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Choosing glasses: why it's best to involve a professional

What to consider - and who can help - when you're searching for your perfect frames

When a friend dropped into my practice for a new pair of glasses recently she remarked on how astonishing it was that our dispensing optician went straight to a frame, plucked it off the shelf and asked her to try it. She had felt lost in a forest of a thousand frames, yet this stranger had selected ‘the one’ in no time at all.

This was not a fluke. When you’ve been working in optics for years, you acquire a sense of what suits a person. You also become afflicted with judging people’s glasses on the telly, with an uncontrollable urge to go to the studio and offer to straighten them up.

The expert dispenser will not only be looking to match your colouring (my friend has pink cheeks and blue eyes, so silver, claret and blue work well) but to balance your face shape. If a person has a very round face, round glasses will accentuate this, so they may suggest choosing angular frames. Alternatively, for those with a square jaw and hairline, rounder lenses can bring softness.
 
A long face can benefit from frames with the sides attached high on the corner of the lenses, so the frame sits lower on the face, while a short face can wear frames on which the sides attach part-way down the lenses. Your features are also important. For example, a long nose will look even longer if the bridge between the lenses arches up and sits high between the eyebrows.

Yet, while there’s considerable skill in getting the shape and colour right, choosing is about much more than fashion; you need to know how the frames will look and feel once glazed with lenses. An unglazed frame can look great but if it’s not suitable for the prescription, you’ll be disappointed with the final product. 

The fit is also crucial to happy glasses-wear and an expert dispenser will look at the fit on the nose and the sides (some of this can be adjusted and some of it cannot). A poor fitting pair of glasses will slide down the face and mess with your vision, as well as driving you crazy pushing them back up again – unless you are Ronnie Corbett using this movement for comedy effect. 

Then there’s lifestyle. How do you wish to look in your new glasses: professional, trendy, sporty, glamorous, intelligent or none of these? What are your glasses for? Reading glasses which are taken on and off all day at work will need a sturdier joint or the sides will break off. Glasses for driving need to avoid wide sides or you’ll be wearing blinkers. 

Glasses are a tailor-made product and the right pair can make life feel instantly better. If you’re looking for ‘the one’ – or simply expanding your collection – the expertise of dispensing professionals, along with trying your frames on in person, is invaluable. From one glasses wearer to another, I suggest you seek that expertise out and take your time over choosing.

Ceri Smith-Jaynes Ceri Smith-Jaynes is a therapeutic optometrist, glasses wearer and the clinical multimedia editor for Optometry Today.