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Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Lenses for Sunglasses

View thru polarized and non-polarized lenses.

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What means polarized sunglasses? This post aims to clarify the facts against the myths regarding polarized shades.

You will learn the difference between polarized vs. non-polarized lenses. Find out what are the benefits of polarized lenses and much other interesting information about polarized sunglasses lenses. After reading this post, you should have a firm knowledge if polarized sunglasses are worth your money or should you invest for a low-cost non-polarized lens instead of.

How Do Polarized Sunglasses Lenses Work?

Polarized sunglasses lens contains a filter that blocks horizontal light. Horizontal light is highly polarized light reflected by most flat surfaces like water. In general, the solar light is non-polarized, but while reflected from the surface, it comes polarized (more or less).

Glare reflected from water can be almost completely horizontally polarized, especially if the sun altitude is between 30 and 60 degrees. Polarized sunglasses will come in need. On the other hand, if the sun is very low or high and waters are calm, there will be only a little help for using polarized sunglasses.

All reflections from objects above the water surface are partially polarized. Glass creates more horizontal light than metal. Roads reflect glare. Also, bright reflections from car surfaces may be disruptive when the sun is behind or in front subject to the driver.

From the image below, you can see how efficiently polarized lenses block glare and haze.

Pathfinder (CC BY-SA 2.0) by empty007

In turn, snow reflects very little horizontal light cos of its irregular nature of the surface, which kind of refract light in different directions. But polarized lenses may help a bit to be able to see more comfortably through haze near the horizon.

Advantages of Polarized Lenses vs. Non-Polarized Lenses

Benefits of polarized shades compared to non-polarized sunglasses:

  • Cuts glare and haze from water, car hoods, roofs, etc. Makes polarized lenses beneficial for outdoor activities like fishing, boating, sailing, biking, jogging, golf, tennis.
  • Increase contrast sensitivity and color perception to improve vision.
  • Enhance clarity of vision to get more depth perception and visual accuracy.
  • Reduce light transmission, making it comfortable to watch displays for light-sensitive people, especially post-cataract surgery patients.
  • Reduce eye strain effectively preventing severe vision problems. Helps seeing fish and rocks below the water surface (excluding looking at straight down).

Disadvantages of Polarized Sunglasses Lenses

Polarized sunglasses are not always the right choice for you:

  • More expensive than non-polarized sunglasses.
  • Downhill skiers can’t see reflections from icy areas on the surface and may end up in serious accidents.
  • Skiers and snowboarders may not notice small jumps in certain regions because of blockage of shadows.
  • Not worth in snowy surroundings since reflections of snow are not polarized.
  • A motorcyclist should avoid polarized sunglasses as they may not distinguish wet/oily pavement.
  • Reduce the visibility of images produced by LCDs and LEDs – especially pilots should not wear polarized sunglasses if they have LCDs on the flight deck.
  • If the sun is very high or low, polarized lenses don’t help much.
  • Tilting your head may weaken the usefulness of polarized lenses. Its filters block horizontal light most efficiently when you hold your head in a normal position.
  • Polarized lenses always have some color (the darker, the better), so obtaining clear lenses is impossible.

Two Types of Polarized Lenses

.75 mm polarized lenses are suggested for casual activities without risk of impact, like golf. They are also cheaper simply because the polarizing film used for them is thin.

1.1 mm polarized lenses are more expensive. The polarized film used to make these is thicker. It’ll provide you additional strength and scratch resistance.

Notice that both types of lenses offer the same amount of protection from glare. Thicker lenses are just stronger. So, you may want to buy 1.1 mm polarized lenses only, if you do some dangerous sport.

How to Check if Your Lenses are Polarized?

To find out if your current shades are polarized, try to seek the letter “P” from your sunglasses. If you can’t find it or doubt that the symbol of the polarized lens could be fake, try the next simple method.

Rotate your glasses 90 degrees, so they are on a vertical line and look through one lens. In this position, you should see the glare off horizontal surfaces if it’s shining. When you orient sunglasses back on the usual location and see the glare eliminated, you know that your sunglasses are polarized.

Facts & Myths about Polarized Sunglasses Lenses

Polarized 3D glasses are great for reducing glare.

Myth! Filters are oriented poorly for that purpose. You may also start feeling dizzy and see objects around you with different intensities depending on the eye.

Polarized lenses give excellent UV protection.

Not always! Usually, they protect against UV rays, but it has nothing to do with the polarized lens filter itself. Make sure you buy quality polarized sunglasses, which include 100% UV protection coating.

If you buy cheap tinted polarized glasses without UV protection, they may do some severe damage. Tinted polarized lenses will dilate the pupil allowing more UV radiation to enter your eye.

Polarized lenses reduce snow blindness (photokeratitis).

Maybe! Snow blindness is caused by reflecting UV light. You will need UV protection coated sunglasses to avoid that. Quality polarized lenses are UV coated.

It is possible to get photochromic (light-sensitive lenses, change from dark to light depending, are you inside or outside) lenses with a polarizing filter.

Fact! These are great for persons who need glasses anyways due to vision problems. Remember that car windshield usually blocks some UV light, so photochromic lenses don’t get as dark as some people would like while driving. The polarizing filter can also be obtained with bifocal lenses.

Polarized lenses are great for all kinds of winter activities.

Not really! Snow glare is not polarized. You may get little help blocking some haze near the horizon. Still, as discussed in the preceding chapters, there are some cases polarized lenses will work against you in a snowy environment.

Polarized lenses are competent in all sunglass’s frames.

Not always! Some sunglasses frames tilt towards your face. Example: tilt comparison between Ray-Ban New Wayfarer and Original Wayfarer. Tilted frames do not take full advantage of polarized lenses.

Who Should Wear Polarized Sunglasses?

Polarized sunglasses have been most popular with sailors and fishers because the glare of the sun’s reflections on the sea is highly polarized.

Recently many outdoor enthusiasts have discovered the benefits of polarized lenses as well. Besides boating, top outdoor activities to utilize polarized sunglasses are biking, driving, golfing, jogging, and various water sports.

Polarized sunglasses are a must choice for light-sensitive folks, especially for cataract surgery patients. Polarized lenses will protect people who work near the window or other flat surfaces, like the hood of the car that reflects intense light waves.

Downhill skiers don’t usually use polarized sunglasses because they block reflections from icy patches, which could lead to an accident. Although they are often mistakenly advertised for that purpose widely.

Polarized lenses usually reduce the visibility of images produced by LCD screens. That for pilots, boaters, or drivers who use liquid crystal displays don’t want to use them.

Are Polarized Sunglasses Worth Your Money?

Polarized sunglasses are an excellent choice for people who spend plenty of time outdoors, especially for people near water surfaces. From the chapters above, you have learned the cases when they are not the best option.

Wearing polarized shades is not just another fashion statement. Oh yes, polarized lenses allow you to express your personality, but most of all, they are health accessory!

Most people can’t go back to regular non-polarized sunglass’s lens after wearing polarized lenses. They’re worth the money! Just make sure you don’t wear them in certain situations, stated in previous chapters, that could get you in trouble.

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