A common question among sunglass wearers is Do Sunglasses Stretch Over Time and become loose over time. The short answer is yes, sunglasses can stretch with prolonged use. However, there are steps you can take to minimize stretching and extend the lifespan of your eyewear.
Do Sunglasses Stretch Over Time?
Topics Covered In This Article
- 1 Do Sunglasses Stretch Over Time?
- 2 Why Do Sunglasses Get Stretched Out?
- 2.1 1. Repeated wearing and removal
- 2.2 2. Improper sizing
- 2.3 3. Leaving in warm environments
- 2.4 4. Poor storage habits
- 2.5 5. Weak hinges
- 2.6 6. Cheap materials
- 2.7 7. Oversized styles
- 2.8 8. Contact with hair products
- 2.9 9. Pool and saltwater exposure
- 2.10 10. Improper lens cleaning
- 2.11 11. Normal wear and tear
- 2.12 12. Dropping frequently
- 2.13 13. Loose lens replacements
- 2.14 14. Kids and babies
- 2.15 15. Prescription lenses
- 3 Do Particular Frame Styles Stretch More Easily?
- 4 Tips to Minimize Sunglasses From Stretching
- 5 Signs It’s Time To Replace Stretched Out Shades
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Conclusion
Sunglasses are an essential accessory on sunny days to protect your eyes from UV rays. But if you’ve had the same pair of shades for a while, you may have noticed they don’t fit as snuggly as they used to.
So, do sunglasses stretch over time?
Yes, sunglasses can gradually stretch out over months and years of frequent use from the repeated motions of putting them on, wearing, and removing. Improper storage, heat, and chemical exposure also contribute to loosening over time.
Read on to learn why sunglasses loosen up, tips to minimize stretching, signs it’s time for a new pair, and how to make your shades last longer.
Why Do Sunglasses Get Stretched Out?
Here are a 15 key reasons why do sunglasses get stretched out over time:
1. Repeated wearing and removal
The simple repetitive motion of putting on and taking off your sunglasses over and over again is one of the top reasons frames become loose and ill-fitting over time.
Each time you slide your sunglasses on and pull them back off, you create subtle tension that causes the frames to flex. This constant cycle of flexing the frames to expand them onto your face, then relieve the tension as you remove them, takes a gradual toll.
Much like how repeatedly bending a paperclip back and forth will eventually cause it to snap, doing this motion hundreds or thousands of times slowly fatigues the frame materials.
Even high quality frames made of durable metals or reinforced plastics will start to lose their tension and become loose if removed and worn multiple times daily for months and years. The strain adds up over the lifespan of the sunglasses.
Of course, this is simply the nature of removable eyewear and how we must put them on and take them off frequently during regular use.
But being mindful to handle frames gently instead of recklessly tugging can help minimize unnecessary stress.
Always grasp frames by the ends rather than pulling at the lenses or bridges which can pop components out of place or warp delicate wire rims. Treat your quality shades with care right from the start for longest lifespan.
2. Improper sizing
Another top factor that accelerates stretching issues with sunglasses over time is simply choosing a pair that doesn’t correctly fit your head width or sits improperly on your face.
When the frames are the wrong proportions for your bone structure, they’ll never sit quite right. This leads to chronic slipping, requiring frequent repositioning and adjustments that place undue stress on the frames.
Sunglasses that are either too wide or narrow for your particular head width will be more prone to slipping down your nose without proper nose pad grip.
Arms that are too short won’t extend far enough behind your ears to stay put. And undersized lenses will never fully cover your eyes, letting in peripheral light and debris.
Additionally, choosing oversized, bug-eyed frames in an attempt to be stylish can backfire. Larger, heavier frames taxed with staying aligned on a smaller head will gradually stretch out of shape without proper reinforcement.
Instead of going for exaggerated trends, choose smart fit and quality construction that holds up better in the long run.
When trying on any new pair of sunglasses, it’s essential to assess whether the size and shape of both the lenses and frame arms bridge offer an optimal, gap-free fit around your eyes and head.
A proper fit right from the start helps sunglasses maintain their structure longer before requiring replacement.
3. Leaving in warm environments
We all love to rock our coolest shades on warm sunny days.
