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How Do Polarized Sunglasses Work?

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A man is wearing polarized sunglasses while enjoying the views of mountains outdoor.

When the sun is out, it gives off light rays in many different directions. If you spend a lot of time outdoors and wear regular sunglasses, you’ll notice that light from the sun can make it hard to see. 

Too much exposure to UVA and UVB rays can also increase your risk of eye diseases and other eye problems. Protecting your vision can be possible with regular eye exams and wearing UV-protective eyewear. 

The lenses in polarized sunglasses work differently from regular ones by blocking out most horizontal light and letting through only vertical light. The result is clear vision without annoying glare or eye strain. 

How Do Polarized Lenses Work

Light usually reflects off an object and scatters before it enters your eyes. When light bounces off uneven objects, like a rock, it scatters at multiple angles. 

When light bounces off flat or highly reflective surfaces, such as metal, water, or snow, it doesn’t scatter as much, is much brighter, and reflects directly in the eyes. This is known as glare. 

Glare can distort the natural color of objects. It can also force your eyes to work harder,  leading to eye strain and fatigue. Without protection, the intensity of glare can make it harder to keep your eyes open. 

The lenses in polarized sunglasses are coated with a special chemical to filter light. The chemical molecules are lined up in such a way that they block glare, which is typically horizontal light, but it has vertical openings to let in vertical light. 

Polarized lenses come in various colors, from gray to green, brown, and yellow, depending on the material. A thicker polarized film on the lens offers more protection against glare. 

The filter in the lens can make images look slightly darker than they usually are. However, images can appear clearer and crisper with polarized lenses. 

A woman is wearing polarized sunglasses to block glare for safer driving conditions.

Benefits of Polarized Lenses

Polarized sunglasses are suitable and generally recommended for everyday wear all year round. They can be ideal for anyone who spends time outdoors, such as fishing, boating, golfing, summer or winter sports, and even driving. 

When driving, glare can pose a hazard and decrease your reaction time. Polarized sunglasses can block glare for safer driving conditions. They can also provide greater clarity when playing sports. 

Here are some other benefits of polarized lenses. They can:

  • improve visual comfort and clarity so you can remain more aware of your surroundings. 
  • sharpen the contrast between light and dark.
  • allow you to see colors more accurately than non-polarized sunglasses. 
  • help prevent eye strain, sore eyes, and eye fatigue.

Polarized sunglasses may not be for everyone. Some people may find them uncomfortable or they’re unsuitable for the work they do. Alternative options can include:

  • Anti-reflective coating for sunglasses.
  • Mirrored sunglasses decrease the amount of light that enters the eye.
  • Photochromic lenses darken when exposed to a certain amount of light. 

How to Check If Lenses Are Polarized

Many people confuse sunglasses with UV protection and polarized sunglasses; they are not the same. Some UV sunglasses are not polarized, meaning they’re not effective against reflected light and glare. 

In comparison, polarized sunglasses can have UV protection. So, how do you tell if lenses are polarized? Here are 3 ways:

  1. Try looking at a reflective surface, such as water, with sunglasses and without. If the lenses are polarized, they should reduce the glare from the water’s surface and allow you to see clearly in bright light. 
  1. When you place the lens of your sunglasses at a 90-degree angle over a polarized lens, it should let less light through and turn dark if the lens is polarized. 
  1. You can use a digital display to check if sunglasses are polarized. Polarization makes LCD (liquid crystal display) screens, such as laptops, tablets, or cell phones, hard to see compared to seeing them through regular tinted glasses. Because of this, these screens can look dark or even black. 

When Not to Use Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized lenses are great for reducing glare, but they might not be the best choice in some situations where they can do more harm than good:

  • When you need to look at the following screens—car dash controls, ATM machines, cell phones, and some watches.
  • When you need the extra glare or light to see in the following instances—ice on roads, icy patches when skiing, and driving at night.

Visual Clarity with Polarization

Polarized lenses can protect your eyes from harmful UV rays when labeled. They go one step further by reducing glare. For these reasons, polarized sunglasses can improve visual clarity in bright light and provide safety in sunny conditions. 

If you’re looking for protective eyewear, Total Vision has a broad range of prescription and non-prescription sunglasses for the whole family. Book an appointment today to view our options.

Written by Total Vision

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