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Polarized Lenses

  • 3 min read

Polarized Lenses

You’ve heard the term before, seen the small “p” etched in some lenses, and noticed the price tag; but what exactly are polarized lenses and do you really need them? In this post we will point out 5 key points to consider about polarization so you can make a more informed sunglasses buying decision. Let’s start with the basics:

  • What is polarization?
  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology writes the following: “Polarized lenses have a special chemical applied to them to filter light. The chemical’s molecules are lined up specifically to block some of the light from passing through the lens. Think of it like a miniblind hanging in front of a window. Only light that passes through the blind’s openings can be seen.” 

    Considering this another way, light, which is generally widely and evenly dispersed from the sun, can become much more focused as it reflects off of surfaces like car hoods, water, or snow. When that reflection occurs, the pattern of the light waves becomes much more horizontal in nature, thus creating glare. The coating of polarized lenses creates a barrier between these flat “glare” waves and your eye by bouncing them off of the lens surface.

  • What are the primary benefits?
  • As mentioned above, glare reduction in bright, reflective surface situations is the primary benefit of polarization. Anyone who spends a lot of time in the car (think of all of the glass driving around you!) would definitely benefit from polarized lenses. Additionally, if you participate in water or snow sports, those extra sunny days will certainly require more glare protection so you can perform your best. Our frames like the Aspen and Willow are perfect for this. There is also a bit of a residual benefit of extra clarity in “normal” light situations, as polarized lenses still reduce some of the light noise that we run into day to day. One final note is that as the position of the sun changes throughout the year, polarized lenses offer better visibility during low, flat sunrise and sunset periods of the year.

  • Will they change how things look?
  • If you are not used to polarized lenses, you may notice that they appear to “darken” everything a bit. As we explained above, this is what the coating is for--but, in lower light situations some people may not like this. Additionally, if you are constantly looking at LCD and other displays (boaters, pilots, etc.), you may notice that you are unable to read your instruments clearly with polarized lenses on. This is because many instruments and screens already have their own polarizing film. When the function of two polarizing films combine, this will end up blocking close to all of the light in front of those displays. From the front of the lenses, a polarization film is often not noticeable.

  • Are all polarized lenses created equal?
  • We certainly don’t think so! SunHeist’s polarized lenses are 5X thicker than several of our competitors’ lenses which are flimsy, and won’t protect your eyes from impact.  Our polarized lenses are injected polycarbonate--meaning they are not only lightweight, but more importantly unbreakable and shatterproof.  Beyond the obvious quality and durability benefits of being thicker, this also prevents the lenses from flexing during high motion activities. If a polarized lens flexes too much, it essentially changes the coating from the flat, vertical position it is intended to hold to reflect glare waves. This means that you may actually start allowing horizontal light waves in through the lens again, thus defeating their whole purpose!

  • Polarized lenses are more expensive. Are they worth it?
  • This is certainly something worth thinking about based on where you live, the types of activities you participate in, and your budget. If you live in a cloudier environment, or look at LCD screens a lot for work or leisure, you may not need them. Ultimately, we would certainly recommend the extra cost if you want extra protection from glare, participate in a lot of outdoor activities, or simply prefer a dimmer field of vision on bright days. The benefits mentioned above will certainly make the price concern melt away with use--we promise!

    With all of that being said, 7 of our 9 frames offering polarized lens options all have options that are not polarized too. So, choose whichever you feel is best for you based on the above, or buy one of each to be ready for any adventure life throws your way!