But exposing your sunglasses to excess heat by leaving them in places like hot cars, beach bags, or outdoor benches can cause frames to become pliable and gradually lose their shape.
The warmer the temperature, the faster this happens.
Both plastic and metal frames are designed to be worn at average environmental temperatures. Exposing them to conditions much hotter than body heat from wearing can allow materials to become soft, malleable, and vulnerable to bending under any weight or pressure.
A hot car interior can quickly reach over 100°F on a sunny day. And dark-colored beach bags left sitting in the sun easily overheat as well.
Even sturdy metallic frames aren’t immune, as excessive heat can cause solders and joints to loosen prematurely. The combination of heat plus weight from other items like keys or books when tossed on top accelerates warping.
Maintaining the stability and alignment of larger frame styles requires greater integrity as their size makes them more prone to drooping issues under high temperatures.
To help minimize heat damage, never leave your sunglasses in direct sun or unattended vehicles on warm days.
If running errands mid-day when not wearing shades, the wisest strategy is to keep them stored in an insulated, protected bag or case rather than risk overheating them inside the car.
Limiting sun and heat exposure also maintains the longevity of lens coatings and anti-scratch finishes. Handle your shades with care and they’ll retain fit beautifully.
4. Poor storage habits
It’s easy to mindlessly shove our sunglasses into whatever cramped space they’ll fit – the car console, a crammed purse, the depths of a gym bag.
But this careless habit wreaks havoc on their delicate frames and is a top cause of loosening issues over time.
Tucking sunglasses into tight pockets or drawstring bags puts concentrated pressure on key points like the bridge and temples as frames bend to fit.
And tossing them loosely into already full purses or cluttered drawers allows frames to warp out of shape under the shifting weight of other heavy, hard items colliding into them.
Repeated impact, scraping, bending, and collision from lack of proper storage adds hidden wear and tear that distorts frames gradually.
Once bent or misaligned, some plastic materials won’t ever fully spring back to original form. And lenses popped out of place fall even more easily next time.
Protect your investment by always storing sunglasses in a designated protective case or slip pouch when not in use. Never let them tumble around unprotected.
Hard cases with form-fitting slots prevent contact damage and pressure dings that degrade frames. A quality case keeps them properly aligned and stabilized to avoid loose parts.
Treat your shades with care during storage and they’ll last beautifully.
5. Weak hinges
With repeated wear over time, the hinges holding on plastic or metal earpieces are prone to loosening, cracking, or breaking entirely.
This causes the arms to droop down when wearing instead of hugging the head properly. Gravity combined with subtle movements during wear will gradually pull on flawed hinges.
Cheaply made sunglasses often cut costs by using low-grade plastic hinges instead of metal or reinforced mineral options.
Weak plastic is more liable to become brittle and snap with repeated flexing when you open and close the arms. Once a hinge gives out, frames become lopsided and loose.
If you purchase quality sunglasses but notice issues with loosening hinges emerging after fairly light use, they likely suffer from a manufacturing defect.
Reach out to the vendor immediately about a replacement, as hinges on properly constructed frames should reasonably withstand years of standard motions.
To reduce strain on hinges, always grasp frames by both ends rather than just one arm when removing or adjusting fit. Never hang sunglasses by just one earpiece.
Distribute any pressure across both sides to avoid undue stress to components. Handle your shades with care and they’ll function smoothly longer.
6. Cheap materials
Let’s face it, with sunglasses you often get what you pay for when it comes to durability.
Flimsy plastic frames marked down in the bargain bin won’t withstand the test of time and careless handling like quality constructed shades made with sturdy metals and plastics.
Sunglass manufacturers cut costs by using cheap polycarbonate plastic rather than more durable nylon-based acetylates.
Acetate frames include reinforcing agents like carbon fiber that resist bending and distortion far longer before fatigue sets in.
Luxury brands also employ advanced thermoplastic compounds like Mazzucchelli acetate to craft supremely resilient frames.
Metals offer the ultimate endurance, but quality varies widely. While basic metals like nickel silver allow for thin, lightweight construction, they deform easily when dropped or sat on.
Stainless steel has greater impact resistance. And monel titanium alloy lasts decades even for rimless styles thanks to its anti-corrosive properties.
