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Which type of clip on sunglasses should I buy?

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Looking to buy clip on sunglasses to fit your prescription glasses, but not sure which type to choose? Then this overview by Eyewear Accessories Ltd of Exeter in the UK is for you.

It explains what types of clip on sunglasses are available and the benefits of each type. It also gives practical advice on where to buy and how to ensure you buy a quality product that will meet your needs.

What types of clip on sunglasses are there?

There are four main types of clip on sunglasses, differentiated by the method of attachment to your glasses:

  • spring-fit
  • rimless
  • flip up
  • magnetic

Spring-fit clip on sunglasses

The notable feature of this type of clip on sunglasses is the spring bridge, designed to provide a discreet and convenient method of attaching to your spectacle frames.

To attach the sunglasses, you simply pull gently on the spring to widen the bridge and clip the four edge clips over the rims of your prescription glasses. When you release the spring again, it contracts and this creates the tension to keep the clip on sunglasses attached.

Most spring-fit clip on sunglasses are designed with rims although rimless ones are also available (see below).

Good quality spring fit clip on sunglasses have a refined appearance in use that is not dissimilar to wearing prescription sunglasses, and are manufactured from parts that meet rigorous standards, including optical quality lenses and stainless steel frames. The leading brand is Visionaries.

What to look out for when buying this type

If ordering online, check the measurements given for the clip on sunglasses to ensure that they will fit your prescription frame correctly. The most accurate way to do this is if the online store has size guides that you can print and overlay your glasses onto. 

There are many cheap imitations of this type of clip-ons available on line and generally you get what you pay for.

Recently there has been a flood of cheap imports from the Far East promoted online through marketplaces such as Ebay and Amazon. A low price may seem to represent a bargain but could also reflect poor build quality and lenses that may not actually give you the level of glare and UV protection that you need.

Ensure that the clip on sunglasses have a protective sleeve over the metal edge clips to minimise scratching your lenses and that this is well manufactured so that no part of the metal protrudes.

Finally, check that the clip on sunglasses are supplied with a hard case that will protect them when not in use.

Rimless clip on sunglasses

These are an alternative style of clip on sunglasses that still uses the spring-fit type of attachment but is designed without the rims, giving it a more refined appearance.

Rimless clip on sunglasses are suitable for all types of prescription glasses, whether rimless, half-rimmed, metal or plastic framed. A benefit of the rimless type is that the clip on lenses can sit closer to your prescription lenses so any stray light is minimised. Rimless clip-ons are particularly suitable for frameless glasses and glasses with plastic frames.

What to look out for when buying this type

When buying a rimless style of clip-ons, quality of manufacture is paramount. If you buy a poorly made rimless clip-on, you may find that the edge clips break off or become detached from the clip on lenses.

Lens quality is critical. Good quality polarized lenses are made with the polarized layer encapsulated between two layers of acetate lens material. In contrast, inexpensive polarized sunglasses have a thin polarizing film applied to one side of the lens, which is liable to be scratched or rubbed off through everyday wear and tear.

Magnetic clip on sunglasses

This type of clip on sunglasses attaches magnetically to metal framed glasses and is normally sold by high street opticians only as package with a matching prescription frame. This means there tends to be a very limited range of styles available.

What to look out for when buying this type

Again, it is important to pay for a quality product to ensure that the magnetic attachment continues to function after putting on and taking off the clip-on regularly, and that it meets all necessary health and safety standards.

Tale care not to lose magnetic clip on sunglasses as it may be difficult to obtain a replacement once that frame style is discontinued.

Flip up sunglasses

This type of clip on sunglasses normally attaches to prescription glasses with two prongs, one either side of the nose bridge. The prongs touch either side of the prescription lenses and normally have a protective rubberised covering to minimise the risk of scratching.

The distinctive feature of flip up sunglasses is the central mount, which has a hinge mechanism that allows the tinted lenses to be flipped up when glare protection is not required.

The flip up mechanism is useful when you are driving and the sun goes behind a cloud, or you enter a shaded area. This feature also makes flip up sunglasses popular with anglers. It can also be used as a sun visor to shield your eyes from overhead glare.

Flip up sunglasses look less sophisticated when worn than the spring-fit type because the central attachment is more noticeable, but because of their versatility and lower cost, they remain a popular alternative.

What to look out for when buying this type

You get what you pay for with flip up sunglasses. Pay too little, and you risk buying sunglasses that will give insufficient UV protection, have poor quality polarized lenses, and have attachments that may not only be liable to break after little use but also risk damaging your glasses.

Look carefully at the measurements of the flip up sunglasses to ensure that the tinted lenses will cover your prescription glasses without having too large an overlap at the sides or bottom.

Look at the type of flip up mechanism. On the best brands, this will be manufactured in metal and designed to be as neat and unobtrusive as possible.

Ensure when you receive your flip up sunglasses that the prongs have a sufficient protective coating on them to protect your lenses from scratching.

And finally, make sure that the sunglasses are provided with a case that will protect them sufficiently when not in use. 

Should I buy polarized or non-polarized lenses?

Polarized lenses are the preferred choice for most people because of the superior protection that they offer from the sun's glare.

Our eyes are sensitive to glare, which on a bright, sunny day, is reflected off bright or shiny surfaces, including roads, cars, and water. When you look through a polarized lens, this reflected glare is diffused and eye strain is reduced.

You can think of polarization acting like a venetian blind which, when the slats are angled, deflects low angled glare from the sun away from your eyes.

Cheaper brands of clip on sunglasses have poor quality polarized lenses which are not particularly effective at reducing glare. To get the best level of glare protection, buy clip-on lenses of optical quality which means that polarization will be effective.

One of the few disadvantages with polarized lenses is that when you look through them it can be more difficult to read LCD digital displays, because the polarization results in you seeing some degree of patterning. The same occurs when looking through toughened glass. Polarization does not cause patterning when you look through modern laminated car windscreens, nor does it normally affect your view of smartphone or notebook screens.

Non-polarized clip on sunglasses are preferred by light aircraft pilots and yachtsmen, because the digital navigation displays they use are affected by the patterning described above.

Which colour lenses are best?

Many suppliers do not carry a wide enough range to be able to offer a choice of lens colours, but there are specific benefits and applications of each lens colour if available.

Which lens colour is best for you will depend on factors such as your level of sensitivity to light, the location and time of day that you will most use the clip on sunglasses, and whether you intend to use them for a specific application such as driving or fishing.

Where should I buy my clip on sunglasses?

In the UK in early summer you may be able to purchase clip on sunglasses at high street retail outlets such as Boots and Specsavers but the selection is often very limited and they are not normally stocked out of season.

You will get more choice if you shop online, where you will find various suppliers offering products of different quality and value. When shopping online, do as much research as you can about the quality of the product you are buying, and the customer service, including the policy on dispatches, returns, and refunds. Remember that there is no such thing as a bargain: low price generally indicates poor quality.



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