When choosing your next pair of sunglasses, you’ll notice the market-division between polarised and non-polarised lenses.
Oh, and you’ll definitely notice the price gap.
But what are the benefits of polarised sunglasses and are they worth the extra money?
Whilst protecting your eyes from UVA and UVB light, polarised sunglasses also contain a lens-layer called a polariser. This layer blocks nearly all reflected glare from shiny horizontal surfaces such water, snow or ice.
For the extra functionality, they can cost an average of 1/3 more than non-polarised sunglasses, but is arguably worth it for improved visual clarity, free from glare.
Sounds good right? But it’d be good to go into some more detail to help you decide if they really deserve your investment.
So, in this article, we’ve explored the following comparisons between polarised and non-polarised sunglasses frames.
This way, you can decide... are polarised sunglasses worth it?
Are Polarised lenses worth the money?
Clearly, you’ve seen price tags.
Polarised sunglasses are generally more expensive than non-polarised versions.
Notably, not every brand offers polarised sunglasses and not every brand offers both lens-options.
To make things easy for you, we’ve checked-out some popular sunglasses brands who do offer both options to see the price differences between their non-polarised and polarised alternatives.
*April 2019 prices in GBP and USD.
£107 / $140
£147 / $192
£40 / $52
£135 / $177
£135 / $177
£0 / $0
£139 / $181
£184 / $240
£45 / $51
£159 / $208
£202 / $264
£43 / £56
£228 / $298
£345 / $451
£117 / $153
£260 / $340
£298 / $390
£38 / $50
£265 / $347
£340 / $445
£75 / $98
£184 / $241
£235 / $307
£59 / $78
Based on the data above, the price difference between polarised and non-polarised sunglasses is a market average of £59/$78. That’s 28% more if you want polarised lenses in the same or equivalent sunglasses model.
Subsequently, polarised sunglasses are worth the extra money if you want to block nearly all reflected glare through your lenses.
However, now's a good time to mention that our sunglasses are fitted with polarised sunglasses as standard for no extra cost.
Armed with that comparison, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about for that extra cost.
Why are polarised sunglasses better?
In the section below, we've made you a basic comparison of polarised vs non polarised sunglasses.
What are the benefits of wearing polarised sunglasses?
Having investigated the other sunglasses brands, that extra 28% of cost needs some justification, right?
To make things super-easy, here's a quick summary of the pros and cons of polarised sunglasses.
- Doesn't reduce glare
- Shows you good visible contrast
- Available in colour tints; green, blue, brown & grey.
- Varying performance in varying lights
- Your vision can be affected by reflections
- Costs less than polarised lenses
- Must be UV400 protective
- Reduces glare
- Shows you mild visible contrast
- Available in colour tints; green, blue, brown & grey.
- Consistent performance in varying light
- Reduces visual fatigue over long periods of focus
- Restricts light by approx 40%
- Average 28% more expensive than regular sun lenses
- Must be UV400 protective
You can see there’s a lot of similarities between these two lens types, but let’s rewind back to the original question; are polarised sunglasses worth it?
If you want to improve your vision through your sunglasses, polarised lenses give you a far more consistent experience. This is because they filter-out glare directly from the sun above or condensed glare from flat shiny surfaces.
And because glare is everywhere around you, even from roads, cars or surrounding buildings etc, polarised lenses have a distinct advantage over non-polarised versions.
Definitely something to consider when buying your next pair of sunglasses.
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Why is polarised better?
Ok, here comes the science...
You’ve learned that polarised lenses can block-out glare, which is the main reason for their slightly higher cost. But how exactly does this filtration work?
Always remember that polarised sunglasses are still UV protective, but their secondary benefit filters horizontally orientated light, commonly known as glare.
You’ll have experienced this on a bright sunny day walking near large areas of naturally occurring reflective surfaces.
Lakes, shiny walkways or those frosty winter mornings where the sun is practically blinding you as you try and navigate your journey with your eyes half closed.
Glare happens when overhead sunlight reflects off these shiny surfaces, becoming reoriented and condensed into horizontally aligned light.
This is exactly why polarised sunglasses can pay off because they filter-out this annoying and potentially hazardous glare from passing through your lenses.
Non polarised don’t have this function because they don’t contain a polariser-layer.
Most horizontally orientated light cannot pass through a polarised lens which provides you smooth and consistent vision, devoid of any high or low areas of contrast. This consistent filtration in varying conditions is why polarised sunglasses are more expensive and widely considered as a better type of sun-lens.
This is why polarised lenses are arguably a better investment than regular tinted sun lenses. For the extra 28% of cost, they get rid of glare to give you a consistent viewing experience in various light conditions.
"If you want that extra edge, polarised sunglasses are arguably worth it if you spend long periods out in the sun.
Everyday tasks such as driving require you to focus for long periods of time.
The reduction of glare is going to help to reduce visual fatigue, diminishing reflections and distractions."
Lucy Ross, co-counder.
But don’t panic.