Lens matters too. Low-quality CR39 plastic lenses lack the structural reinforcement of polycarbonate, Trivex, and high-index smart glass lenses.
Weak lenses pop out of frames more readily when dropped or flexed. They also scratch easier, further destabilizing frames.
Of course you can find inexpensive frames that hold up better than some pricier pairs. But in general, opting for sturdier metals and fortified plastics boosts longevity exponentially per dollar spent.
Treat your quality shades well and they’ll maintain fit beautifully year after year before requiring replacement.
7. Oversized styles
While the bold, dramatic oversized sunglass style trend certainly looks fun and fashionable, larger frames come with a practical downside.
The bigger the frame, the harder it has to work to maintain proper proportions and alignment on your face with continual wear and movement. Added size equals added gravitational stress and material strain.
King-size sunglasses inherently stay centered less effortlessly than a properly fitted standard pair sized to naturally hug the head.
Those big bug-eyed frames have extra width, height, and weight to keep suspended comfortably on your nose and ears all day long.
Even minuscule slips out of position must be corrected constantly by reseating the hefty frames back into place. This takes an incremental toll.
Oversized frames simply flex more by design whenever you put them on or take them off compared to snug fitting options. The exaggerated proportions must expand and contract greater distances to fit over your features. This subtly stretches and softens materials over time.
For those drawn to the oversized aesthetic, choosing frames with extra sturdy construction helps them better withstand the daily stresses of their increased size and weight. Avoid flimsy wire rims or weighty full plastic frames which become more problematic when sized up.
Seek out reinforced metals, durable acetates, sturdy yet lightweight nylon, and shape-keeping titaniums to get the look with greater longevity.
8. Contact with hair products
Many hair styling products contain alcohols, oils, and other harsh chemicals that can interact poorly with the materials used in quality sunglass frames over frequent, prolonged exposure.
This leads to degradation issues that impact fit and durability.
Two of the biggest offenders are hairspray and any silicone-based styling gels or serums. The petroleum solvents in hairspray can dissolve paints and finishes while drying out plastic parts.
Silicones leave an oily film that attracts dust and dirt which can abrade surfaces when cleaning frames.
Repeated contact with hair chemicals eats away at the integrity of both plastic and metal frames in very subtle ways. The damage builds up gradually after months and years of exposure.
Rubberized coatings and finishes are especially vulnerable to breakdown from chemicals as they dissolve the rubber compounds.
To minimize risk, adjust your hair first before sliding on sunglasses, and remove frames before reapplying sprays or gels. Never store your shades resting on hair care products overnight.
And when possible, opt for hairstyles that angle styling products away from frames. With smart preventative steps, you can reduce chances of premature wear, clouding, and degradation leading to loose parts.
9. Pool and saltwater exposure
While it’s tempting to toss your sunglasses on while lounging poolside or frolicking in the ocean, repeated exposure to pool and saltwater can degrade frames even when they don’t get fully submerged. Chemicals and salt can accelerate wear that contributes to loosening issues over time.
The chlorine in pool water can cause pitting, corrosion, and fading on metal frame surfaces and joints. Saltwater leaches valuable anti-corrosive finishes. Together they erode protective layers meant to withstand normal sweat and moisture when simply wearing sunglasses as intended. The damage slowly adds up over many swims.
For plastic frames, pool chemicals hasten cloudiness, haziness, and brittling from prolonged exposure. The combination of heat and chemicals exacerbates these issues even further. Saltwater also deposits crusty, abrasive crystals as it dries. This degrades rubberized coatings which need reapplied protection to retain their grippy texture.
While sunglasses might seem intact after pool and ocean use, the subtle effects slowly manifest over subsequent months as the frames flex and loosen easier with daily wear. Rinsing frames after water use helps, but limiting exposure whenever possible remains the safest practice for longevity.
10. Improper lens cleaning
Keeping lenses clean maximizes both visual clarity and frame stability over time. But improper cleaning habits can do more harm than good. Using harsh chemicals, abrasive cloths, or excessive pressure while cleaning can lead to scratched lenses which compromise the frames.
Lenses provide vital structural support to metal and plastic frames. A lens pops out much easier from an already warped frame. And vigorous scrubbing to clean lenses can further loosen their fittings. Once one lens falls out repeatedly, the frame stability is severely diminished.
