For many people, turning to online shopping has proven more complicated for certain items than others, glasses being one of those purchases. That said, if you're on the hunt for a new pair of glasses, there are just a few things that you'll need to know ahead of time in order to find the perfect pair.
I had a chance to chat with the team at Bonlook, a Canadian retailer that has been creating affordable, stylish glasses and sunglasses since 2011. Ahead, Tania Fugulin, BonLook’s Creative Director, shared her expert tips on what you need to know before shopping for glasses online.
What you need before you buy glasses online
Before you get started shopping for new glasses, there are a couple of things that you’ll need to have on hand. According to Fugulin, you’ll need a valid prescription that’s no more than two years old, and some measurements about your face shape.
Legally in Canada, prescriptions are only valid for a period of up to two years, but the expiration date is at the optometrist’s discretion depending on the severity of your vision correction.
As for facial measurements, they help determine the size and fit of the frames that you eventually choose. You’ll want to take notes on the width of the bridge of your nose, the length of your temple and the distance between your pupils (also noted as PD when ordering glasses).
Picking the right frames
Once you’re armed with your facial measurements, you can use those numbers to compare them against the dimensions of different frames. You can also use an old pair of glasses to find out where to start, since the measurements of most frames are printed inside the glasses’ arm.
The first number refers to the width of one lens in millimetres, the second to the width of the bridge (the middle part), and the third to the length of one temple arms.
Fugulin recommends the following guidelines when shopping for frames, which will help ensure the best possible fit.
The upper rim should follow your brow line, which allows for the glasses to blend in harmoniously with your features.
Your eyes should be centred in each lens. This is useful for both aesthetic and optical reasons: it ensures optimal vision as well as a pleasant symmetry.
The lower rim shouldn’t touch your cheeks. This can cause all sorts of discomforts, like fogging up, slipping off your nose or leaving red marks on your skin.
Many websites offer customer services like virtual try-on technology, which lets you upload a photo and see how a pair of glasses may fit on your face before you buy. Unfortunately they’re not entirely foolproof, so you can always schedule a time to chat with a virtual stylist who can help determine the best glasses for your face if you’re still unsure.
Types of lenses
Depending on what you’re looking to correct, there are several different types of lenses to choose from:
Single vision: These lenses feature the same prescription throughout their entire surface, and can be tailored to correct near or farsightedness.
Progressive: Within these lenses, there are three distinct vision zones which have been combined into a single lens to correct for distance, intermediate and near vision.
Custom: An enhanced version of progressive lenses which are personalized to the exact progressive lens prescription. These glasses are ideal for those who wear progressive lenses already, but have a difficult time adapting to the different zones.
Degressive: These lenses feature two distinct zones, where the upper part of the lens covers intermediate vision and the lower part covers the near vision.
Anti-Fatigue: These lenses support the eye’s accommodation effort, especially when switching from one screen to another. They’re designed to filter blue light, improve readability of small characters, reduce glare and improve contrasts, but must be specifically prescribed.
Transition: These light intelligent lenses remain clear inside or at night-time and darken when activated by UV rays outside or to protect the eyes from blue-violet light and glare.
FreeForm: A special, computer-based technology which calculates and corrects the curvature point by point to help reduce the undesired blurry areas on the edges of the lens.
Now that you’ve got all the information you’ll need, shop five retailers where you can order glasses online now.
Where to shop for glasses online in 2023
Best Canadian brand: Bonlook
This Montreal-based retailer is definitely one to check out if like me, you have a fairly high prescription. Prices for their men’s and women’s glasses start at $145 for single-vision lenses, and even with the added fees required for a high prescription, it’s still totally possible to find a quality pair for under $300.
Best for home try-ons: Warby Parker
Thanks to their at home try-on program, Warby Parker lets shoppers try before they buy, letting you pick your favourite styles to try out for five days. The entire process is easy and completely free—including return shipping.
Best selection of styles: EyeBuyDirect
With over 2000 styles of ultra-affordable frames that start at $27, EyeBuyDirect is a great choice for those on a budget or if you’re interested in switching up your glasses to suit your every mood. In order to keep costs low, EyeBuyDirect does everything in-house, from concept, design, to manufacturing, and passes the savings onto customers.
Most fashion-forward glasses: Bailey Nelson
Founded in Australia in 2012, Bailey Nelson is now available to shop in Canada and around the world. Their line of glasses and sunglasses are all designed to be unisex in nature in a full range of the latest styles. Note that if you’re looking for multi-focal lenses, you’ll have to skip this retailer since the option to order them is currently only available when you visit a Bailey Nelson retail location in person.
Most affordable glasses: Clearly.ca
Although they started out in 2000 selling only contact lenses, Clearly has grown into a brand that provides full-service eye care. You’ll find everything from contacts to glasses and sunglasses for the whole family on their site. Like EyeBuyDirect, Clearly offers certain frames starting at just $9 so that you can find your perfect pair at any budget.
Best for designer glasses: SmartBuyGlasses
If you're shopping for a specific brand for your next pair of glasses or prescription sunglases, there's a good chance that you'll find it at SmartBuyGlasses. The retailer carries favourites like Gucci, Prada, Tom Ford, Versace and more — over 200 brands in fact.
Best for in-store pickup: Lenscrafters
With 77 retail locations across Canada, it's easy to order online from Lenscrafters and visit in-person should you run into any issues with your glasses. You can shop both prescription glasses and sunglasses, as well as styles for kids all in one convenient location.