Are polarised sunglasses worth it?

Looking around for new sunglasses, you've seen the option for polarised lenses.

But for the higher price tag, you're probably wondering if they really live up to the hype.

If so, this article explains how polarised lenses work, their benefits, their drawbacks and whether they're really worth your extra investment.

Let's dive in.

 

What are polarised sunglasses?

In addition to UV protection, polarised sunglasses contain an additional filter called a polariser which improves visual comfort by blocking reflected sunlight known as glare. Whilst they're no more UV protective, it's their glare reducing capability that takes the strain off your eyes for greater colour perception, visual clarity and sharpness.

If you spend long periods out in the sun, nearby or on water, polarised sunglasses are a superior option for diminishing harsh reflections. Over the course of several hours, they significantly alleviate squinting or straining to visually focus.

 

 

Illustration showing how polarised lenses block glare

How do polarised sunglasses work?

Polarised lenses use a thin filter called a polariser, either applied externally on each lens surface or sandwiched within two lens layers. Upon the polariser are microscopic rows of chemically aligned molecules, which are vertically orientated in relation to your sunglasses (top to bottom).

When visible sunlight reflects off any flat surface such as water, the light waves go from random orientations to becoming horizontally orientated, condensed and blindingly bright to look towards (glare).

Thanks to the vertically aligned molecules on polarised lenses, they only let vertically orientated light waves to pass through the lens whilst blocking horizontal ones. In effect, this completely reduces the glare put upon your eyes which results in smoother, sharper vision that reduces visual fatigue from straining to see.

 

 

Advantages of polarised sunglasses

In short bullet points, list the advantages of polarised sunglasses.

  • UV Protection: Combines UV protection (invisible light) with glare reduction (visible light) to safeguarding your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays.
  • Reduced Glare: Significantly diminishes glare from surfaces like water, making it easier to see in bright conditions.
  • Enhanced Visual Clarity: Improves visual comfort by providing a clearer view, eliminating the blurring effects of brightness.
  • Better Colour Perception: Offers better contrast and visual depth, making colours appear more vibrant and surroundings more defined.
  • Eye Comfort: Minimizes eye strain and discomfort by blocking intense reflected light, allowing for more comfortable vision over longer periods.
  • Safety: Improves safety in activities like driving or water sports by reducing reflective glare that can momentarily blind the wearer.

 

 

Disadvantages of polarised sunglasses

In short bullet points, list the disadvantages of polarised sunglasses.

  • Darkens LCD Screens: Can make it hard to read displays on car dashboards, smartphones, or ATMs due to the polarising filters.
  • Decreased contrast perception: May reduce the ability to see icy patches on the ground, posing a risk in snowy or icy conditions.
  • Potential Distortions: Some users might experience visual distortions or discomfort due to the polarisation in certain lighting conditions.
  • Higher Cost: Generally more expensive than non-polarised sunglasses due to the advanced technology involved in manufacturing.
  • Limited Use in Low Light Conditions: Not as effective in low light situations or during night time, as the polariser filter reduce visible light.
  • Not Recommended for Pilots or Skiers: Pilots and skiers may find it difficult to read instruments or see icy patches on the snow due to the polarisation.

 

Man adjusting the position of his round sunglasses frame with one hand

Are polarised sunglasses really better?

In the short term polarised sunglasses are a 'nice-to-have' upgrade that makes your vision sharper, more defined and glare free. On first impressions, they offer a noticeably better viewing experience that's tempting when compared to non-polarised lenses.

Over the long term, the benefits of polarised sunglasses are the most evident. After long or multiple durations of sun exposure, the compounding effects of visual fatigue are kept at bay. Multiple sunny days on a golf trip or a boating holiday would otherwise put tremendous strain on your eyes, resulting in tired eyes, irritability and even headaches.

Whilst non-polarised sunglasses are perfectly good for UV protection, it's the divergence of glare reduction that really sets polarised lenses apart.

A great analogy for this would be carrying a rucksack on a long hike. A few extra kilos doesn't feel heavy at first, but over time, the fatigue adds up with each stride you take. Polarised lenses are the equivalent of a much lighter rucksack, reducing the strain your eyes.

 

 

Best uses for polarised sunglasses

  • Driving to reduce glare from the road and other vehicles
  • Fishing or boating to see beneath the surface of the water
  • Golfing to improve visibility and contrast on the course
  • Outdoor photography to reduce reflections and enhance colours
  • Beach or poolside activities for better comfort and vision in bright conditions
  • Hiking or cycling to reduce strain from excessive sunlight and improve scenery visibility

             

            Side view of man wearing thick rimmed sunglasses frame and beige coloured suit on sunny day

            Do polarised sunglasses give UV protection?

            If polarised sunglasses (or any sunglasses) bear the CE mark, this means the lenses provide 99% ultraviolet protection up to 380 nanometres in compliance to the European standard EN 1836:2005.

            If sunglasses come with a temporary label or sticker stating UV400, this means the lenses provide 99% ultraviolet protection up to 400 nanometres, slightly higher than the minimum European standard.

            The primary function of any sunglasses is to protect your eyes from invisible UV light. Polarisation is a secondary and optional upgrade that filters visible light to block glare for better visual comfort.

             

             

            How much should I pay for polarised sunglasses?

            Based on market research, mass market polarised sunglasses cost nearly 25% more on average than non-polarised versions. Of course, the cost of polarised lenses depends on brand, vendor, lens material and other factors such as prescription or coatings. See the table below as a reference.

            Brand

            Model

            Non.Pol. £

            Pol. £

            Diff. %

            RayBan

            Wayfarer

            £99

            £114

            15%

            Oakley

            Frogskin

            £79

            £126

            60%

            Persol

            0649

            £155

            £185

            19%

            Oliver Peoples

            Fairmont

            £186

            £217

            17%

            Randolph

            Aviator

            £256

            £325

            27%

            Moscot

            Lemtosh

            $325

            $400

            23%

            Dita

            Flight .006

            £570

            £615

            8%

            Avg % diff.

            24%



             

             

            Side view of a man wearing thick round sunglasses outside on sunny day

            So, are polarised sunglasses worth it?

            In light of the benefits and considerations highlighted above, polarised sunglasses emerge as a worthy investment for anyone seeking enhanced visual clarity and visual comfort in bright environments.

            They're particularly beneficial for activities where glare from water or pavement is a concern, such as driving, fishing, skiing, and water sports. But despite the additional cost, they still offer the same UV protection as EU certified sunglasses (assuming they're CE marked).

            When deciding whether polarised sunglasses are worth your investment, consider your lifestyle, the amount of time you spend outdoors, and how sensitive you are to glare. Ultimately, investing in polarised sunglasses can lead to a significant improvement in visual comfort and eye health, making them a superior choice for many.

             

             

            Summary

            In short bullet points, summarise the key points of this blog post.

            • Any sunglasses must protect against 99% of invisible UV light.
            • Polarisation blocks glare from reflected visible light.
            • Polarised sunglasses must also be UV protective.
            • CE rated sunglasses block UV light up to 380nm.
            • UV400 rated sunglasses block UV light up to 4000nm.
            • Polarised sunglasses cost 25% more on average
            • Polarised sunglasses are ideal for driving, fishing, skiing, and water sports.

             

            Hopefully you found this article helpful. If so, please check out our other polarised sunglasses blog posts for more insights.

            Thanks for stopping by.

             

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