Repeated small scratches from harsh cleaning also gradually degrade lens clarity and light transmission. This can lead to eye fatigue and squinting to see through dirt and abrasions. Obstructed vision exacerbates frame slippage problems as you strain to see.
To properly clean lenses without causing scratches, use gentle pressure with microfiber cloths designed for safety glasses and lenses. Never wipe with paper products. Breathe moisture onto the lenses first and use light wipe strokes. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners which can damage anti-reflective and anti-glare coatings that help protect the lenses.
With careful handling and cleaning habits, quality lenses maintain clarity longer while supporting frames optimally. This combats loosening issues so glasses stay snug and functional season after season.
11. Normal wear and tear
While there are certainly things we as sunglass owners can do to maximize longevity, normal wear and tear will inevitably take a toll over the lifespan of a pair of quality shades. No material or protective finish lasts forever with repeated, prolonged use.
Even with responsible UV protection, storage, and handling, years of periodic wear, sweat, oils, and small impacts add up. The gradual abrading between frames and skin oils wears down anti-slip coatings and rubber nose pads meant to prevent slippage. Hinges and joints accumulate minor corrosion and gunk buildup.
And simple environmental factors like dust and debris abrade protective top coatings as glasses ride along in purses and glove boxes during their life cycle. The sun’s UV rays also slowly degrade and cloud some plastic frame materials despite lenses filtering most damage.
While premium components withstand more abuse, manufacturers know all frames will need replacing eventually as metals weaken, plastics cloud, and parts stretch and fatigue beyond repair. So if treated well, quality sunglasses should last 2-3 years even under normal wear before fit and finish show signs of giving out.
12. Dropping frequently
We all know dropping your sunglasses onto hard surfaces can lead to visible damage like scratched lenses, bent wires, or broken parts. But even occasional smaller drops you think did no harm can take a hidden toll on frame integrity over time.
Repeated impacts onto ground or hard floors creates micro-fissures and misalignments in frames that seem totally fine at first glance. But those small hidden dents weaken structure so frames flex and loosen easier with each subsequent drop.
Gradually the frames lose ability to bounce back into perfect shape after impacts. Bending becomes permanent. A barely perceptible new twist or sag appears after an innocent slip off a table. Only later does this manifest in fit issues no longer sitting straight on your face.
The more frequently sunglasses get dropped early on, the quicker this invisible damage accumulates. So while very occasional drops may not immediately ruin a sturdy quality pair, chronic early damage sabotages long term durability. Handle carefully and minimize falls for best lifespan.
13. Loose lens replacements
Whether replacing scratched up lenses or swapping in new prescription ones, improper installation can cause problems. Lenses that don’t fit snugly into frames allow added flexing and movement that strains materials.
Ideally lenses should fit precisely into their frame grooves without wiggle room or gaps that let them rattle around. Any play between the lens and frame edges makes them more apt to pop out when dropped or bent. The frame can then flex freely without the stabilizing structure of snug lenses.
When new lenses are inserted, check that they align flush within frames and cannot slip out without moderate effort. You shouldn’t see gaps along the edges or be able to shake them loose. Confirm lenses are oriented correctly so vision isn’t skewed. Enjoy your improved vision without accelerated wear on frames.
14. Kids and babies
Let’s face it, kids and babies are far rougher on sunglasses than most adults. Their smaller head size makes it hard to find infant frames that fit properly without slipping. And their natural rambunctiousness leads to chronic dropping, sitting and stepping on, and other mistreatment that warps adult shades fast.
Toddlers and school-age kids often stretch out their sunglasses by thoughtlessly pulling them on and off by the lenses or bridge rather than the ends.
They toss them on the ground when done rather than in cases. These habits can quickly ruin adult frames not built to withstand such abuse.
And their craniums are still growing, meaning kid-sized frames that fit perfectly today will be prone to slipping, sliding, and stretching out by next year. So plan on frequent replacements as your child’s head size increases. Or opt for very flexible children’s frames touted as “unbreakable” for the clumsiest kids. Prioritize safety and durable materials over trendy when kids need real eye protection. The cool grown up styles can wait until they’re older and care for shades responsibly.
