Tinted or Polarized Sunglass Lenses: Which Should I Choose?
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you own at least one or two pairs of glasses (or maybe more). They’re something you reach for every day and frankly, you may even feel like you can’t live without them. It’s safe to say that having prescription glasses for everyday use is essential in supporting your indoor activities and tasks like reading, writing or working in front of a computer. But, did you know it’s just as important (if not more important at times) to have prescription sunglasses that support you in your outdoor activities — like driving, golfing, running, biking, walking your dog, etc.?
It’s all about protection. And that’s where the right kind of prescription sunglasses come in.
We’re going to walk you through the steps and help you learn why sunglasses are important to your eye health, the two main types of sunglass lenses, and the pros and cons to various types.
We want you to be equipped with the knowledge for choosing sunglasses to step up your eyewear wardrobe for style, function, but most importantly — your eye health.
More than a Fashion Statement
Sunglasses aren’t just meant to be style pieces for your wardrobe — they play a vital and necessary role in protecting our eyes from the harmful rays of the sun. Every year, 3.2 million people go blind as a result of prolonged UV exposure. It’s not something to take lightly! Various forms of damage to the eye have been linked to sun exposure including the acceleration of cataracts, and macular degeneration. Unfortunately, research has found that about 1 in 3 people fully understand the dangers of UV exposure and the long-term effects it can have.
Your sunglasses should protect against UV rays, as well as HEV rays, also known as blue light. Blue light is known to cause damage to the retina as the rays can penetrate deeply into the eye. If you’re one that spends hours at a time in front of a screen (with blue light), you may be experiencing digital eye strain which can manifest itself through headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and more. Learn more about digital eye strain and how Brill Eye Center can help!
Sunglasses are encouraged to be worn by everyone, but they’re particularly important for children to wear. Research has shown that half of an individual’s lifetime exposure to harmful UV rays can occur by the age of 18. With that being said, it’s never too late to start taking the necessary precautions to prevent future setbacks brought on from too much sun exposure with your eyes. You protect your skin with sunscreen, so make sure to protect your eyes with sunglasses. They are just as vulnerable to sun damage.
Types of Prescription Sunglass Lenses
There are two main types of sunglass lenses to consider — tinted lenses and polarized lenses.
How Tinted Lenses Work
Tinted lenses are lenses with a pigmented dye in them. There are a variety of tint colors available, with the most common being brown or gray. The color doesn’t have an effect on how much protection you’re getting, but is more based on personal preference. Brown offers a warmer hue, giving more of a contrast type of lens, which can distort certain colors. Gray is more neutral and natural to look through, resulting in a more true appearance of color.
When considering the density of the tint however, it does affect the protection you’ll get from your sunglasses. Tinted lenses can be made lighter or darker according to an individual’s preference. Lighter densities will not offer as much protection as darker densities. For example, a lens tinted at a 75% gray will have more protection than the same gray lens tinted at a 25% density. A density of at least 75% is recommended for outdoor use and maximum sun protection.
Ideally, you’ll want sunglasses with 100 percent UV absorption for maximal protection. It’s always best to talk with your eye care specialist to ensure you’re getting the best possible option!
Benefits of tinted lenses:
- Help reduce glare when there is excess light
- Certain colored tints can provide sports players with competitive advantages
- Improve contrast and image resolution (brown lens)
- Help reduce and minimize eyestrain (amber lens)
- More precise and relaxed vision (green lens)
How Polarized Lenses Work
Polarized lenses have grown more popular over the years, especially among those who participate in specific outdoor activities like fishing, snow skiing, water sports and golfing — just to name a few. Side note: they do pose controversial views for these activities, but we’ll get into that later!
So, what is a polarized lens? It has special filters that reduce horizontal reflection of light commonly known as a “glare.” Similar to tinted lenses, there are two main colors used in polarized lenses, brown and gray. Again, just to keep in mind, the color you choose really has no bearing on the protection you get, it’s more of personal preference.
Here’s an example of an image without and with the use of polarized lenses. Maui Jim has a great selection of polarized lenses to choose from, and we offer a wide selection at Brill Eye Center!
Polarized lenses, as stated above, have a special filter that only allows vertical light through the lens, which ultimately works to reduce the horizontal reflection. A good analogy would be to compare them to a pair of venetian blinds. We’ve all seen how light passes through blinds when the slats are turned from their closed position. The blinds allow the vertical light to come through, but eliminates the horizontal light or glare. We can still see outside because we’re looking over the slats; which is similar to the polarized technology. The process in eliminating the reflective glare can help reduce eye strain and fatigue, while improving color saturation and increasing contrast.
A few benefits of polarized lenses:
- Minimize eye strain and fatigue
- Improve color saturation and contrast
- Reduces the effect of UV-A and UV-B rays by 100 percent
Comparing Tinted and Polarized Lens
- More variety with density and colors. Tinted lenses offer a wider variety of color availability and different density levels. There are myriads of colors one can have with a tinted lens and they can be different densities, e.g. 25%, 50%, 75 % solid or gradient. A solid tint is the same density throughout the lens, whereas a gradient is a different density on top versus the bottom. Remember, the higher the density of the tint the more protection you’ll get.
- Style. Building a good eyewear wardrobe is all about fashion and function, and tinted lenses offer just that. While they’re functional when it comes to comfort and protection, they’re also dynamic in style and can work to compliment whatever look you’re going for. Whether you want a more bold, colorful or neutral look — you can find tinted lenses that are most suitable for you and your unique style. Do you want magenta, purple or blue lenses? No problem. Get that celebrity look you want easily. Don’t be surprised if they become your next “everyday” pair!
