The Acetate Debate
It’s time for you to choose some new eyeglasses. You may feel utterly swamped by the vast selection of frames out there. Perhaps you are feeling overloaded with information from your latest Google searches. What is the best material? Why do I keep running into this word “acetate”? Why are the prices so different between acetate glasses?
Many glasses are made of acetate. But all acetate eyeglasses are not created equal. Let’s start with the basics.
What Are Acetate Glasses?
Acetate is otherwise known as cellulose acetate, zyl or zylonite. Acetate is one of the earliest made synthetic fibers. Remarkably, first used for framing spectacles in the late 1940’s due to problems with previously used glasses frame manufacturers. Nowadays it is stunning stuff, with a deep gloss and high transparency. The higher the quality acetate the better the gloss and transparency will look. Wearers often describe the material as a more ‘natural feel’—a first of many differences when compared toto standard plastics.

Acetate is made up of a (bio) polymer derived from wood (tree) pulp and/or natural cotton fibers. These cellulosic fibers have been replaced over the years by cheaper options such as injected nylon and polyester, both of which are petroleum-based plastics. In some cases, nylon is a reasonable material for eyewear—such as for impact or heat resistance in sports eyewear or safety goggles. However, when for fashionable spectacles this material is almost always used to cut cost. The result is a lower quality and less aesthetically appealing final design.
Acetate is vastly preferable for eyeglasses over other plastics for these reasons:
Does not harm the environment
Is made from renewable materials
Is hypoallergenic
Come in all colors of the rainbow
Can be made beautifully transparent
High grade versions are fit adjustable by opticians
These are several strong attributes demonstrating that this plant-based product is highly unique. Today’s premium acetate frames are known for their lightweight thin constructions and strength. Yet they remain flexible with a glass like clarity. Furthermore, they boast the widest range of finishes—from high luster polish, matte, or brushed.