15. Prescription lenses
For those requiring prescription lenses in their sunglasses, the added thickness, weight, and optics can lead to increased wear on frames over time compared to regular sunglass lenses. This compounds stretching and loosening issues.
The extra curvature, thickness, and weight of prescription lenses taxes frames more than lightweight standard lenses optimized for non-corrective use. Heavier rx lenses flex frames frequently as you move and require tighter tolerances which are prone to misaligning.
Kids’ rx sunglasses face even more extreme durability challenges. Their prescription frequently changes year to year as their vision develops with growth. This means buying all new sunglasses yearly or paying to swap out updated lenses. So durability often loses priority behind corrective needs and affordability.
When buying prescription sunglasses, it’s wise to select frame materials engineered to cope with the added demands of housing custom optics. Look for sturdy metals with reinforced stress points and durable acetate frames made to handle inserted rx lenses without quickly distorting. Then care for them gently and they’ll withstand years of tailored vision protection.
Do Particular Frame Styles Stretch More Easily?
Yes, some frame styles and materials are more prone to stretching than others with prolonged use:
Softer plastic has more give than sturdy metal options, making the frames easier to accidentally bend out of shape.
Thin wire-rimmed frames lack structural integrity and can get dented or warped without careful handling.
Delicate rimless and ultra-light frames have less stability and flex more easily.
Larger, heavier frames work harder to maintain their shape with extended wear.
The rubbery coatings on some sunglasses can degrade over time.
Tips to Minimize Sunglasses From Stretching
While some minimal loosening is inevitable even with reasonable wear, you can take steps to greatly reduce stretching and prolong your sunglasses’ lifespan:
1. Store in a protective case:
Never shove sunglasses loosely into bags, purses, etc. Use a hard case or pouch.
2. Limit heat exposure:
Keep shades away from hot cars and direct sunlight when not wearing.
3. Clean gently:
Use a microfiber cloth and avoid harsh scrubbing to prevent scratching.
4. Handle frames carefully:
Put on, take off, and adjust position by handling the frames only. Never tug lenses.
5. Consider durable metals:
Opt for reinforced metal or high-quality plastic frames if susceptible to stretching issues.
6. Keep a backup pair:
Rotate regular use between 2-3 pairs to avoid over-wearing any single pair.
7. Get adjustments:
Have ill-fitting frames professionally adjusted or repaired to restore shape.
Signs It’s Time To Replace Stretched Out Shades
While proper care can maximize their lifespan, all sunglasses will eventually show signs of loosening and fatigue indicating it’s time to retire them for a new pair. Watch for:
- Constant slipping down your nose
- Arms that droop down instead of staying aligned
- Nose pads that are missing or worn smooth
- Hinges that are warped, cracked, or disconnected
- Lenses that easily pop out of loose frames
- Discoloration or peeling of frame finishes
- Inability to bounce back after being bent
- Excessive peripheral light leaking in around frames
Once your sunglasses can no longer maintain a snug, comfortable fit, their usefulness has ended. Retire them before total failure and invest in fresh, supportive new frames.
Do Stretched Out Sunglasses Still Offer UV Protection?
As long as the lenses remain intact without scratches or damage, the UV protection of your sunglasses should not degrade significantly when frames stretch. UV protection comes from lens material and quality rather than frame shape.
However, ill-fitting sunglasses may let in more peripheral light leakage around the frames, reducing coverage. And lenses in broken frames likely won’t provide complete protection. So while UV blocking ability remains largely intact, it’s still ideal to replace loose, worn sunglasses for both performance and comfort.
Tips for Making Your Next Pair Last
When selecting new replacement shades after retiring a stretched out pair, implement these tips right from the start to ensure years of comfortable wear:
- Try on multiple sizes – Frames should fit snugly without pinching key points like nose bridge and temples.
- Assess shape/size – Lenses should adequately cover your eyes without light leakage.
- Evaluate materials – Opt for durable metals or high-quality plastics when possible.
- Ask for fit help – Consult an eye care professional to select properly fitted frames.
- Handle with care – Put on, remove, and store sunglasses properly to avoid damage.
- Keep lenses clean – Use microfiber cloth and gentle cleaners to avoid scratching.
