How Durable Are Acetate Frames?

Acetate is the durable material most high-grade plastic frames are made of. They can be bought in all kinds of colors and styles. A thicker frame will be more durable compared to thinner frames. In this article, we will test new and older frames in regards to their durability and show you the results.

When you look at acetate you need to know the material characteristics change over time. An older acetate frame loses its elasticity over time due to softening agents leaving the material. This process can be accelerated when the acetate frame is often exposed to UV light and or when the sweat of the wearer is very aggressive.

When the acetate frame gets very worn out it becomes much more brittle. When this happens the acetate usually loses the glossy look or changes its color to a more pale color. Most standard frames have a thickness of 4mm in the middle of the frame. This gives the frame some flexibility and keeps the frame light as well.

In more seldom cases the thickness of the frame could be increased to 6mm which is a really thick frame. When the thickness is increased the frame also gets more durable. Depending on the manufacturer of the glasses frames the receipt for the cellulose acetate will differ a little.

Personally, I have really good experiences with the manufacturer Mazzuchelli which is one of the biggest and innovative manufactures for cellulose acetate. The durability of the acetate frame can fluctuate with different manufacturers depending on what additives were used to influence the mechanical or chemical characteristics of the frame.

For example, some acetate frames are UV resistant. Others are less resistant. We will discuss durability aspects like aging, hardness, and flexibility in this article to give you a realistic impression of what you can expect from most acetate frames.

One word of caution here. Some of the parts of acetate frames are reinforced with stainless steel and some of them are not. Usually, the temples are reinforced and are therefore more durable. When the temperature gets warmer the acetate frame gets little can endure a little more bending in comparison when it is cold. All the tests I made here to show you the durability was done at 23°C.

How Durable Is the Surface of an Acetate Frame?

When you look at technical sheets the Rockwell hardness tests say the value ranges from 91 up to 106. Most wearers will not know what this means. But practically speaking when you push your fingernail really hard into the acetate frame and try to scratch it little scratches will become visible which I am showing you in the image below.

Here I tried to scratch the acetate frame and it is definitely possible. But usually, when little scratches accumulate over time the optician can easily polish the material and the frame basically looks new again.

What Happens When the Frame Is Bent?

When the frame is bent because you lay on it by accident in most cases it is so durable it just can be bent back in the position it was before. But you should not always count on the flexibility of the frame. As I said those characteristics change over time. And usually, after approximately four years the frame became so brittle it might even break although warmth was applied to the frame before bending. Generally speaking, it is recommended to warm up acetate frames before bending.

In the video above I bent the acetate frame back and forth and no signs of damage show up whether in the middle part of the frame nor in the temples which are reinforced with stainless steel and therefore more durable.

How Long Do Acetate Frames Last?

Usually, acetate frames last four to six years. Afterward, you will see the brittle elements of the frame increasing in the material. Those elements tend to look more opaque in comparison to the rest of the acetate material. However, depending on environmental factors like temperature, sweat, and UV exposure the acetate frame could stay in a very good condition a lot longer or shorter than the mentioned time span.

Are Acetate Frames Good?

Acetate frames are a great choice for a lot of wearers of spectacle glasses. They are very strong and durable and stay that way for a lot of years. You can buy them in an unbelievably big variety of colors like no other material. When the frame does not fit perfectly after buying them the optician has a lot of options to adjust those frames by heating them, rasping the acetate frame polishing it, or cutting it.

Acetate frames are hypoallergenic. Oftentimes this means people with sensitive skins wear this material without any issues. But if you are allergic to softeners watch out because then acetate frames could indeed cause problems.

Acetate frames are not only good for you. They are also good for the environment. Depending on the type of frame you choose it could contain up to 96% total sustainable content. In part, 28% recycled acetate is used for those products. The other parts are made of renewable resources.

What Are Acetate Frames Made Of?

Cellulose acetate itself is already a plastic polymer of natural origin. As a matter of fact, its base components are a selection of renewable sources such as certain varieties of trees from responsibly managed forests and cotton linters.


This article about the durability of acetate frames is based on my experiences working with this material since 2003. Especially in the workshop bending the material heating and adjusting it shows the nuanced differences between the manufacturers of acetate. It is always important to test the frame first a little before bending it because especially when the frame is older you can not expect the frame to be as durable as it was new.

So when you buy an acetate frame you can expect to use the frame for a long time. When it looks worn out just bring it to your local optician. He or she can take the frame apart polish it and it will basically look new.

I wish you a great day.

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