You haven’t been risking your eyes all this time just because your other sunglasses aren’t polarised.
In fact, polarised lenses have nothing to do with eye-protection at all. This secondary addition is simply a way of improving your visual experience by reducing reflected sun glare.
Regardless if your sunglasses are polarised or not, your main concern is that they should be 99-100% protective to ultraviolet light.
Behind a darkened sun-lens, you pupils naturally dilate to let in more light to help you see. Without full UV protection, your eyes are now even more susceptible from permanent damage from the sun.
Yep, you’d actually better not wearing anything than a pair of sunglasses without sufficient UV protection. Which is precisely why you need the certainty of a UVA and UVB protective lens.
Looking for some new sunglasses, be sure to check for a label or certification that states that the lenses are rated as UV40 / UV400. This means they are 99-100% protective from UVA and UVB sunlight.
Oh, and one more thing.
Darker lenses doesn’t mean more protection. It’s a commonly misplaced idea, but in reality, lens darkness (VLT%) has nothing to do with UV protection.
You’ll be glad to know all of our British made sunglasses are fitted with UVA, UVB protective polarised lenses as standard.
Disadvantages of polarised sunglasses
By now, you might think that polarised lenses can do no wrong.
But compared to non-polarised lenses, their characteristics can pose certain disadvantages due to the way that they work.
Digital screens go black
For example, certain occupations such as piloting strongly prohibit the use of polarised sunglasses when operating aircraft.
This is becuase polarised lenses can almost completely block the angle of light that’s emitted from LCD screens.
Phones, TV’s, monitors and aircraft-dials can become completley blackened when looking through a polarised sun lens.
Do sunglasses lose polarisation?
As you’ve learned, polarised sunglasses block horizontally reflected light to reduce glare.
But, not all reflected light is horizontal. In fact, light waves can travel at millions of different angles as they become scattered or reflected from the earth’s atmosphere, land or water.
Certain orientations of reflected light can still penetrate the vertically aligned molecules within a polarised sunglasses lenes. They don’t lose their polarisation; they just simply cannot block every angle of light which may include marginal glare.
However, compared to regular lenses, polarised lenses will still diminish most glare to give you far more consistent visual clarity.
Reduced visual contrast
You might not consider this to be a disadvantage but another side effect of polarised lenses is how they can reduce visible contrast.
As sunlight is absorbed by rough surfaces and reflected by shiny ones, this makes it difficult to detect slippery surfaces such as oil spills or patches of ice.
For obvious reasons, motorcyclists require as much visual connection with the road as possible. Similarly, skiers and snowboarders need to see oncoming undulations and changes in oncoming terrain.
Reduced contrast can be a hindrance or even hazardous if you require immediate detection of surface changeability.
However, if you’re not into such high speed, high pressure activities such as flying or riding a motorbike, this reduction of contrast is predominantly beneficial.
In fact, this is the whole point of polarised sunglasses as they give a far more consistent view, free from extreme high and low points of contrast.
Silky smooth sight, free from glare.
Reasons to wear polarised sunglasses
For the extra money, deciding on polarised sunglasses will largely depend on your budget, lifestyle and frequency of wearing them.
Near the pool or out on the beach, polarised lenses can let you focus on reading your new novel, keep an eye on your family members or to read that café menu… the list goes on.
Putting this into context, research by travel agency sunshineholiday.co.uk suggests that the average UK adult spends up to 70 hours in direct sunlight over the duration of a 10 day holiday.
That’s a decent whack of UV right there if you partake in the odd summer holiday here or there.
At the other end of the year, low-level winter sun and reflected glare from ground-frost can make commuting significantly more strenuous. As the sun is lower in the sky, harshly condensed sunlight is much more likely which gives you another reason to wear a pair of polarised sunglasses.
Driving for long periods of time, you’re eyes go through a serious amount of work.
Apparently, according to the Telegraph, the average Briton spends three years of their life behind the wheel.
Long term exposure to bonnet and road-glare can lead to visual fatigue as you strain to focus on the road. By wearing sunglasses with polarised lenses, you can minimise the amount of strain that's placed on your eyes when you're behind the wheel.
Upgrading to polarised lenses can prolong your visual focus and can make your driving experience that bit more comfortable on those sunny journeys.
For more information, you can check out my other article about the best polarised sunglasses for driving.
Conclusion: are polarised sunglasses worth it?
For the extra money, your budget, lifestyle and frequency of wearing sunglasses will largely determine your decision.
In summer, if you spend a lot of time near or around water, you’ll certainly benefit from a pair of good quality polarised sunglasses. In winter, low-level sun can bounce off ground frost or wet roads meaning more of that annoyingly bright glare.
If you’d prefer to have a reliably consistent view through your sunglasses, all year round, polarised sunglasses are a good way to go.
To summarise, here’s the facts.
- Cost an average 28% more
- Block most horizontally orientated light (glare)
- Give consistent performance in various light conditions
- Reduces light by approximately 40%
- Must be 99-100% UV protective