- Use cases/pouches – Never store loosely with keys or other items that could scratch.
- Limit UV exposure – Don’t leave in the car on hot days or baking sun when not wearing.
Taking the time to select the right size and style built to endure, paired with responsible care and handling, gives your new shades the best chance of retaining their fit and function over years of use.
When to Repair vs. Replace Stretched Sunglasses
If your quality sunglasses become loose or ill-fitting after just a short period of ownership, it may make sense to invest in repairs before replacing:
Repair options include:
- Adjusting and reshaping frames
- Tightening/replacing screws, hinges, and temples
- Replacing worn or missing nose pads
- Soldering loose frame joints
- Realigning bent wire rims
For high-end designer sunglasses, professional adjustments and refurbishment may significantly extend usable life after premature stretching issues arise. But repairs on cheap sunglasses likely won’t be worth the cost.
Don’t Ignore Early Signs of Stretching
At the first indication of fit issues like slippage or loosening, address the problem promptly:
- Cease storing in conditions causing damage like high heat
- Have frames professionally realigned, tightened, or adjusted
- Use DIY nose pad replacements to improve grip
- Replace missing or worn temple tips/ends
Early intervention can often reverse or halt minor stretching before it becomes irreversible. So don’t delay having your quality shades refurbished.
Are “Unbreakable” Kids Frames a Good Idea?
Kids are notoriously rough on sunglasses. “Flexible” or “unbreakable” children’s frames are designed to bend instead of snap when sat on or stepped on. The tradeoff is that frequent bending can still stretch them out over time.
Evaluate your child’s responsibility level when deciding between flexible and regular kids’ frames. Responsible older kids may do fine with standard frames. Younger kids who often damage and lose their belongings may benefit from flexible options.
Tips for maximizing lifespan of sunglasses
Like any valued possession, we want our quality sunglasses to remain like new for years. Follow these tips for maximizing lifespan:
- Handle frames gently when putting on and taking off
- Store in protective case when not wearing
- Keep away from heat and chemicals
- Clean lenses carefully with microfiber cloth and water
- Have repairs done as soon as issues appear
- Don’t wear the same pair daily – rotate 2-3 pairs
- Have eyes checked yearly for updated prescription
With sensible precautions, your sunglasses should provide a comfortable, secure fit for many seasons before replacement is needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you shrink stretched out sunglasses?
In some cases, yes. An optician may be able to gently heat and reshape plastic frames. Nose pads can be replaced to grip better. Loose hinges can be tightened and soldered. Stretched metal frames are harder to shrink but opticians have tools to realign.
Should I take off my sunglasses by the lenses or frames?
Always remove sunglasses by the frames rather than the lenses. Pulling at lenses to take them off can pop them out or warp frames. Pinch the end pieces instead and avoid any lens tugging.
How do you fix sagging sunglasses?
Several options exist: Replace missing or worn nose pads, use adhesive pads to increase grip, tighten loose hinges, replace worn temple tips/ends, adjust frames to original shape with heat or tools.
Can you fix scratched lenses on sunglasses?
Deeply scratched lenses usually can’t be repaired, only replaced. Shallow surface scratches sometimes can be gently buffed out using professional polishing tools. DIY scratch removal risks further damage.
How often should you replace sunglasses?
On average, sunglasses should be replaced every 2-3 years with frequent wear. Upgrade sooner if they become damaged, ill-fitting, or lenses are too scratched. Quality materials and proper care can extend a pair’s lifespan.
When is it time to replace old, stretched out sunglasses?
When they constantly slip, don’t bounce back after bending, have cracked joints or parts, or badly scratched lenses.
Sunglasses gradually stretch out over time with frequent use.
But by implementing a thoughtful maintenance strategy, you can prolong your shades’ lifespan and performance. Store them properly, limit damaging conditions, have repairs done promptly, and retire them before total failure.
With high-quality materials and care, sunglasses should maintain a close, comfortable fit for years before replacement becomes necessary. Keep your eyes protected in style by investing in durable new shades and caring for them responsibly.
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Walter Hendricks is a well-known authority in the eyewear industry, specializing in a diverse range of products such as gaming glasses, swimming goggles, sunglasses, eyeglasses, computer glasses, and fashionable daily-wear eyewear.
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