- Cost. Tinted lenses are certainly less expensive than polarized lenses. A tint can range anywhere from $15-$30 in addition to your base lens costs for single vision, bifocal, or progressive lenses. It definitely won’t break the bank to up your protection (and style).
- No glare protection. Tinted lenses do not protect you from the glare/horizontal reflection. Regardless of what color or density you choose, they will only protect you from UV and HEV rays.
- Clarity of vision improves. These lenses enhance the clarity of vision and provide greater contrast for objects near the ground and in the water. Fishermen swear by polarized lenses as they can fish for hours without their eyes tiring due to the glare off the water. Fisherman also report being able to “see through the glare” of the water at the shoreline to spot fish easier.
- Enhanced comfort. Without the constant battle with the glare, your eyes can be in a more relaxed state and are able to see objects more easily in brighter conditions.
- Minimized eyestrain. Eliminating the need to adjust to the glare from different reflections reduces eye strain and discomfort. Less glare, less fatigue, more comfort.
- Colors. This may seem like a small victory, but it’s one worth mentioning. Polarized lenses do not distort colors, but convey them clearly and accurately. It’s a win, win!
- Cost. Polarized lenses are more expensive than tinted lenses, and often range from $100-$150 more per pair in addition to the base price of single vision, bifocal or progressive lenses.
- Versatility. Polarized lenses can serve a great purpose when it comes to meeting specific needs, but they’re not the best solution for everyone. They pose limitations with certain activities and should always be used with caution (see more below).
Advantages and Disadvantages of Polarized Lenses
The advantages of polarized lenses far outweigh the disadvantages, but both are important to consider. Those who tend to find the greatest advantages using polarized lenses are people who spend considerable amounts of time driving or enjoy the great outdoors. You know that feeling of driving to work and the sun is beaming in your face? Nothing will remove that bright light better than a pair of polarized lenses. Your sun visor might help, but polarization is the best tool.
These lenses are also great for those who work around or on the water, such as fisherman or boaters. Since the lenses reduce the harsh glare, fishermen are able to see deeper into the water for fish or any other potential barrier that could be a hindrance. Talk to any die-hard fisherman, and it’s likely you’ll hear them talk about these lenses being lifesavers (literally) at one time or another.
Polarized lenses are also a recommended solution when it comes to driving and taking long trips, especially on those hot summer days. As you drive, they help prevent your eyes from becoming fatigued and uncomfortable by reducing the glare from the horizontal rays of light that reflect off the road. You can worry less about your vision, and more about getting where you need to go.
At Brill Eye Center, we believe in the positive aspects and benefits of polarized lenses and offer a variety of different brands to choose from. We have Costa Del Mar which are more fishing-specific eyewear, Bolle for sports such as cycling, Serengeti for the avid drivers clocking in miles on the road, Maui Jim for the beach or casual outings, Oakley for baseball and other sports, and Adidas which is a great option for the everyday athlete.
How do you know if polarized lenses are right for you? The best step is to consult with an eye care specialist to help determine if polarized lenses are suitable for you and your day-to-day activities. If you’re ready to take that next step, schedule an appointment at Brill Eye Center today!
As useful as polarized lenses can be for some individuals, there are a few setbacks as well. Unlike tinted glasses, polarized lenses are not designed and suitable to be “everyday” sunglasses for everyone. Depending on the use, they can even pose a few risks.
Take pilots for example. They’ve been advised by the FAA to refrain from using them because of a few risk factors including:
- Reduced visibility through windshields from “visual noise” (the rainbow effect)
- Impaired ability to see reflections of aircrafts in high traffic situations (take-off and landing)
- Reduce visibility of LCD panels
Most LCD screens emit polarized light, making the polarized lenses ineffective. Also, a lot of instruments already have anti-glare filters on them making them impossible to read.
Golf is another questionable (and controversial) activity for using polarized lenses. Golfers who choose not to wear polarized lenses tend to attribute their reasoning to the lens eliminating reflected light off of the greens that are valuable in reading the undulations and contours of the course. Some golfers even claim that polarized lenses affect their depth perception.
It should be noted this seems to be more on an individual basis however, as research has shown the opposite to be true due to the enhanced contrast polarized lenses provide. If you’re looking for golf-specific sunglasses, we offer Oakley Prism at Brill Eye Center. Learn about how Oakley Prisms can benefit you and your golf game.
Skiers also have a tendency not to wear polarized lenses for much of the same reasons as golfers. Undulations in the skiing surface are undetectable when wearing polarized lenses. If you golf or ski competitively, it’s certainly something to be aware of before hitting the greens or slopes with your new polarized lenses.
Contact Brill Eye Center
Whether you choose polarized or tinted sunglasses, their importance to eye health cannot be overstated. Remember, whatever lenses you choose, make sure they block 100% of UVA and UVB rays as recommended. Also, make sure you choose a lens and frame style best suited for your needs. We’ve all wanted to buy the pair of sunglasses our favorite celebrity, professional athlete, blogger or influencer wears — however, what’s suitable for them may not be most suitable for you.
If you’re looking for some guidance on adding a pair of prescription (or non-prescription) sunglasses to your eyeglasses wardrobe and you’re not sure where to start, talk to our team at Brill Eye Center. We can help narrow down your search and get you equipped with the right pair of sunglasses tailored to fit and meet your individual needs.
Give us a call at 913.432.7676 to schedule an eyewear consultation today!