When sunlight bounces off of any surface, then it becomes more intense because the light waves become concentrated from the reflection. This result is called “glare,” and it can have an adverse impact on your eyes. Polarized lenses offer a technology that includes special filters that can absorb the horizontal light that occurs when the sun’s light begins shining on the various objects in your environment.
Over 99% of the glare that bouncing light waves from the sun create are filtered away from your eyes when wearing polarized lenses. This technology is typically equipped to sunglasses, whether you must wear a prescription or need to purchase a pair from your local retail store.
When direct sunlight impacts your eyes, it is potentially dangerous. Not only does the glare impact your ability to see, but it can also adversely impact the overall health of your eyes. Although staring at bouncing light waves is not as dangerous as keeping your eyes directed on the sun, it is still possible to experience physical injury due to the presence of this light.
If you find that it is challenging to see when you are outside during the day, then a pair of sunglasses equipped with polarized lenses might be the right investment to make. These are the pros and cons to consider before you finalize your purchase.
List of the Advantages of Polarized Lenses
1. Polarized lenses can enhance your visual comfort.
When you are wearing polarized lenses, then your eyes are more comfortable when you are outside in direct sunlight. It reduces the amount of glare that you experience, which means you can view objects with clarity even though the conditions may be exceptionally bright. That means it is possible to see the environment around you in authentic color because you are no longer forced to process the horizontal light patterns in addition to the vertical ones. You will see the maximum effect of this technology if you are wearing them around water.
2. Polarized lenses provide superior vision clarity and contrast.
If you want to view objects that are at ground level in bright conditions, then polarized lenses allow you to see with better color contrast since the horizontal light waves are filtered away. The enhancement in color perception allows for better vision clarity compared to the over-exposure your eyes would process if you weren’t wearing the lenses in the first place. Because your eyes aren’t working as hard to pick out specific objects in the environment, you can avoid fatigue-related issues like headaches more often thanks to this product.
3. Polarized lenses can reduce the harmful impact of UVA/UVB.
Ultraviolet light can be damaging to your vision if you are exposed to it frequently. The radiation from the sun can cause injuries that are cumulative to the body that could eventually lead to reduced vision for some people. When you purchase polarized lenses which give you the option to filter UVA/UVB, then you will dramatically reduce the risks that you face when stepping outside. Children need to think about this specific advantage more than adults, but everyone can benefit from this technology. If you want to experience the maximum potential improvement to your vision, consider polarized lenses which also contain a feature which absorbs HEV rays.
4. Polarized lenses make it easier to see beneath the surface of water.
If you have ever watched outdoor enthusiasts participating in water sports do their thing, then there is an excellent chance that you saw them wearing polarized lenses. When you are boating, fishing, waterskiing, or participating in a similar activity, the filtering action that takes place with the lens makes it much easier to see beneath the surface of the water. You can avoid the light reflections that occur, allowing you to see what might be swimming beneath you. This advantage can be beneficial if you are wading along a beach or lake and wish to avoid potential obstacles that are in the water.
5. Polarized lenses reduce the amount of strain that you experience.
When you are outside on a bright day, what is the first thing that you do in response to the extensive light? You probably start to squint. By covering your eyes or reducing the amount of light that passes through to the retina by changing the shape of the eye itself, you can limit the amount of glare exposure that occurs. This physical response also creates high levels of muscle fatigue around the eyes, cheeks, and nose that can lead to headaches with long-term exposure. Redness, fatigue, and emotional irritation are common side effects of extensive eye strain as well. Polarized lenses work to neutralize this issue, allowing your eyes to feel comfortable and rested.
6. Polarized lenses work in the shade.
If you are wearing a standard pair of sunglasses outside, then you might be tempted to take them off when you enter a shady spot. If you take this action, then you can increase your UV and HEV exposure since there is no longer any protection for your eyes. When you have a pair of polarized lenses to support your health, then you can keep the sunglasses on because the color contrast levels will still be at beneficial levels.
7. Polarized lenses work exceptionally well in the winter months.
Although skiers and snowboarders might try to avoid polarized lenses for their routines, the winter season is the most important time to seek out this technology. When you are surrounded by fresh snow, then up to 80% of the UVA and UVB rays that the sunlight emits can be reflected back toward you. That means your exposure levels can almost double in that situation. Wearing polarized lenses will reduce the glare and exposure risk while allowing you to see with more clarity in all but the most specific conditions.
8. Polarized lenses work for everyone.
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, anyone can wear polarized lenses to help protect their vision from the glare of sunlight. Some people feel like they have more protection against this issue because of their skin tone, but that isn’t necessarily true. Your risk of eye damage from HEV and UVA/UVB rays is the same no matter what your skin tone happens to be. The advantage that you would experience is a lower risk of skin cancer development. If you are equipped with the correct lenses, then there is no reason to fear a sunny day or spending time in the outdoors.
9. Polarized lenses can come in a variety of color options.
Color differentiation with polarized lenses makes all of the difference in the world when you face different lighting conditions. Cheaper products will provide a generalized filter that can be used in most light, but invest a little more into your sunglasses and goggles to take advantage of these specific benefits.
- Rose lenses with polarization can sharpen your focus and contrast in numerous light conditions while reducing the risk of a migraine triggering.
- Yellow lenses work to eliminate blue-light spectrum waves that can overstimulate the eyes and cause fatigue, strain, and headaches.
- Gray lenses filter all of the wavelengths in the visual light spectrum evenly, which is why it is one of the most common options you can find.
- Brown lenses are effective in bright light conditions or when the day is slightly cloudy.
- Green lenses can offer a superior level of filtering help when you find yourself in conditions with extreme glare.
