Polarized sunglasses. Everyone has heard of them, but most don’t know what they do or how they work. No wonder customers keep asking questions like “are polarized lenses better for my eyes?”, And “do polarized sunglasses look different to conventional ones?”

If you like to spend a lot of time outdoors, polarizing sunglasses can significantly reduce glare, and reduced glare lets you see better.

Polarizing Sunglasses infographic

How Can Polarizing Glass Help Me See Better?

Dazzling light from reflective or wet surfaces is not only disturbing and distracting—but it can also affect your vision. Examples of when polarizing glasses can help you see better:

  • General sensitivity to light. Anyone sensitive to bright light will benefit significantly from these glasses and the UV protection they provide (if the glasses have full UV protection). 
  • If you like fishing, rowing a boat or practicing other water sports, polarizing sports sunglasses will help you see better below the water surface. This can be useful when you want to scoop up a fish or if there is an obstacle below the surface that could be dangerous to your boat or canoe. 
  • Driving. When we drive a car, we are often distracted by dazzling sunlight reflected from wet roads, windshields and hoods. 
  • Snowsports. In combination with the traditional pink or yellow ski goggles, polarizing filters can reduce the disturbing strong sunlight reflected off the snow. Remember to always talk to your optician before buying polarizing ski goggles or wearing them when skiing, as they affect your perception of contrast.
  • After surgery. For a few months after an eye operation (for example, a cataract operation), you may feel that your eyes are more sensitive to light. Polarizing glasses can make your vision more comfortable and help you see contrasting colors better.

What Does Polarizing Mean?

Natural light reflects in all directions. Therefore it is described as “unpolarized.” When light rays are reflected by a surface, such as water or snow, wet roads or windows, they bounce back in only one direction. This means that light rays that are normally reflected in different directions are instead reflected in a single direction; they are polarized.

The majority of this light is reflected in a horizontal direction. A specific chemical is put on polarised lenses to filter light. The molecules of the chemical are arranged so that they prevent some light from entering through the lens. Consider it a miniblind that hangs in front of a window. Only light passing through the blinds’ apertures is visible.

The filter creates vertical openings for light. This means that only light rays that approach your eyes vertically can fit through those openings.

 The highly efficient grid structure then absorbs the horizontal waves. In this way, This can virtually eliminate disturbing and potentially dangerous reflections. In addition, the color perception becomes more vivid. High-quality glasses also give your eyes complete protection against harmful UV rays.

Can I Use My Polarizing Lenses Anytime, Anywhere?

Although these glasses can improve your vision significantly, there are situations when they can negatively affect your vision, and it is not optimal to use them.

Polarizing sports sunglasses have advantages and disadvantages for winter sports enthusiasts, but they are not suitable for downhill skiing. The glasses reduce glare from the sun in the snow but can make details in the shade darker. If a skier cannot distinguish between ice patches and an obstacle, it’s dangerous.

It is also often difficult to see displays on LCD screens because the polarizing filters can reduce visibility. Although the displays in most cars have been optimized and can be seen clearly through most polarizing sunglasses, those driving older car models may find it more difficult to see important messages and warning lights. Even pilots and sailors may have difficulty seeing LCDs.

Always consult your optician before buying a product with polarizing lenses.

How Much Can Polarizing Glasses Be Adjusted?

Modern technology makes it possible to use polarizing filters in almost all types of glass. This includes sunglasses with strengths for conditions such as myopia or presbyopia.

Polarization also works very effectively with dynamic sunglasses. These unique sunglasses work with photochromatic technology and can adapt their intensity to changing light conditions. 

These glasses become very dark in strong sunlight and switch back to their regular tint in the shade or when the sun begins to disappear.

What Should I Keep in Mind When Buying Polarizing Sunglasses?

Your glasses must absolutely have complete UV protection. Also, keep in mind that UV protection is not a standard feature in all glasses. For your eyes and surrounding skin to be protected from harmful UV rays, the glasses should at least block rays up to 400 nm. 

