Buffalo horn is an excellent choice for the patient looking for a high-end frame (Gleason from Ogi’s Seraphin collection shown here).
Some proprietary materials have unique features and benefits like Oakley’s OMatter (shown here in the Valve style).
TR-90 claims to be 20% lighter than plastic while offering flexibility and durability (Clariti’s Style No. AP6420 from the AirMag collection shown here).
Frames made from memory metals are great for kids as they can take a bending and twisting with ease (Marchon’s Flexon Kids Galaxy shown here).

Since eyewear’s lenses are what provide sharp, clear vision for the patient, eyecare professionals (ECPs) spend a great deal of energy on matching a patient’s wants and needs with the myriad lenses on the market today. But what is also important is the material that the frame is made of and deciding which one will offer the best overall performance for the patient. Here are a few questions and potential solutions that can guide you to ensure that your patients get the most from their eyewear.

Q: Which frame materials are the most hypoallergenic?

A: When opticians think of hypoallergenic frame materials, they typically think of titanium. Titanium is not only hypoallergenic, it also is corrosion-resistant, which is an important feature for someone who works or spends a significant amount of time around salt water, reactive chemicals, etc.

There are other frame materials that contain some titanium that are also hypoallergenic. Beta titanium, for example, is primarily titanium but also has small amounts of aluminum and vanadium, which makes it more flexible than pure titanium. Memory metals are typically composed of around 50% titanium and 50% nickel, giving them some hypoallergenic properties, but may not be the best choice since the high nickel content can cause a skin allergic reaction. Another material you may want to consider is beryllium. Not only will this give the patient hypoallergenic qualities, but it will do so at a slightly lower price. Beryllium also resists corrosion and tarnishing, and stands up well for patients who have a high skin acidity level. Stainless steel and surgical stainless steel are two other excellent choices in this category.

Q: What material choices are best for kids?

A: Cellulose acetate is an excellent option for children because it is a strong material and can come in a rainbow of colors that appeal to even the pickiest of pediatric patients. Cellulose propionate offers the durability of acetate but is lighter in weight, is hypoallergenic, and can be injection molded, which facilitates more intricate detailing of a frame.

TR-90 is a material that claims to be 20% lighter than plastic while offering flexibility and durability as well as lightness in weight. Its comfort, super strength, and durability make it ideal for kids.

Carbon fiber graphite is a material that can be added to nylon or plastic monomers to add strength and toughness to a frame. In addition, it holds its shape extremely well, and can be crafted in thinner profiles without compromising its wearing characteristics.

For children who are looking for a thinner wire look, consider offering frames made from memory metals that can take a bending and twisting with ease. Some of these materials contain high levels of nickel so check with the parents about potential skin allergies. This problem can be avoided by using memory metals that don’t use nickel. There are also some memory plastics on the market.

Q: Is it okay to use ophthalmic frame materials for sports performance sunwear if I put polycarbonate lenses into the frame?

A: While it should be of great concern to protect the eyes from damage when selecting lenses, it should be equally important to select a frame material that holds the lenses and is similarly durable and resistant to breakage. Ophthalmic frame materials are not designed for sports performance purposes and should not be used.

Nylon frames have been a very popular choice in sports performance sunwear for several years, but they can become very brittle with age. Today, there are blended nylon frame materials such as gliamides, grilamids, or trogamids. They are extremely strong, lightweight, and very resistant to hot and cold temperature extremes. In addition, they also offer the ability for manufacturers to more easily mold the materials to create wraparound styles. This kind of frame configuration offers extra protection to the consumer by blocking wind, dust, and debris, as well as preventing damaging UV rays from entering the sides of the frame.

In addition to sports performance sunwear, it’s also very important to recommend sports performance eyewear in appropriate frame materials to anyone who plays a sport where a projectile could come toward the face and damage the eye.

Q: Which three frame materials are the most expensive to manufacture and why?

A: Some frame materials are more difficult to manufacture but offer a unique and distinctive option for consumers looking to wear something that makes a statement and are willing to pay for that artisanship. For example, wood, bone, and buffalo horn are excellent choices for the patient looking for a high-end frame. These materials require an extraordinary amount of handcrafting which usually results in a one-of-a-kind piece. The upside is their unique beauty and feel that is unlike any other frame the patient has worn before. It should be noted, however, that these materials can be a great deal more difficult to work with due to their stiff nature and lack of adjustability.

Q: Is there any benefit to my using a frame that a company sells with a proprietary frame material?

A: If a company trademarks its frame material, it has most likely spent a great deal of money on its research and development and the ways to use it to offer the best value to the consumer and the ECPs who dispense it. In addition, some companies devote a large sum of advertising dollars promoting their unique frame materials to consumers, who may come into your dispensary asking for these products by name. Some proprietary materials have unique features and benefits too, so if you want those for your patient, you’ll need to use that proprietary material.

Q: There are some frame materials that are almost impossible to adjust. What should I do about that?

A: Some frame materials are definitely more difficult to adjust than others. For example, many opticians have burned their fingers trying to adjust frames made from early nylon materials. Arm yourself with good information from the manufacturers who make frames from the material you want to adjust and follow their suggestions for how to work that material.

Some frames will take more time than others to learn the art of adjusting, but given sufficient time and practice, it can be done. Even so, you should consider the time and the expense you may incur if you cannot adjust frames well and the potential buyer’s remorse they might experience from being dissatisfied with the product they have purchased due to poor fitting. This is a significant concern as there is the possibility of losing a patient and revenue, both present and future.

If you do not feel comfortable adjusting certain materials, you may be better served by not carrying them and work with materials you are more confident with.

Guiding your patients to make educated and appropriate frame material choices, just as you do their lens selections, is the best way to exceed their expectations and avoid disappointment.

Joy L. Gibb is an optician at Daynes Eye and Lasik in Bountiful, UT.


Clariti Eyewear
800-372-6372 •

Marchon Eyewear
800-645-1300 •

Oakley, Inc.
800-733-6255 •

Ogi Eyewear
888-560-1060 •


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