I’ve worn both glasses and contact lenses for 30 years. During that time, I’ve worn both glasses and contact lenses. Right now, I have both contact lenses (daily wear) and a few pairs of glasses. Given vision is an important part of life, I’ve dealt with the glasses vs. contacts issue for years. Below are my comments, experiences and preferences from an insider’s point of view.
For most people, the decision whether to wear contacts or glasses boils down to what they prefer for appearance. That said, some folks dislike having glasses sitting on their face. Other folks (like me) don’t care for the feeling of contacts in the eye which makes the decision easy as well. While the decision to go with glasses or contact lenses is usually personal there are some objective considerations. Here they are.
Short Answer Overview: Advantages of both glasses and contacts
There are pros and cons to both glasses and contacts. Here’s a quick overview of the advantages of both.
Advantages of glasses:
- Better clarity (for me anyway but I have astigmatism).
- Less potential for any eye health problems. Contacts can cause problems. See below under “Health Impacts”.
- More comfortable (contact lenses are bothersome after a few hours especially with dry eyes when using the computer or any device for a long time).
- Costs less in the long run.
- Less hassle.
- Looks better on me (IMO… obviously a very subjective consideration). See the glasses vs contact lenses comparison selfie above.
Advantages of Contact Lenses:
- No mask fogging issue.
- Better for sunny days (see my comments below about prescription sunglasses problems).
- You might prefer your appearance without glasses.
- Nothing sitting on your face (this bothers some people).
- No smudge issues: Glasses get smudges and dust that can affect vision clarity. Contacts don’t.
- Much better for any physical activity.
- Contacts are way better in saunas and steam rooms.
- Easier to buy. Choosing glasses frames is not that easy… so much to choose from and frames have a big impact on appearance.
Contact lenses vs glasses: which provides better vision?
There are two aspects to this question: vision clarity and peripheral vision.
Vision clarity: I have astigmatism so glass lenses correct better for that. My vision is not as good with contact lenses as my glasses. For some folks, contact lens prescriptions can be just as good as glasses. Another problem with glasses is they get smudges and dust and streaks which impacts vision accuity. Sure, it’s easily cleaned but it’s a bit of a hassle.
Peripheral vision: On the flip side, I have much better peripheral vision with contact lenses. Most people do; and this can be a significant enhancement.
What looks better? Most glasses wearers have their preference. I like my appearance more with glasses. Other folks prefer no glasses. This factor is often the determinative factor.
Glasses accessorize: There are so many glasses frames to choose from. Many own several pairs. I have three pairs. I could easily get more
Au Naturale: Contacts offer the option to not have something on your face. Some folks prefer their appearance without glasses and some with and some like both. I happen to prefer my appearance with glasses. It’s a personal preference. The nice thing about glasses and contacts is you can do both. I always have a stash of contacts and when I want the no-glasses look, I wear contact lenses.
Eye comfort: I don’t really like the feel of contacts in my eyes, especially all day and when using the computer. For a few hours during activity, it’s no problem but for regular daily wear, it’s not for me. I realize that contact lens comfort and technology has come a long way over the years, but I can still feel them in my eye. Primarily I get dry eyes and need to blink more often.
Nose/ear comfort: I won’t lie; glasses are less comfortable for the nose bridge and ears than contacts. It’s one of those damned if you do and damned if you don’t situations. Contacts are less comfortable to my eye. Glasses are less comfortable to my face. I prefer the face discomfort over eye discomfort.
Fog control: Masks and glasses don’t mix. I’ve had nothing but problems, especially in cold weather, wearing masks and glasses. Fortunately, I work on my own so I don’t have to wear masks for most of my day. The biggest problem is my glasses fog up while wearing masks with glasses. Granted, I have not spent all that much time looking for masks that work well with glasses. Maybe I should. I did buy a glasses defogging rag but that didn’t work. The biggest problem is when I’m skiing which is actually what prompted me to buy an absolute ton of contact lenses last year. This year, I’m armed with contact lenses for skiing and will fog no more.
The number one reason I own a large stash of contact lenses is for sports and rigorous activity. Specifically, swimming (anything in water now that I’ve lost many pairs of glasses/sunglasses in the water), skiing and pretty much anything where I’ll sweat. Sweating sucks with glasses because even though I have the very awesome Oakley glasses with Unobtainium® earsocks, glasses slide off due to my shaved head. Below is a list of activities setting out what I prefer:
- Squash: prescription eye protection wear
- Tennis: contact lenses or glasses. I find my glasses don’t fall off too often unless I really start sweating.