Your optician can inform you if the brand you choose offers appropriate protection. Also, remember to ask for clear glasses that provide complete UV protection, so you are always protected, even on cloudy days.

You can also enhance your sunglasses with an anti-reflection surface. This is placed on the back of the lens to remove reflections from behind. 

Make sure you get sunglasses that are optimal for you by making sure you choose a suitable color. If you are a runner, golfer or into water sports or winter sports, tell your optician before choosing your polarizing sports sunglasses.

Custom polarizing sunglasses are often more expensive than regular sunglasses—but rightly so. These glasses are tailored to your needs, ensuring that you are adequately protected and that the glasses are comfortable.

FAQs

What are the Pros and Cons of polarizing sunglasses?

Pros

  • Superior anti-glare protection, even while driving.
  • Makes it easier to see below the water surface, which is optimal for those who do water sports or are fishermen.
  • Works well in the sun and in the shade, and you can still see color contrasts in shadier parts outdoors.
  • Suitable for all seasons—especially in countries with snow during the winter months.
  • May reduce squinting and possible eye fatigue caused by photosensitivity.
  • Your sunglasses can be tailored for almost any type of polarizing prescription glasses.

Cons

  • The start-up cost is greater than for non-polarizing glass.
  • Can affect how you see LCDs, which you should keep in mind if you are a driver, pilot or boat captain.
  • Makes it difficult to distinguish between different shades of white, which can affect the vision of skiers and snowboarders.

How do you know if the sunglasses are polarizing?

Find a surface or object that may dazzle—the easiest thing to use a hand mirror. Hold the glasses horizontally in your hand and look through them. If you turn the glasses about 90 degrees, you will see the glare from the mirror. If your glasses are not polarizing, they will look the same or possibly be a little brighter.

Another easy way to test polarization is to use other polarizing objects such as LCD screens, computer screens or another pair of polarizing sunglasses. Hold the glasses in front of the screen or glasses, turn them about 90 degrees and see if they become completely dark or black. If the glasses are, they are polarizing.

If you are still unsure, ask your optician to check your glasses.

Do the glasses lose their polarization filter after a while, or does it get weaker?

No. Polarizing glasses do not lose their function over time, unless the glasses crack, get chipped or break. If you feel that your eyes are more sensitive to light, then there may be other aspects to consider. 

You may have too low a strength on your prescription glasses, or they will no longer fit. It may also be that you have another underlying condition that causes photosensitivity. If you experience this, you should book a consultation with your optician and bring your glasses.

Are there polarizing glasses in all colors?

Yes, they are available in many different colors but keep in mind that darker colors give higher levels of polarization.

Remember that some colored glasses have limitations, and there are situations where they are not suited so well. For example, some colors may prevent you from seeing traffic lights clearly while driving.

Are polarizing sunglasses harmful to the eyes?

Not at all. Because they reduce glare, they also reduce the eye fatigue that you can experience outdoors in all seasons. You will notice that you squint less and see better color contrasts when you use your polarizing glasses.

Can I wear polarizing sunglasses when driving?

Yes. You can actually improve your vision while driving by reducing disturbing glare from dashboard objects reflected through the car window, wet roads, snow, white pavements and metal. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to see LCDs in some cars.

What is better, polarizing or non-polarizing sunglasses?

No other lens on the market can reduce glare better than polarizing lenses. However, what ultimately determines which glasses you choose is what you use your sunglasses for.

Before making the final decision, consider the disadvantages described above and consult your optician.

Do all polarizing sunglasses have UV protection?

Although most polarizing lenses also have UV protection, keep in mind that there is a difference between complete UV protection and polarization. Be sure to completely protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by buying glasses that block up to 400 nm.

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Keith

Keith is the founder of Sunglasses Search. He worked for a number of years at a well-known sunglasses brand, starting as a sales assistant and working his way up to assistant manager where he developed his love and in-depth knowledge for sunglasses.

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