Your Guide to Polarized Eyewear

Your Guide to Polarized Eyewear

You’ve heard the name. Your friends have told you that nothing is better. And you probably have some idea of what it is. But, still, there’s some questions looming in your mind about one of the hottest topics in the eyewear industry: polarized lenses.

Never has a topic been so . . . um, “polarizing” in the sunglass world. The arguments are plenty. “Polarized lenses are the best!” “You don’t need polarized lenses.” “Non-polarized lenses are bad for your eyes.” The list goes on. 

But we’re here to help set the record straight about this eyewear technology that’s been around since 1935, yet seems to continually elude pragmatic discussion.

Is polarized eyewear great? Yes. Can non-polarized eyewear be better in certain circumstances? Also, yes. 

We searched out some of the most common questions about this topic and here’s our take on polarized eyewear.  

What’s the Difference Between Polarized and Non-Polarized Eyewear?

Maybe you’ve heard that polarized lenses act as a set of blinds across a window do. That they filter sunlight through microscopic “slats” in the lenses. And, the fact is, this is a good analogy to describe polarized technology. However, unlike blinds, that are typically horizontally oriented, the tiny slats in polarized lenses are vertical. Non-polarized lenses do not have this type of structure like polarized glasses, but rather, rely on a thin coating to reflect sunlight and harmful UV radiation away from your eyes. More on how the vertical microscopic slats work below. But suffice it to say that therein lies the primary difference between polarized and non-polarized lenses.

How do Polarized Lenses Work?  

Light waves from most sources are random, or “unpolarized.” Think of these waves like a ping pong ball flying wildly through the air, catching wind from the sides and top or bottom, moving erratically in response. The ball is free to move along both the x- and y-axis, until it’s hit with a paddle and sent flying in a linear path. Similarly, when light strikes a horizontal, reflective surface, such as water, snow or a vehicle’s hood, it bounces off horizontally. Polarized lenses arrange the light entering the glasses in a vertical manner, while absorbing excess glare-causing horizontal rays. 

Who are Polarized Glasses Good for?

Do you spend much time around the water? Fishing, boating? Are you a lifeguard? Polarized lenses are likely perfect for your needs. They’ll cut down on that pesky glare that comes bouncing off the water, while improving clarity. Polarized lenses can be good for anyone who spends a lot of time behind the wheel. Sunlight bouncing off the hood of a vehicle is a common offender of glare-inducing ways. Professionals who spend a lot of time in bright-light, outdoor conditions should welcome the cooling impact of polarized lenses. Roofers, carpenters, concrete flat workers, road workers, lineworkers and more can really benefit from polarized safety glasses.      

Who Aren’t Polarized Glasses Good for?

Some people report sensitivity when wearing polarized lenses. They might even experience eye strain, dizziness or headaches. Some have reported that polarized lenses make them feel like they’re living in a 3-D movie. Others just may not like how the light entering the lenses can change with a change in the angle of the sunglass (remember, vertical slats). Still, there are some professionals and others that polarized lenses are simply not recommended for, such as pilots and heavy equipment operators, due to a diminished ability to see LCD instrument panels.

Are Polarized Sunglasses Better for Your Eyes? 

Some claim that polarized lenses are better for protecting your vision in bright environments. While that may be true in certain situations, it’s certainly not a rule. Protecting your vision in sunny situations comes down to wearing eyewear that blocks adequate levels of UVA, UVB and UVC rays. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, ultraviolet light damages every part of your eyes, and can ultimately lead to decreased vision. So, the question isn’t so much about whether polarized glasses are better for your eyes, but the level of UV protection offered by the sunglasses in question. Not all polarized lenses are created equal. Look for glasses that block 99.9% of UVA, UVB and UVC radiation for the best protection against the sun’s radiation. Having said that, polarized glasses can offer a level of protection from glare that their non-polarized counterparts can’t match in certain situations.  

What Situations are Polarized Lenses Best For? 

Polarized lenses have fought hard to earn a reputation as glare-blocking champs. And it’s a fitting moniker. Polarized lenses excel at blocking horizontal light, which is to blame for the common glare you may experience on the water and snow or working around concrete, metal and other reflective surfaces. Thus, polarized lenses excel in situations in which you may be exposed to light bouncing horizontally off reflective surfaces.

Are Polarized Sunglasses Worth It?

The question of whether polarized sunglasses or safety glasses are worth the extra expense they typically fetch is that of personal preference and your individual uses. If you spend a lot of time outside, especially around highly reflective surfaces, polarized lenses will likely be a welcome addition to your everyday carry. However, if you’re sensitive to the effects of polarized lenses or work around instruments that can be obstructed by using these lenses, a quality pair of tinted sunglasses that blocks 99.9% of UVA, UVB and UVC rays can fit your needs just as well. Plus, some non-polarized lenses are treated with special coatings that can cut down on glare in a similar way to polarization. These include G-15, mirrored and anti-reflective lenses.   

What are Polarized Safety Glasses?

Polarized safety glasses are a unique category of eyewear. As the name implies, these safety glasses are equipped with polarized lenses, yet conform to the impact-resistant and optical clarity requirements written by ANSI, CSA or MCEPS. Edge was the first company to create polarized lenses for safety glasses. And we continually innovate new eyewear technology and features to keep you safe and comfortable on the job or at home. Shop our collection of safety, outdoor or tactical eyewear. And make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.   

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