Online Eyewear Vendors: Cost Effective or Costing You Your Eye Health?

Think about this, how much are your eyes worth to you? People will spend an average of $750 a year just to update their phones to the latest and greatest. On the flip side, when it comes to their eyes, people will spend the least amount on glasses or contact lenses.

As an eye care practitioner and and an owner of an independent optical, I have become accustomed to seeing patients looking for inexpensive eyewear options or contact lens supplies. What these patients are referring to are the brands such as Warby Parker, EyeBuyDirect, 1800Contacts. These companies have revolutionized the way consumers can shop for eyewear by simplifying the ordering process. For instance, Warby Parker will send frames to consumers to try on and simply allow them to enter their prescription information digitally.  Though this seems more convenient for the consumer, certain errors can arise and greatly effect the consumers visual experience.

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I recently had a patient come in to check the prescription on his glasses he purchased online through Warby Parker. After measuring his glasses, the prescription was made incorrectly due to an inaccurate measurement of his pupillary distance (PD) and optical center (OC). The PD is the distance between the optical centers or the distance between your pupils, and the optical center is the measurement of where your eyes sit and measuring to the bottom of the frame, not the arbitrary center of the lens of the frame. 

The majority of online vendors do not have the necessary tools to measure this, and is part of what makes online vendors less credible when it comes to eye health. Online retailers, whether it is for contacts or glasses, do not take into consideration your eye health. These big box retailers are even recommending you get your prescription renewed through their online system. Imagine the inaccuracies that could arise if they cannot even measure the PD correctly? You only have one pair of eyes, and they need to be checked in person by an actual doctor. These retailers maybe helping your pocket book, but are they hurting your eyes by doing so? Are they offering you the best and latest technologies that protect the eyes or are they offering you whatever is the cheapest lens material and coating they can find.  

After listening to a podcast about the founders of Warby Parker, I have learned that they had no real experience in eye care. They were business students wanting to create a product/brand. While I applaud them for their story and dedication, I do not agree with their claims of their $95 glasses being the same as $500 ones in terms of quality and performance. Not every pair of glasses are made the same.

When I went to Vision Expo this year in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to meet with many different independent brands. I actually got to sit down with the founders and learn how their frames are manufactured and what materials are used. Many of the more expensive frames are made with Italian Mazzucchelli acetate and pure titanium, which is what makes these materials more unique and higher in quality as well as having the highest purity standards.  When comparing to big box brands, we do not know what type acetate they are using and what non-regulated chemicals may reside in the plastics, many produced in China. I am not saying everything in China is made badly, however we have to think long and hard especially about the labor. When factories are paying their workers twenty five cents an hour, how much care is really going into what you are wearing on your face everyday? In our optical, we have invested in independent brands with an understanding of exactly what materials are used and where/how they are manufactured. Not every online retailer selling you that inexpensive alternative can go in depth about the story behind each frame. 

What is also unknown by many consumers, is that most independent optometrist are in network with insurances, meaning they can actually get a pair of $500 quality glasses for an affordable price without having to turn to alternative vendors. Consumers can also finance their purchases at zero percent interest for up to two years! This is great especially if there is a want for multiple pairs of high end independent eyewear. Fear not of the price or the process, because in the end you are investing in yourself and most importantly, your eye health.

What Happens in Vegas...Does NOT Stay in Vegas!

A few months ago, I had the rare opportunity to attend the annual Vision Expo in Las Vegas. Expo is a fashion marketplace where buyers can see and purchase the latest in eyewear and technology. The trade show actually followed me around for a day, so you can actually see what my experience was like there.

The fashion at Expo was so diverse this year! My journey started out at the Tom Ford suite at the Venetian. Let’s just say…Wow! The modern, yet classic, flare of the Tom Ford brand really impressed me. The eyewear is unique with bold shapes, and each piece has the signature, subtle “T” along the temple of almost all of the frames. I feel like Tom Ford set a great trend in branding. The subtlety of his logo really keeps the attention on the eyewear, yet at the same time we know exactly whom you are wearing!

Throughout the weekend, I got to see and select eyewear from brands established brands like Ferragamo, Gucci and Ray Ban, just to name a few. These fashion powerhouses really make a statement with their eyewear, and I can’t wait to highlight them in the optical section at Focus. I also really enjoyed the independent eyewear designers. Specs of Wood by Ian Rubenstein really stood out to me because his eyewear line is made out of wood and really plays with some fun colors and shapes. This will add character to just about any look. Also, the fact that each piece of wood is different truly makes each frame one-of-a-kind. Walking my way through the show, I stumbled upon the Zac Posen booth. Zac Posen, a judge on the acclaimed Project Runway, is well known for dressing celebrities like Rihanna and Reese Witherspoon on the red carpet. This is only his second season in dressing eyes, but you can really see his high fashion style and red carpet flare in each piece.


While at Expo, I was front row at the CFDA panel discussion on eyewear design. I had the opportunity to meet and chat with luxe eyewear designers like Blake Kuwahara and Robert Marc. I became more excited to start creating my own eyewear line. Fashion is fun, and eyewear fashion is important in defining an overall look and style of an individual. 