List of the Disadvantages of Polarized Lenses
1. Polarized lenses make it difficult to view LCD screens.
When you are wearing glasses that have polarized lenses, then the chemical agents added to the product to create the filtering mechanism reduce the amount of light your eyes process from an LCD screen. Although you can still see them when you have a direct line-of-sight, moving to different angles can make the screen disappear completely. It may also impact the amount of color that some people can perceive when looking at information or watching a show.
2. Polarized lenses can alter how you perceive the world.
Heavy machine users are often restricted in their use of polarized lenses because of the way the filtering process alters your vision. This equipment often operates with an LCD screen to inform the operator of current conditions, which the lenses would interfere with during operations. This disadvantage is in place for airline pilots as well since the modern cockpit comes equipped with LCD screens as well. Anyone that must use their phone for work consistently, have access to GPS equipment, or similar needs with their employment may find that this option is not suitable for their needs.
3. Polarized lenses can make it challenging to distinguish between white colors.
Downhill skiing enthusiasts sometimes try to avoid using polarized lenses with their googles or sunglasses because of the way the technology filters out the horizontal light waves. Because you have different variations of while on the typical mountain thanks to the snow, hills, and ice, it can be challenging for some people to differentiate between these outdoor elements. Since it only takes one mistake for a catastrophe to occur in this sport, this disadvantage usually keeps skiers away from the product.
4. Polarized lenses need to have built-in UV protection.
Sunny days are always nice to experience, but the prolonged exposure to unfiltered sunlight can cause numerous health issues. The UV radiation can increase the risk of developing cataracts later in life, lead to damage to the retina, and even cause macular degeneration to begin. These injuries are cumulative over the lifetime of an individual, so polarized lenses must have UV protection if they are going to be an effective product. Since some products do not have this feature, you must look for stickers on your product which contain the following information.
- Verification that the lenses block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
- The lenses are said to meet ANSI UVA/UVB blocking requirements for Z80.3.
- It states that the lenses provide UV400 protection when worn correctly.
5. Polarized lenses can cause you to see window grids.
When you wear polarized lenses with your sunglasses, then you can sometimes see a grid pattern appear on the windows of automobiles. Some houses can have this issue with their reflective surfaces as well. What you are seeing in these stripes or grids in the glass is an issue that occurs during the tempering process. These intentional stresses make the glass a stronger product, allowing it to have a predictable outcome if you happen to be in an accident. The pattern that you see is a reflection of the arrangement that the flames or heating elements cause during this process.
If you find that these grid patterns become too distracting while driving, then you can take the polarized lenses off. Then you are left with the problem of glare once again, so it becomes a lose/lose situation for some drivers.
6. Polarized lenses cost more than standard products.
If you want to take advantage of what polarized lenses can offer, then you can head to your local Walmart to purchase a pair of sunglasses for $15 (or less) with this technology. Most lenses that contain polarization filters will cost up to 30% more than if you bought a standard lens instead. Some people see this as an investment in their future, but it could also be an issue that takes the product out of the range of affordability.
You will also find that some of the cheaper lenses that are available today meet the industry standards for complete protection, while the premium products do not. That is why it is essential to review every product specification before finalizing your purchase.
7. Polarized lenses can have durability issues.
Instead of applying the chemical process to the plastic lens itself, cheaper sunglasses and goggles often apply a film over a basic lens to create the polarization effect. When you wear glasses with this design, then you will experience issues with flaking, peeling, and bubbling over time with the product. Users who are near the coast or live in high precipitation geographic areas typically see this problem the most often. High levels of sunlight exposure can cause the chemical film to begin fading too, which can minimize the protection you would receive when wearing your glasses.
8. Polarized lenses can be ineffective under specific circumstances.
Because the design of polarized lenses works to filter horizontal light waves, your positioning can reduce the effectiveness of this technology. You will encounter this issue most often during sunrise and sunset. When the sun is directly overhead, there can be some problems with this lens option as well. Some users may see artificial light differently as well, like when you attend a sporting event during the evening with the lights coming on. You can even miss obstacles in the road if the color of the object is similar to what is available in the surrounding environment.
9. Polarized lenses might provide too much filtering for some people.
Whether you are unable to wear polarized lenses because of your work or the way that it changes your vision makes you uncomfortable, there are some alternatives to consider that can still provide help your vision. Glasses with an anti-reflective coating can help you to see through the glare without the same vision alteration experience of polarization. Mirrored sunglasses decrease the amount of light that enters your eyes, which can reduce the impact that horizontal light waves have on your vision. Certain photochromic lenses will automatically darken when they receive light exposure as well.
A Final Thought on the Pros and Cons of Polarized Lenses
It is important to remember that UV-protected lenses and polarized lenses are not the same thing. If you do not see UVA or UVB protection labels on the sunglasses or goggles you wish to purchase, then they will not provide the service that you may want. Many of the polarized sunglasses on the market include a UV protection coating, but it may also peel off as the product ages or receives exposure to extreme conditions.
These lenses are a good option to consider for anyone who spends a lot of time outside. It reduces the bright reflections, eliminates unwanted glare, and can improve your vision under challenging circumstances. Don’t just consider your outward appearance when selecting the best lenses for your eyes because you need full coverage to 100% protect your vision. Some products do not offer that service.
The pros and cons of polarized lenses are typically more about one’s personal preferences. Some people prefer to wear them for the added clarity they receive when outside. Others feel like the filters are distracting when they are taking care of their business each day. If you work with LCD screens regularly, then this item might not even be an option to consider. The good news is that if you are interested in using this lens option for your sunglasses or goggles, then they are priced competitively with non-polarized items.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.