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Are Changeable Magnetic Frames for Glasses Safe?

May 15, 2023

Photo Illustration by Michela Buttignol for Verywell Health; Getty Images

Snap-on magnetic frames for glasses are trending in the eyewear industry, and you’ve probably been seeing ads for them all over social media apps like TikTok.

Several users on the platform claim that snap-on magnetic frames are affordable, stylish, versatile, and extremely easy to use. Take this video, for example, with over 2.2 million views.

"They are magnets for my glasses," said user Isa Kristen. "All you have to do to change them depending on how your mood is [snaps on the frame] boom—done!"

According to Yuna Rapoport, MD, MPH, a board-certified ophthalmologist and the founder of Manhattan Eye, snap-on frames work like clip-on magnetic sunglasses. Both products use a magnetic attachment system that usually includes a primary frame and magnetic add-on frames.

According to Rapoport, the primary frame is the base frame of your glasses and the magnetic add-on frames are additional pieces that attach magnetically to the primary frame.

It's easy to see why the frames are so popular on social media, but some people are worried that the magnets on the frames may not be safe to wear. Here's what eye health experts say about whether the viral magnetic glasses frames could have any risks to your eyes or health.

Rapoport said that snap-on magnetic frames for your glasses are safe and convenient to wear. One upside to magnetic frames is that they typically do not use screws or hinges to attach to the primary frame—fixtures that could cause discomfort or irritation for the wearer.

But what about the magnets? Could they cause any problems?

"There is no evidence to suggest that they are not safe," said Rapoport, adding that the magnetic frames "are safe to use as long as they are the right prescription."

Laura Di Meglio, OD, instructor of Ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Verywell that the magnets on the snap-on frame attachments do not pose a health risk to eyeglass wearers. The magnets used in the frames are small and only put a relatively weak magnetic field.

"There is really no concern with the magnetic factor of it because these magnets are pretty small in general and have no chance of causing any issues really at all," said Di Meglio. "I’ve never heard or seen any issues with having magnets close to the eye or it causing any changes to structures or permanent effects on any cells in the eye."

Rapoport said that since most of the frames contain lightweight magnets, they do not produce electromagnetic fields (EMFs) like those used in microwave ovens or radar.

"The strength of the field of these tiny magnets is so small that they don't cause any harm to the cornea, retina, or any other parts of the eye," said Rapoport. "A very strong magnet if it was that close would, but this is so mild that it doesn't cause any damage."

Rapoport said some examples of magnets that could be harmful to eye health are direct exposure to specific equipment in radiology or high amounts of neodymium magnets that are found in certain machines like motors of electric vehicles.

"Some people confuse magnetic fields with stronger kinds of fields that exist with MRIs and radiology—things like that," said Rapoport, adding that the magnet on a magnetic frame "is not the same path, it's not the same wavelength and it's a completely different technology, so they’re not comparable."

According to Di Meglio, magnetic frames could potentially cause a problem if a wearer got a foreign body made of metal in their eye—however, even then, Di Meglio said the chance of the tiny magnets causing issues is unlikely.

While using snap-on magnetic frames are generally safe to use, experts say that whether or not you choose to wear them is a personal choice.

"If they are comfortable and you like the way they feel and look, then it's definitely not harmful to wear them," said Rapoport. "In the end, it's a personal preference and less so a medical decision."

Di Meglio said that there are some benefits to snap-on magnetic frames, including how easy and convenient they are to use, that they come in many different styles, colors, and patterns; and that they can be more affordable than purchasing more than one pair of glasses in different styles.

"They’re fun for people to get different looks out of one pair of glasses rather than having to buy multiple pairs," said Di Meglio. "You can also get different shapes and colors which gives people a lot of diversity and freedom to change things up without having to spend money on getting multiple pairs."

If they are comfortable and you like the way they feel and look, then it's definitely not harmful to wear them.

In addition, since most snap-on glasses allow you to attach sunglasses to the primary frame, you can protect your eyes from the sun and save money without having to get a second prescription for a pair of sunglasses.

Rapoport added that "putting on a pair of UV-protecting lenses is also very helpful for preventing issues like early cataract formation or macular degeneration or blurred vision."

If you decide to use snap-on magnetic frames for your glasses, experts say there are a few tips to keep in mind:

Rapoport said that people who are very active, compete in sports, or frequently lose their glasses may not be the best candidates for snap-on magnetic frames. However, you can talk with an eye care professional to find the best option for you.

"The point of these is that you’re able to have the flexibility and interchange them a little more frequently," said Rapoport. "So, they might wear down a little bit more but that's sort of what they’re meant for."

If you are looking to add some variety and customization to your eyewear, experts say that it is safe to use snap-on magnetic frames for your prescription glasses. If you have any questions or concerns about which brand or style to get, talk to an eye health specialist.

National Cancer Institute. Electromagnetic fields and cancer.

Yuksel C, Ankarali S, Yuksel NA. The use of neodymium magnets in healthcare and their effects on health. North Clin Istanb. 2018;5(3):268-273. doi:10.14744/nci.2017.00483

Loganovsky KN, Marazziti D, Fedirko PA, et al. Radiation-induced cerebro-ophthalmic effects in humans. Life (Basel). 2020;10(4):41. doi:10.3390/life10040041

By Alyssa HuiAlyssa Hui is a St. Louis-based health and science news writer. She was the 2020 recipient of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association Jack Shelley Award.

Choose frames/glasses from reputable brands. Check that the glasses and frames fit properly to your face. Be gentle when putting on and removing frames