Lens Choices

                                                                                Photograph by Nedjeljko Matura

When most people think about eyewear fashion, they usually think of the frame first. But savvy dispensers know lenses can also make a fashion impact. By carefully selecting the lens design, material and lens treatment, a dispenser can dramatically enhance the look of the eyewear.

Progressive lenses, for example, eliminate segment lines. Aspheric designs create a flatter lens profile. Lens materials such as polycarbonate, high-index plastics or Trivex allow for thinner lenses. Treatments such as tints, mirrors, edge polishing, facets or jewels can personalize a lens. In the hands of an experienced dispenser, these lens enhancements can turn even an ordinary pair of glasses into something special.

The first step in making a lens fashion statement is choosing a lens material.
“1.67, 1.70 and Trivex lens materials have allowed the spectrum of eyewear design to diversify,” says optician and eyewear designer Bill Brock of Ft. Worth, Texas.

“In the old days, you had to mask a thick Rx by putting a facet on the front and a bevel on the back,” notes Brock. “That’s called a roll and polish. If you looked at the lens from the side, it would make it appear much thinner. The artwork would draw attention away from the thick prescription. Today we have 1.67 and 1.70 high-index materials, so people who don’t want a facet can still have a nice, light thin lens.”

Some dispensers prefer high-index lenses that are not only thin and light, but also offer maximum transparency.

“We use lenses made of the thinnest, lightest, clearest material to enhance the design of the frame and create a very clean package,” says Jeffrey Erber, owner of Jeffrey’s Manhattan Eyeland, an upscale boutique located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Polishing the edge of the lens can further increase its visual appeal.
“Edge polishing is such a great enhancement, especially to rimless,” remarks Brock. “You might leave a mark on the lens after it’s been edged. Polishing takes that away. It gives lenses a smooth appearance and makes them sparkle. It makes them look like high-dollar work.”

Determining how much polishing a lens requires is a matter of personal taste.
“We’ll use polished edges to different degrees,” says Erber. “Often, we’ll do light or medium buff, because we don’t want to call attention to the lens. If it’s a really thick lens, you don’t want to buff too much, otherwise you’ll see three or four concentric edges.”

“We usually recommend a 50 percent polish for prescriptions over -6.00D,” adds Ricky Yung, an optician at Jeffrey’s Manhattan Eyeland.

Although tints are not as popular as they once were, many patients still like a touch of color on their lenses particularly if it’s applied subtly. “If you have a frame with that edgy look, you can add slight tints,” says Erber. “We often use a very light blue to funk it out.”

Brock finds that some patients prefer various combinations of tints rather than a single color. “Our regular tint is a double gradient,” he says. “It has one color on top that fades to 50 percent and then it picks up a blush for cheek tones. We do blue to blush, brown to blush or gray to blush.

“On the specialty end, we do three different tints. We may take a blue and purple and blend it down to blush. We’ve done teal, purple and blush. It’s a special effect that’s done by hand.”

For patients who don’t want a full tint but still like a touch of color in their lens, many dispensers are using one of the special tint pens available from several suppliers. “We often put just a light color on an AR lens,” says Brock. “It’s a good way to keep the visual acuity nice and strong and yet give them a color they can see.

Another way to add color to a lens is by applying a mirror coating (see sidebar). “Mirror coatings on Rx lenses have quadrupled in growth in the last three years,” says Fred Duncan, vice president of sales and marketing at Opticote, a leading custom coating lab in Franklin Park, Ill. “It’s almost impossible to see a photo or a news clip of a celebrity that’s not wearing some kind of mirror. Combine this fashion growth with the function that mirrors provide in sports and other outdoor activities and you can understand their new popularity.”

One of the most popular mirror treatments is a flash mirror coating. Like tints, flash mirrors come in many colors and can be applied uniformly, as a gradient or double gradient. They are light enough to be worn indoors.
“You can still see a person’s eyes, so if you walk by someone who’s wearing it, you wonder if it’s a mirror or not. It’s a really a cool effect,” says Brock.
Silver flash mirrors are a big seller, adds Brock, who has done every type of flash mirror from “hot apple, lime green” to “volcano” purple. “Flash mirrors will definitely make you stand out in a crowd,” says Brock. “It’s the biggest coating we’ve ever seen.”

Another type of mirror effect can be achieved with photochromics.
“We’ve done photochromics where we add heavier layers of AR on top, such as with Zeiss Cool Blue lenses,” says Erber. “When it darkens, it gives a sheen to the lens as you turn and look at different angles. It’s a mirror effect, but you don’t see it in the lightened state.”

Erber also uses gradient mirrors to mimic the look of a plano sunlens.
“Patients see the non-prescription sunglass and they like the look of the lens,” he says. “Making the Rx version without the mirror defeats the look.”
Faceting and decorating with jewel-like stones are two more ways of creating distinctive-looking lenses. Like tinting, these skills have evolved in specialized directions as popular tastes have shifted.

“Facets slowed down about 12 years ago,” says Brock. “We still do some facets, but now we do the Swarovski facets. We take the Swarovski stones, which we lay into the lens around edge. Then we hand-carve leaves that look like Waterford crystal. It’s a much cleaner look. We do a ton of those; that’s our trademark.”
It’s All Done with Mirrors
Mirror coatings are good in situations that require a reduction in the overall brilliance of light, such as sunlight on snow. Mirrors have become a significant category, largely due to prominent use by sports optics manufacturers. The look defines the product, with fashion taking the lead over performance benefits. Yet with all high-end products, the more a customer knows about the features and benefits they receive, the greater their satisfaction with the purchase. The patient generally knows that higher priced sunwear means better quality, but may not understand the specific performance points associated with mirror coatings. The following information can you guide your patient through the decision process:

•  All mirrors reflect light away from the eye. For light-sensitive patients, this is a benefit beyond the standard absorption of a tinted lens.

Dielectric coatings that reflect infrared keep the lens a bit cooler. Patients who tend to have dry eyes may find them more comfortable.

Dielectric coatings that selectively filter blue light tend to improve contrast and visual acuity.Optically, these lenses offer the wearer better visual performance.

• Mirror coatings can customize prescription sunwear to match the patient’s lifestyle. If used primarily for driving or outdoor reading, a top gradient mirror helps reflect the intensity of the sun above while leaving a slightly lighter area below for better visibility of the dashboard or book. A double-gradient metalized coating works well for water or snow sports. Consider a dielectric coating on a polarizing lens for fishing or sailing.

UV protection is not necessarily included in the coating. When in doubt, check with the coating supplier who can provide specifics, or select a base lens that already provides UV protection.

Long term durability and abrasion resistance can be improved with the addition of a hard coat and a hydrophobic coating. Patients who will be using their sunwear frequently should consider these add-ons.

Back reflectance will be more noticeable with a mirror, especially on darker lenses. An AR coating on the back surface is strongly recommended.

• Take advantage of the educational literature that your coating supplier provides and make sure it’s conveniently available in the waiting room. An educated patient will be more receptive to your recommendations.