As my show experience drew to a close, I made my way back to the suites of the Venetian and had the opportunity to meet with the brand manager of Dior. Talk about jaw dropping! Guys, the Dior Homme Blacktie 2.0 collection is definitely worth a try! These pieces are like jewelry. I was really impressed with the special double layer acetate material they were made of, and I think every man needs a pair from this collection, as it adds a sense of handsome elegance to your style.

So ‘What happened in Vegas’ will make its way to Montrose in the coming months. I look forward to styling eyes with these wonderful brands, and sharing my fashion experience with the community.

Check out my video from Vision Expo HERE!

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Sleep & See - Correcting your vision while you sleep

There are different ways to correct your vision, and it is important that you know what the best option is for you. Glasses and contact lenses are the most common ways people choose to correct their vision.  There is a type of contact lens that has been out for more than 30 years, but not too many people are familiar with it. It is a contact lens that corrects your vision while you sleep. It’s like a retainer for your eyes! It’s called Orthokeratology or Ortho-K, for short.  Ortho-K contact lenses are rigid and mold the corneal front surface of the eye by eliminating moderate amounts of myopia (nearsightedness - can’t see far) and astigmatism. 

These nighttime contact lenses are great for kids who are active and often loose or break their glasses. For adults, it’s a good alternative to refractive surgery. These lenses have also shown to stabilize prescriptions, preventing them from changing so often.  So if your child is already starting to become nearsighted, this would be a great option for them, preventing their prescription from getting worse as they age.  Another great aspect of the lenses is that they can last a really long time because of their structure and material. I had a seven-year-old Ortho-K patient come in for his yearly check up.  He enjoys being eyewear and contact lens-free during the day and only wears his Ortho-K lenses every other night. This year, he was 20/20 in each eye without correction (better than the 20/50 a year ago).   Furthermore, Ortho-K treatments are not permanent. Your cornea will always go back to its original shape after not wearing the lenses for so long.  How you choose to correct your vision should be a serious discussion between you and your eye care provider.  There are only a handful of options, so make sure you do what is best and healthiest for your eyes!

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I'm "Seeing" the Blues

Look out everyone! There is something else we need to be careful about when it comes to our eyes.  Most people know that Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can be harmful to our skin and eyes. That is why it is important to wear sunscreen and sunglasses. These actions help us prevent skin cancers, cataracts and other eye diseases. However, there is a new culprit in town, and it is UV’s next door neighbor - Blue! Blue light is actually part of the visible spectrum (we can see it), and it has shown to have damaging effects on the eyes. Where are these harmful blues you ask? They are all around us!  LED screens from smart phones, tablets, TVs and computer screens all emit this blue light energy, and studies have shown that this blue light energy can damage retinal cells in the back of your eyes. This damage could lead to macular degeneration and other eye-related conditions.  Now, I know this sounds scary, but not all blue light is bad. We actually need some blue light, as it helps regulate our sleep and wake cycle. That’s the simple reason the sky is blue during the day. Blue light also boosts alertness and cognitive function. The natural form of blue light, emitted from the sky, is not as bad for you as it is necessary for our bodies. It is the artificial blue light from our digital lifestyle that can cause long-term damage to our eyes.  In the short-term, blue light from these devices can cause eye strain and fatigue, making your eyes feels exhausted and dry by the end of the day. So what are we to do when our world revolves around these LED screens? I tell my patients to take breaks in front of the computer as much as they can during the day and make sure they remember to blink their eyes. It doesn’t hurt to have artificial tears like Systane Ultra or Refresh Optive at your desk, so your eyes don’t get too dried out from all the computer work. I also recommend limiting the use of screen time before bed. I know this is hard to do as most of us like to play on our phones or tablet before we say goodnight. However if you can limit these activities, you may notice that you have better sleep quality throughout the night and you are likely to feel more alert and productive the next day. There is also lens technology for your glasses that helps with blue light filters, so be sure to ask me about it during your next visit!

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The Patient Experience

As a healthcare provider, it is definitely interesting to be on the other side of the aisle. Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to experience different medical offices, as a patient, and not much has changed in the overall experience of a doctor’s visit, since I was a kid. You check in, fill out paperwork, wait in a waiting room, get called back by an assistant and the doctor comes in and sees you for 5-10 minutes. As a doctor and someone who appreciates great service, I felt like I, and other patients, was missing something in each of those visits.  The main element was more time with my doctor and the feeling that I looked forward to coming back. In our “on the go” world, we are so used to having everything quick and easy, but what are we sacrificing when it comes to our healthcare experience?  As an optometrist, my main focus is the eye health of my patients. However, there is more to the patient than just their eyes. They are unique individuals, and I feel like their experience should be just as special and not as “routine.” I get more attention and comfort going to get my hair stylist than I do at a doctor’s office. The salon offers me my favorite drink as soon as I check in, and I get a scalp and neck massage with a warm towel over my face. My stylist remembers me and asks me how things are going with everything in my life. I can’t remember the last time I got that kind of service at a doctor’s office. It got me thinking that maybe more people would actually go to the doctor, if it was a more enjoyable visit. When the doors to Focus open this winter, I want patients not to feel like “patients.” I want them to feel like a friend and client, and our main purpose would be to serve their needs and give them that worthwhile experience. As the landscape of healthcare changes, I need to remember to keep my ‘focus’ on each individual. I hope that more and more providers start thinking outside of the box!

Experiencing a massage around your eyes before having your vision exam would allow you to relax and let the stress of a long day melt away!  

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