What You Need to Know About Eyeglass Lens Coatings (2023)

The types of lenses you choose can make a big difference in the quality of your eyeglasses. Depending on what your eye doctor advises, some people can get along just fine with basic plastic CR-39 lenses, while some may want to consider thinner and pricier polycarbonate or high-index types, which may be more appropriate for stronger prescriptions.

Then there are the frames: square or round shaped? Wire or plastic? Aviators or Audreys?

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But once you’ve picked frames and lenses, there’s a wide variety of lens coatings to consider, each with its own properties—from light reduction to scratch resistance.

Some of these are strictly cosmetic, but depending on your vision needs, others may “potentially improve your comfort and safety,” says Andrew Iwach, MD, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

And while some coatings may be included in your eyeglass package price, others may add as much as $100-plus to your bill.

How do you know what’s right for you? Your eye doctor may have some suggestions. “These are, by and large, personal decisions,” Iwach says. “One size doesn’t fit all.”

To help you sort through the common choices, we’ve gathered advice and cost information from vision experts and major eyeglass retailers, and December 2019 VisionWatch market research from the Vision Council, a nonprofit trade association for the optical industry.

5 Smart Steps Before You Buy

Think about how you use eyeglasses. Indoors and outdoors? For sports or only for reading or desk work? Driving day and night? Your lifestyle and habits should inform your coating decisions.

Put price in perspective. Some types of coating, like those that are anti-reflective (sometimes called glare-reducing), come in a range of prices. But experts say the most expensive option offered isn’t necessarily of significantly higher quality. “I know some ‘house brands’ out there that are pretty similar to the premium versions,” says master optician Michael Vitale, vice president of membership and technical affairs at The Vision Council.

(Video) Anti reflective coatings for glasses. What you need to know & are they worth it?

Ask for an itemized description. In many cases, eyeglass lenses come bundled with certain coatings, commonly those that reduce reflections or bolster scratch resistance. Be sure you don’t pay extra for a coating that’s already supposed to be part of your package.

Avoid the hard sell. Even if you’re buying the glasses from your ophthalmologist, “by the time you get to the eyeglass purchase point in the eye exam cycle, you’re in a retail environment and may be working with the staff, rather than the doctor,” Vitale says.

Be even more cautious about anything that feels high-pressure if you’re in an eyeglass store, he says. If you feel pressured, Vitale says, “you may want to look elsewhere.”

Scan the warranty. Many glasses will be backed up by some kind of warranty, but it might not cover coatings. Or warranties may vary in terms of which ones are covered and for how long. What can you expect? “Virtually all coatings today are designed to last the life of the prescription,” says Vitale, which, on average, is about 28 to 30 months.

No matter what your warranty says, if a coating starts to degrade within a year, Vitale recommends taking the glasses back to see whether you can get the problem fixed or the glasses replaced.

Here, four coatings to consider.


Typically applied on both sides of an eyeglass lens, this coating, also known as AR or anti-glare, “reduces the amount of light reflected off the surfaces of spectacle lenses, and may enhance the contrast of certain scenes,” says Scott E. Brodie, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology at NYU Langone Health in New York City. This means you’re getting the maximum light from the environment you’re in, but without any visual interference that can occur from that light bouncing off your lenses. (The term “anti-glare” is a misnomer, however, says Brodie, and glare—think oncoming headlights—is better addressed with polarized lenses than with AR.)

Who might consider: Most people, but AR coating may be especially useful for those who often drive at night (it can reduce reflections from headlights at night) and read on computers. It’s strongly recommended with polycarbonate or high-index lenses, which reflect more light than basic plastic CR-39 or glass lenses.

What you’ll pay: It’s sometimes included with the eyeglass purchase. Otherwise, the average cost ranges from $26 to $86.

(Video) UNDERSTANDING LENS COATINGS ! Glasses & You Part 4

What to know: AR may get a bad rap from consumers who remember it being prone to degrading and developing cracks called “crazing” or “spiderwebbing” in its earlier days. But, according to Vitale, such problems were mostly resolved at the beginning of the 2000s. In the past, AR coatings also tended to attract dust and grime, but they now generally include an anti-static treatment that helps repel water and oil and keeps the coating cleaner. “Most of the AR coatings on the market today perform extremely well,” Vitale says.


This coating will make your glasses less vulnerable to scratching if you happen to drop them or clean them with an abrasive cloth. “Many glasses wouldn’t last a day without this,” Vitale says. “Polycarbonate and high-index lenses are very soft.”

Who might consider: Everyone.

What you’ll pay: Usually included in the price of glasses, but more robust scratch resistance may be built in to some upgraded lens packages.

What to know: “Everything on the market now except your most basic standard plastic CR-39 lens [which still made up about 36 percent of the prescription lenses sold in the U.S. in 2019, according to the Vision Council] is probably going to come with scratch-resistant coating already on it,” Vitale says. “And that’s because CR-39 is already pretty scratch-resistant.” To further help keep lenses scratch-free, store your glasses in a case when you’re not wearing them and use a microfiber nonscratch cloth to clean them.

(Video) Review Of Eyeglass Lens Coating Options


Over time, exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can lead to vision problems such as cataracts and retinal damage. But many eyeglass lenses have a substantial amount of UV protection built in. You can also sometimes buy an additional treatment to safeguard your eyes fully or opt for lenses with 100 percent protection.

