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  • Writer's pictureAccuLab of Illinois

Eyeglass Lens Showdown: The Pros & Cons of Every Material

By Jon J. Trutt

Published: 5/28/2024

Choosing the right eyeglass lens material is crucial for comfort, durability, and visual clarity. The variety of materials available today can be overwhelming, so understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each can help you make an informed decision for your patients. In this guide, we’ll explore the most common eyeglass lens materials: CR-39®, polycarbonate, high-index plastic, Trivex®, and glass.

1.) CR-39® (Columbia Resin 39/Plastic)

CR-39® is one of the most commonly used materials for eyeglass lenses.


  • Affordability: Plastic lenses are less expensive compared to other materials, making them a cost-effective option.

  • Optical Clarity: They offer excellent optical clarity, providing clear and sharp vision.

  • Lightweight: These lenses are relatively lightweight, offering comfort for long-term wear.


  • Durability: Plastic lenses are more prone to scratches and impacts compared to more modern materials.

  • Thickness: For higher prescriptions, plastic lenses can be quite thick, which may not be aesthetically pleasing.

2.) Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate lenses are a popular choice, especially for active individuals and children.


  • Impact Resistance: Polycarbonate lenses are highly impact-resistant, making them ideal for sports and safety glasses.

  • Lightweight: These lenses are lighter than plastic and glass, enhancing comfort.

  • UV Protection: Polycarbonate naturally blocks 100% of harmful UV rays, providing added eye protection.


  • Scratch Resistance: Although durable, polycarbonate lenses can scratch easily unless they have a scratch-resistant coating.

  • Optical Quality: They may not offer the same level of optical clarity as glass or high-index lenses.

3.) High-Index Plastic

High-index plastic lenses are designed for those with stronger prescriptions.


  • Thin and Light: High-index lenses are thinner and lighter than plastic and polycarbonate lenses, making them more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

  • Optical Clarity: They provide excellent optical clarity, even for high prescriptions.


  • Cost: High-index lenses are more expensive than standard plastic or polycarbonate lenses.

  • Fragility: While they are durable, they can be more prone to shattering compared to polycarbonate.

4.) Trivex®

Trivex® lenses are relatively new in the market and offer a combination of the best features of polycarbonate and plastic.


  • Impact Resistance: Like polycarbonate, Trivex® lenses are highly impact-resistant, making them suitable for active lifestyles.

  • Lightweight: Trivex® is extremely lightweight, adding to wearer comfort.

  • Optical Clarity: They offer better optical clarity than polycarbonate lenses.


  • Cost: Trivex® lenses can be more expensive than CR-39 and polycarbonate.

  • Availability: They might not be available in all prescriptions and lens options.

5.) Glass

Glass lenses are the traditional material for eyeglass lenses and offer several unique advantages.


  • Superior Optical Clarity: Glass lenses provide the highest level of optical clarity and are the standard by which other materials are measured.

  • Scratch Resistance: They are highly scratch-resistant without needing additional coatings.


  • Extended Production Times: The delicate nature of glass lenses results in longer production times due to their fragility.

  • Increasingly Scarce: Glass lenses are becoming rarer due to declining popularity and the specialized machinery required for their production. AccuLab of Illinois is among the few remaining labs with access to these lenses.

  • Weight: Glass lenses are significantly heavier than plastic alternatives, which can cause discomfort over extended wear.

  • Fragility: They are more prone to shattering upon impact, posing a safety risk.

  • Thickness: For high prescriptions, glass lenses can be quite thick.

Choosing the right eyeglass lens material depends on lifestyle, prescription, and budget. For everyday wear, CR-39® or high-index plastic might be suitable. If you lead an active lifestyle or need safety glasses, polycarbonate or Trivex® could be the best options. For those prioritizing optical clarity and don't mind the extra weight, glass lenses are unparalleled.

When selecting lenses, also consider additional coatings such as anti-reflective, scratch-resistant, and UV-protective coatings to enhance the durability and performance of your lenses. Consult with AccuLab to determine the best material and coatings for your patient's specific needs. 800-688-3904 or

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