What is Cellulose Acetate and Why is it Used to Make Eye Glasses

What is Cellulose Acetate and Why is it Used to Make Eye Glasses

What is Cellulose Acetate and Why is it Used to Make Eye Glasses

When it comes to high-quality glasses frames, cellulose acetate gets the job done. This material is one of the most common ones for eyeglasses, as it’s sturdy and allows for a wide range of fresh colors and styles. But what exactly is cellulose acetate, and why is it considered such an MVP when it comes to eyeglasses? Here are the deets you need to know about this go-to material that makes up QUAY faves.

What Is Acetate?

First thing’s first: Let’s talk about what cellulose acetate is. Cellulose, a carbohydrate molecule, is a building block found in plants. Cellulose acetate, aka acetate or Zylonite, is a bioplastic made by treating refined cellulose (derived from cotton fibers or wood pulp) with acetic acid. When it comes to finish, it’s transparent, glossy, and sturdy, making it ideal for vibrant, durable glasses — quality is QUAY, after all.

A female model posing wearing a 70's inspired outfit with QUAY NEW MONEY tortoise sunnies

How Is Cellulose Acetate Made?

So, how exactly is cellulose acetate made? Here’s a sweet-and-simple breakdown of what you need to know. 

Step 1: Refining Cellulose

It all starts with crops. Cellulose used to create glasses usually comes from cotton or wood. To make sheet acetate, cellulose needs to be extracted from the raw material. 

Step 2: Making Cellulose Acetate

After the cellulose has been extracted, the next step is to mix it with acetic acid to create a semi-transparent material. 

Step 3: Dyeing the Cellulose Acetate

The cellulose acetate is then mixed, rolled, and dyed — the dyed acetate is sometimes chopped into small cubes or layered and re-rolled to create complex color patterns. Afterward, the mixture is pressed into a cube, which is then left to cure before it's sliced into sheets that are heat-stabilized.

Step 4: Creating Eyeglasses Parts

The sheets can then be used to create glasses parts. Machines will create rough frame parts, which are hand-polished to eliminate rough edges before the final assembly.

What are the benefits of acetate for glasses?

Why is acetate such a go-to for eyeglasses anyway? Here are the reasons why it’s a staple for building high-quality frames. 

It’s highly durable.

Obviously, you want to keep your frames in tiptop shape. But it all starts with how sturdy your frames are to begin with. If you’re out and about doing your thing, you want a pair of specs that’ll last. Though flexible enough to mold, cellulose acetate is highly durable + has excellent elasticity to ensure your fave shades and glasses won’t break easily. 

It’s ultra-comfy.

Durability doesn’t have to mean discomfort. Acetate is a relatively lightweight material, which means it won’t feel heavy on your face. Translation: There's need to worry about your frames pinching your nose or slipping and sliding. Plus, acetate is also hypoallergenic, so it’s less likely to irritate sensitive skin. 

It’s environmentally friendly.

Cellulose acetate is plant-based and derived from cellulose. In contrast to plastic made from non-renewable petroleum, it’s produced from a natural material

It’s perfect for channeling bright + bold colors. 

Serve looks with all the colors. Cellulose acetate can be dyed during the manufacturing process to yield vibrant + rich hues, patterns, and tones for an eye catching finish. With this material, sky’s the limit for fun colors to keep your look fresh. 


Other glasses materials

When picking out specs, propionate plastic, blended nylon, Optyl®, and metal are other common materials. Here's a quick breakdown of what you need to know about each type. 

Propionate plastic

Propionate plastic is a hypoallergenic, nylon-based plastic material that tends to be glossy, lightweight, and a bit softer than other plastics. 

Blended nylon 

While cellulose acetate is the most common type of plastic glasses, you may also see some nylon blends such as polyamides and gliamides. It's suited for performance frames because of its lightweight and durable quality. 


Optyl® is a type of epoxy resin that's best known for its malleability for forming frames. 


Common metal materials for glasses frames include titanium, memory metal, and beryllium. Metal glasses, such as HIGH KEY, are lightweight, flexible, and durable. High-quality metal frames are less likely to react with skin or discolor over time. 


It comes as no surprise, but many frames combine acetate and metal components for stylish results that let you enjoy the best of both worlds. It's an iconic duo found in QUAY classics such as ALMOST READY.

At QUAY, you can trust that you'll receive quality specs for your money. For bold + lasting style, get shady in luxe fave QUAY acetate frames

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