- Baseball: glasses
- Skiing: Contact lenses (by far especially when having to wear a mask)
- Computer/Screen/TV use: glasses
- Reading: glasses
- Sauna/steam room: contact lenses
- Swimming/watersports of any kind: contact lenses
- Anything with contact such as rough-housing with kids, boxing, martial arts: contact lenses
- Night driving: glasses
- Sunny days: contact lenses with non-prescription sunglasses
The Hassle Factor
This is a very minor consideration but it’s a bit of a hassle putting in contact lenses. It takes me a couple of minutes. I wash my hands. Dry them well. Then carefully put them in my eyes. I then need to discard the packages. Yeah, I know I’m sounding ridiculous here but putting on a pair of glasses is so much easier.
Sunny day dilemma (prescription sunglasses problems)
I like contacts on sunny days because I have non-prescription sunglasses. I used to have prescription sunglasses but I lost them (lost several pairs actually). But more than that, I find prescription sunglasses to be a hassle because when I go indoors I can’t take them off because I can’t see.
With contact lenses, I can wear non-prescription sunglasses and take them off indoors or when the sun goes down. Contacts are a great on sunny days because I can put on and take off prescription sunglasses whenever I want.
Contact lenses are way better for the sauna and steam room
I regularly use a sauna and steam room. In the past I’ve melted the antiglare coating on glasses in the sauna. In other words, glasses lenses can’t handle too much heat. I’ve also melted them putting my face too close to a fire (blowing on it to get it going better). Now I either wear nothing for my eyes in the sauna or contacts. I do not go in with my glasses.
IMO, it’s easier to buy contact lenses than glasses. With contact lenses you choose the brand, amount and click “buy”. With frames, it can be an agonizing process trying to decide on the perfect frame. There are so many types of glasses (also many types of sunglasses). Frames make a big impact on appearance so it’s an important decision. On top of that you need to decide whether to spring for all the premium lens features such as blocking blue light, anti-glare, transitions, thinner lenses, etc. I tend to opt for all the premium features but I’m not sure they work.
If you go about putting in contacts properly (clean hands), don’t wear them too long or don’t wear them more frequently than they’re designed for, contact lenses, I’m told by my optometrist, are perfectly fine for your eyes. WebMd confirms this. The US FDA website has more alarming warnings about contact lenses which you should read as well.
For some people, cost is the determinative factor and no doubt, in the long run, assuming you don’t lose or break your glasses, glasses are the cheapest… by far. It’s not even close.
A good pair of glasses will cost $150 to $300 (or way more but this range will get you a decent pair).
Contact lenses will cost you $60 to $90 EVERY 90 DAYS (assuming 90-pack daily wear). Over the course of a year, that comes to $240 to $360. If you have your glasses for more than one year, you’re way ahead.
Overall: Do I prefer contact lenses or glasses?
If I had to choose one, I’d choose glasses. Both have advantages and disadvantages but I like my appearance more with glasses, I enjoy better vision and they’re more comfortable. For me it’s a no-brainer.
Regardless, it’s always good to have one pair of glasses
Even if you wear contact lenses 100% of the time, it’s a good idea to have one pair of glasses kicking around just in case something happens and you need them. I always have a spare pair of glasses in case I lose a pair… and yes, I’ve lost glasses. In fact, I’ve lost several on lakes and in the ocean. One-time paddle boarding. Another time jumping around in big waves. Yeah, I know these are the situations where contact lenses are a much better option.
Is there a separate eye exam for contact lenses or can same eye exam be used for glasses and contacts?
The same exam can be used. All you need is an eye prescription and from that you can order both glasses and contacts.
What’s cheaper: Glasses or contact lenses?
In the long run (usually after one year), glasses are cheaper assuming you have your glasses for a year or longer.
Are contacts or glasses better for astigmatism?
I can answer this because I have an astigmatism. Glasses are better for me. I have better depth perception with glasses over contact lenses because of the astigmatism. True story: When I got my new batch of contacts last year I went out and played baseball. It was the first time I had contacts in a long time. I missed three pop-flies in one game because my depth perception was off just a tad.
Can you convert a glasses prescription to a contact lenses prescription?
In my experience, yes you can. I’ve never obtained separate prescriptions. I use the same prescription for both glasses and contact lenses.
Can you wear contact lenses and glasses at the same time?
No. When I put my glasses on with contacts, it’s very blurry. It’s a huge overcorrection.