot of the grip to them (TR90?). Also it seems that my night vision isn’t the best so I because there seems to be an increased glare. I don’t know if it’s a lense quality issue or if it’s other factors such as the blue reflective coating meant for computer use and or my frames being larger than I’m used to. But I will say quality of frames and fit is no problem for sure.

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Mark Agnew
Mark is the Founder and CEO at -- a leading online retailer of eyeglasses, prescription lenses, and sunglasses. Online since 1999, pioneered the development of omnichannel retailing in the eyewear industry.