CONTINUING EDUCATION, 1 CE Credit � $9.99, 1 Hour, General Knowledge, Level 1, Release date: October 2007, Expiration date: October 31, 2012

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Patient Fashion

Style your Patients for Success

Choosing a frame, like choosing a piece of artwork, is a personal decision. Most patients know what they like but they can try on every frame in the dispensary before they find it.

They look for fashion. They focus on shape, size and color. They want trendy, conservative, colorful, and invisible. But if they are ultimately going to be happy with their eyewear, the ECP must step in and consider other factors as well, such as bridge fit and position, temple length, eye size and lifestyle/function features like spring hinges, frame material and durability.


Color is an important facet of the overall look. Frame color should enhance, accentuate and harmonize with the natural skin tones and hair and eye colors.

The warm/cool concept in choosing appropriate colors in wardrobe and eyewear is helpful. But, before you adhere to strict color rules, try a variety of colors. You may be surprised to find that the patient looks best in a totally "inappropriate" color.

However, for those of us who insist on knowing the color guidelines, here is an overview:

  • To compliment warm complexions (gold undertones), use colors such as dark brown, tortoise, golden brown gold, beige, red, warm blue and yellow-green. Choose polished metals in gold and copper and brushed metals in bronze, copper and gray-gold.

  • To compliment cool complexions (blue/pink undertones), choose black, rose brown, charcoal, taupe (gray/beige), cocoa, light/medium gray, pink, blue, plum jade, tortoise (not too much yellow). Try polished metals in graphite, silver, pewter, chrome and brushed metals in pewter, silver, gunmetal and chrome.

Face Shape

The right eyewear can accentuate or soften facial features and shapes. The correct frame shape will enhance facial structure to soften angles, emphasize recessive features and highlight facial attributes.

Here is an overview of face shapes and styling tips:

  • Oval: The chin is slightly narrower than the forehead; high cheekbones. This shape is considered the ideal shape because it appears balanced.
    Styling tip: Select a style that is as wide as or slightly wider than the widest part of the face.

  • Round: Full with few angles; height and width appear equal.
    Styling tip: Select a softly curved or modified square style with high or mid-level temples.

  • Diamond: Narrow forehead, wide cheekbone area; narrow chin.
    Styling tip: Select a softly curved style, no wider than the cheekbone area; heavy on top; straight top with rounded bottom.

  • Square: Bread forehead and jawline; wide cheekbones and chin.
    Styling tip: Select a softly curved style; some weight on top; vertical appearance, high decorative or contrasting temples.

  • Triangle: Narrow forehead, wider cheekbones and chin.
    Styling tip: Choose a "cat eye" not wider than the width of the jawline; heavy tops; bottoms angled in; mid-level to high temples.

  • Inverted triangle: Wide forehead; high cheekbones; narrow chin.
    Styling tip: Select a style that angles outward at the bottom; rectangle shape; low temples.

  • Oblong: Longer than wide; long cheek line; maybe a long nose.
    Styling tip: Select a frame with a deeper design; decorative temples; a low bridge.

Facial Features

Patients may have facial features that may need to be emphasized or de-emphasized (not that you will point that out to them). Certain frame designs and detailing can help achieve these tasks. For instance:

To: Select a frame with:
shorten the nose a low or dark bridge.
lengthen the nose a high or clear bridge
narrow the nose a clear or metal bridge that sits close to the nose
widen close-set eyes nose pads
a clear or unobtrusive bridge
a darker color toward the outside
a narrow width (to center the eyes)
narrow wide-set eyes a dark bridge
a wider width (to center the eyes)
shorted a long face low temples
lengthen a short face high temples
narrow the jaw a narrow profile with horizontal lines
de-emphasize jowls an angular shape and wider at the top

Small faces are more attractive in thin metal frames in subtle colors. For larger faces, choose slightly oversized frames.

Over-40 Styling

For older patients, the following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Choose a "cat eye" or upswept frame to help "lift" the face and counteract drooping eyes and eyelids.

  • Avoid aviator, dark or heavy styles, as they pull the face down.

Positioning the frames:

  • Follow the brow line. The frame should not be significantly higher or lower than the eyebrows.

  • Center the eyes in the lenses as much as possible. This keeps thickness down, reduces the risk of visual distortion and attractively frames the eyes.

  • The frame size and weight should be in proportion to the body size and weight.

The most important fashion styling tip of all: Ignore conventional rules of styling. Be creative.

Frame Construction

  • Nose pads. The nose pads should fit the contour of the nose and bear the weight of the frame equally and evenly. Use as large a pad as possible. Make sure the bridge width will allow adjustment without squeezing the pads together or flaring them too far apart. Consider lens thickness and the position of the pad arms. The bridge bar should not rest on the nose.

  • Unifit bridge. A unifit bridge is to touch the nose at all points to spread the weight of the frame evenly. Not every nose will accommodate a unifit bridge.

  • Plastic bridge. For a plastic frame, the keyhole bridge is considered the "universal" shape. However, there aren't many frames made these days with keyhole bridges. As a general rule, the plastic bridge should fit like the unifit bridge. It should rest evenly and completely on the nose.

  • High-powered lenses. High-powered lenses will be less thick if the eyesize is as small as is practical and the eyes are centered in the lens aperture.

  • Temples. The temples should extend to a little below the midpoint of the back of the ear. The eyesize should be wide enough so that the frame's temples do not squeeze the patient's temples and leave a mark. The temples should gently meet the head just in front of the ear.

Frame Material

  • Monel. Most metal frames are made of monel, a combination of metals, such as nickel and copper. It is strong and durable, corrosion resistant and easy to adjust. Monel frames come in a variety of colors, which can be shiny or matte, bright or muted.

  • Titanium. Titanium is light and durable. It is a good choice for patients with metal allergies and sensitive skin. The colors of titanium frames tend to be duller because of the paint that is used.

  • Cellulose acetate. The most common plastic frame material, cellulose acetate comes in a variety of colors, patterns and textures. It can be adversely affected by high heat (in the sun in the car), perspiration, body oils and ultraviolet rays.

  • Polycarbonate and nylon. When strength and protection are required of a frame, polycarbonate and nylon are a good choice. A drawback to these frame materials is the difficulty in adjusting them. These materials do not give readily and often return to their original shape. Also, there are a limited number of colors that these materials will absorb, making fashion a little more difficult to achieve.


Patients may want to achieve a particular look with their eyewear. Here is an overview of frame styles that present a desired image:

  • Professional: Classic designs and conservative colors; square, multi-angular, oval, almond and round; metal or a combination of plastic and metal; brown, gold, silver, burgundy and coffee for women; silver, gunmetal, brown and black for men.

  • Casual: Expressive styles; bright colors; lightweight materials; trendy plastics, in geometric shapes with thicker temples; colors such as purple, green and blue; multiple laminates and designs, such as animal skins and textures.

  • Dressy: Cat eyes; jewelry-like look; delicate metals; styles trimmed with gems, jewels and crystals; gold and silver accents.

Frame styling is a combination of science and art. The science is the physics of construction and fit; the art is making the patient look and feel good. The end result is the harmonious blend of physics, fashion and optics.

Image Courtesy of Transitions Optical, Inc.

Dee Carew

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