Who might consider: Everyone, and it’s especially important for people who spend a lot of time outside in the sun.

What you’ll pay: It’s usually included, especially with sunglasses. Otherwise, an upgrade to 100 percent UV protection may be available. At EyeBuyDirect, for instance, it’s included with an upgrade to thinner lenses. And note that polycarbonate lenses, which are natural UV blockers, offer 100 percent protection, as do many high-index lenses, Vitale says.

What to know: The AAO recommends getting 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays. Lenses that offer this should be labeled 100 percent UV protection or UV400.

Tinted and Blue-Blocking

Here, dyes are applied to lenses to cut down on the visible light (but not necessarily UV rays) entering the eye. Hues range from light tints like a pastel blue or pink to deeper shades used for sunglasses.

Who might consider: People who just like the look, of course. But tints may also help improve contrast for those with degenerative retinal disorders or light sensitivity. “Tinted lenses may reduce discomfort in bright light,” Brodie says. In some cases, even light tints may increase contrast, which can be helpful to pilots and marksmen working in outside light, he says.

Lenses tinted yellow are sometimes marketed as “blue blockers” for their supposed ability to reduce exposure to the light emitted by electronics such as smartphones. The theory is that this may ease both eyestrain and any sleep problems associated with using the devices too close to bedtime.

What you’ll pay: Tints cost an average of $74.67, according to the Vision Council’s VisionWatch market research for December 2019. Blue blocking costs $50 at Warby Parker and starts at $19 at EyeBuyDirect.

(Video) Anti-reflective Eyeglass Lens Coating. What is it?

What to know: Tinted lenses are often touted as “curing” color blindness, Brodie says. The truth: A tint may make some color contrasts more visible to people with partial color impairment but may make other contrasts harder to see, so it’s a trade-off.

As for blue blockers, “there’s probably no harm, though anything that limits the light reaching you can lessen your vision,” Iwach says. “But the benefits have not been proven.” He has also recently seen an increase in interest in yellow-tinted lenses for night driving but cautions that these “can actually complicate things, since in low-light conditions, you want to get the most light in that you can.”


What coatings are worth it on glasses? ›

AG and AR coatings offer many benefits and are definitely worth the extra cost, especially if you find yourself bothered by glare. They can help you see better, look better, and feel better compared to wearing glasses with uncoated lenses.

Which lens coating is best? ›

AR coating is highly recommended for all eyeglass lenses, but particularly for polycarbonate and high-index lenses, which reflect more light than regular glass or plastic lenses if anti-reflective coating is not applied.

How do you protect coating on glasses? ›

By thinking about these tips ahead of time, you can prevent a disaster from unfolding in the future.
  1. Rinse the Glasses Prior to Cleaning. ...
  2. Choose Your Eyeglass Cleaning Spray Carefully. ...
  3. Select the Cloth You Clean Your Glasses With Cautiously. ...
  4. Store Your Glasses Properly.
Jun 1, 2020

Which anti-reflective coating is the best? ›

Crizal is the best known anti-reflective coating on the market, and also the best and the most expensive. Before you choose Crizal, think carefully about whether you even need or want anti-reflective coating on your glasses.

What are the disadvantages of anti-reflective coating? ›

1) The thin layer of anti-reflective coating on the lenses can get scratched or worn down over time, which makes it harder for you to see clearly and, in turn, affects your vision. 2) They don't prevent all glare and light from reaching your eyes, so it may cause you to have eye strain or headaches.

What causes coating to come off glasses? ›

The anti glare coating starts to wear off under various conditions, including scratches from keys, using lousy quality cleaning solutions, and microfiber cloths. Once the coating starts to wear off, it considerably reduces the appearance and vision.

What is the most scratch-resistant eyeglass lens? ›

Glass. Glass offers superior optics and is the most scratch-resistant material available. However, glass must be specially treated for impact resistance. Glass is also much heavier in weight and not offered in many designs.

Is blue or green coating better? ›

The green coating offers superior protection and color is made by the 9 layers of treatment applied to the lens. This means clear images without glare, so a longer period without eye strain.

How long do lens coatings last? ›

What can you expect? “Virtually all coatings today are designed to last the life of the prescription,” says Vitale, which, on average, is about 28 to 30 months.

Should you get scratch-resistant coating on glasses? ›

Since plastic lenses scratch more easily than glass, it's important to apply a coating that makes the lens capable of withstanding normal wear and tear. Plastic lenses are more resistant to scratching when they are treated on both the front and back surfaces with a clear, hard coating scratch-resistant.

Is water resistant coating on glasses worth it? ›

If you live in an area with frequent precipitation or go in and outdoors several times per day, this coating can be very beneficial. It prevents your eyeglasses from fogging up when you return indoors from the cold, as well as when perspiring.

What add ons should I get for glasses? ›

What are all of the fancy add-ons and do you really need them?
  • Polycarbonate Lenses. ...
  • Polarized Lenses. ...
  • Anti-Reflective Coating. ...
  • Hydrophobic Coating. ...
  • Photochromic/Transition Lenses:
Jun 23, 2011

Is UV protection worth it for glasses? ›

In most cases, yes. Choose sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection and they will also absorb most of the harmful blue light, also known as HEV rays. Adding a UV coating to your eyeglasses may suffice to filter out harmful blue light as well.


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