Lensabl | Polarized vs Non-Polarized Eyeglass Lenses
What are polarized sunglasses? Do I need them? What are non-polarized sunglasses? Answers inside.
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colorful sunglass lenses

Polarized vs Non-polarized Lenses

To polarize, or not?

Sitting in check out, unsure of whether you should polarize your lenses? We know, it’s a difficult question. And to best guide you towards your answer, it will be helpful for you to understand how light affects polarized lenses — as they are not suitable for all situations. We’ve listed the primary differences between polarized and non-polarized prescription sunglass lenses, as well as their benefits and disadvantages below!

Polarized

  • Protection against both vertical and horizontal UV rays.
  • Vertical polarization (horizontal rays blocked).
  • Enhanced visual comfort in bright or constantly changing light conditions.
  • Clarity of vision enhanced by increased contrast.
  • True color perception.
  • Replacement sunglass lenses.
  • Largely reduced visibility of LCD and LED screens.
  • May reduce contrast and clarity of vision in situations where reflections are necessary.
  • Typically significantly more expensive than non-polarized lenses.

Non-Polarized

  • Protection against both vertical and horizontal UV rays.
  • No vertical polarization.
  • May still experience discomfort in bright or constantly changing light conditions.
  • No contrast enhancement.
  • Color perception may be affected by lens tint.
  • Visibility of LCD and LED screens are not affected.
  • Reflections are still visible.
  • Typically significantly less expensive than polarized lenses.

But, what does it mean?

Vertical and Horizontal Rays

Light is composed of numerous waves that are traveling in many different directions. Vertical light rays are great for our eyes, while the horizontal ones are the less desirable. When concentrated light bounces off of horizontal (flat) surfaces such as water, windshields, sand, snow or asphalt — it creates a glare. Vertical light tends to be more preferable, as it respects the tendency of our optical system to focus on the vertical aspect of an image.

Normal sunglasses provide basic protection against both vertical and horizontal UV rays, but do not diminish the glare reflected from horizontal rays. Polarized glasses on the other hand, have a built-in, laminated filter that permits only vertical light rays to pass through — almost entirely blocking horizontal rays. One neat thing you may notice while boating or fishing with polarized lenses, is that you can suddenly see through the surface of the water (which was previously clouded by the reflections from the sun and sky above).

Constantly Changing Light Conditions

Constantly changing light conditions are situational, and can cause eye strain and fatigue — unless you are wearing polarized lenses. If you are hunting in a forest, or in an area with a lot of trees, you may experience harsh, constantly changing light conditions with a lot of glares.

Contrast

Polarized lenses provide a far more defined field of vision, and also allows you to see objects in brighter conditions. They also enhance your clarity of vision and contrast for ground level objects — and for seeing into water.

Color Perception

It’s fun to look through various tinted sunglass lenses, as they alter the way you perceive colors. Essentially giving you a whole new world to look at. Polarized lenses on the other hand, will give you true color perception — whether you have a bright, vibrant tint, or an incredibly dark one!

Visibility of LCD and LED Screens

When wearing polarized lenses, you may find it difficult to look at your digital devices. You will see that images on the screen will disappear at certain angles. Pilots or operators of heavy machines are discouraged and often prohibited from using polarized lenses. This is a significant issue if you are a boater or a pilot and rely on instrument panels that still have LCD screens, as there is a risk that you could potentially miss certain readings that may require split-second decisions.

When Would I Want Reflections?

Entirely situational, but in cases like skiing, you would want to be able to watch out for patches of ice — identified most easily by how reflective they are. Polarized lenses may actually compromise contrast in certain light conditions, making it difficult to distinguish between patches of ice or snow and moguls.