Do I really Need Polarizing Lenses?

When buying new sunglasses, people commonly ask the same question: Do I really need polarized lenses? As they should. After all, polarization is far from a small investment. For example, a classic pair of  Ray-Ban Wayfarers with polarized lenses  can cost up to €140 - over 30 percent more than the non-polarized version €108“The lenses look the same when you see them, but there are physical layers, not just coating layers, in these lenses that take a lot more time to make.

Polarized lenses have an immediate effect on vision, reducing glare off of flat surfaces.

Q: Why are polarized lenses important?

We consume a world of reflected light that is constantly moving and in flux. Polarized lenses channel this reflected light, reducing its movement. This channeled light provides more visual clarity and definition. Polarized lenses also address eye fatigue and strain from reflected light. Eye fatigue is caused as your pupils chase reflected light, which causes constant expansion and contraction of the eye as it adjusts to the changing angle and intensity of the light. This eye fatigue is a direct trigger for headaches and migraines.

 Polarized lenses are almost like mini Venetian blinds — there are microscopic blinds that are in the film in the lens. That cuts out the glare that’s coming into your eyes at that angle. It’s very effective at this.

Q: What makes them different than other lenses?

 Polarized lenses block reflected light so they offer a higher level of eye protection. People often forget sunglasses are a medical device. Unlike our skin, our eyes do not contain melanin. This means [that] each time we expose them to sunlight, they become more sensitive.

Polarized lenses have a polarized film that filters reflected light in a vertical plane (the reflected light is predominately vibrating in a horizontal plane). In channeling that light, polarized lenses remove the majority of electromagnetic vibration, also known as glare.


Q: Who should have polarized lenses in their glasses?

Anyone that wants a heightened level of eye protection ultimately but in particular those who do water sports. The term has certainly been over-marketed in recent years and the quality of polarization varies greatly. A high-quality lens will block reflective light but still allow clear screen (Garmin / iPhone) visibility which is increasingly important to our athletes today.

 Beyond UV protection and reducing the amount of light that penetrates the lens, which virtually all sunglasses have, the real point of having a sunglass is being able to see clearly and without eye strain in the constant barrage of reflected light. Most people equate polarized lenses with outdoor activities on the water, but they are conducive to virtually all settings. You are getting almost as much reflected light from urban surfaces, e.g. auto windows and concrete, as you are on the water. The mirror effect and movement of water, of course, amplifies this glare.

My experience is it’s definitely not for everyone; it’s for most people, but it’s not for everyone. Some people feel a little discombobulated because they’re disoriented by the effects that polarized can have, They’re not used to it. For example, car window screens that have window tint, you start seeing these purple blotches. It can change how you perceive the road surface. If you’re a skier and you want to see the reflection of ice on a sunny day, you don’t want polarized. If you’re a pilot, many of the windscreens are polarized themselves, and when you combine a polarized windscreen and polarized glasses, it can black out the screen, so they don’t wear polarized. It’s definitely not for everyone, but for most people, you’re going to have a better visual experience, especially when you’re in bright conditions, near water or outdoors.

Tracy Breen
Tagged: sunglasses