The 6 Disadvantages of Polarized Sunglasses

Despite everything you've read online, polarized sunglasses have their unique set of drawbacks.

Yes, they block UV light. And yes, they help to drastically reduce reflected glare from wet roads or water, which is great for water sports or driving.

But there's various cons to these more costly sun lenses.

To help, I've provided a list of the disadvantages of polarized sunglasses based on performance, cost, and more.

Let's dive in.

 

Bearded man wearing white T shirt and tortoise sunglasses frame on bright sunny day

What are the downsides of polarized sunglasses?

Polarized lenses can be incredibly beneficial, helping to filter-out reflected sunlight and prevent glare from affecting your eyes. They also protect eye health and promote better vision. However, there are a number of reasons why these glasses may not be the right choice. Some of the disadvantages of polarized lenses can be:

#1 Higher cost

Affordability is an essential factor to consider when looking for the right sunglasses and unsurprisingly, non-polarized lenses are more accessible in terms of price than polarized ones. In fact, polarized sunglasses are estimated to be 25% more expensive on average.

Polarized sunglasses offer the benefit of blocking glare which can make the extra spend worthwhile. However, if polarized lenses just aren't in your budget, regular UV400 lenses are perfectly suitable for UV protection and general visual comfort.

 

#2 Darken LCD screens

The truth is that we live in a digital world, and most devices, such as smartphones, computers, GPS systems, and more, rely on LCD screens. When trying to view these displays through a polarized lens, you might have trouble seeing what's on the screen.

This is due to the polariser layer within each of the lenses which is designed to filter light and prevent glare. In turn, this may cause digital displays to appear distorted or dim. While this might not seem like a major issue, if you're wearing polarized sunglasses while driving and need to check the status of your vehicle or GPS location, you might miss important information.

That being said, polarized sunglasses are still a fantastic option for driving, especially for lengthy journeys on bright sunny days. Reduced glare over long durations alleviates visual fatigue for less strenuous focus.

 

 

#3 Reduced visibility in low light conditions

Because polarized sunglasses block horizontally orientated sunlight (glare) they're subsequently darker than non-polarized lenses. In low light conditions, when there isn't much visible light available, such as at sunrise or sunset, you might find it hard to see properly.

Driving, walking or running in such conditions whilst donning polarized sunglasses can be dangerous, as it reduces visibility.

 

#4 Not ideal for certain activities

For certain activities such as snowboarding, skiing, or motorbiking, your ability to detect variations in oncoming terrain is crucial for safety. In particular, contrasting shiny patches of water or ice can become less visible as their strong reflections are diminished through polarized lenses.

Through non-polarized lenses, hazardous patches of ice or water are more easily spotted before it's too late. On a motorbike or skis, non-polarized lenses might be a better option if safety is a high concern for you. 

 

 

#5 Limited Lens Tint Options

If you prefer a particular non-standard lens colour, then you may have to go for non-polarized sunglasses, as they offer more colour options. Polarized lenses made from CR39 material are often limited to colours such as grey, brown, or green, allowing less room for personalization.

 

#6 Polarized Sunglasses Can Cause Nausea

Polarized sunglasses work by filtering horizontally orientated and condensed sunlight. In doing so, they reduce glare produced by reflective surfaces. However, they also alter the perception of distance and depth, which can cause some people to become disorientated, dizzy, and even nauseous. Moreover, since they filter horizontal light, these lenses can also give the wearer headaches.

It's worth noting that this side effect is relatively uncommon. Most people who wear polarized lenses typically have a better visual experience, free from glare, not having to strain to visually focus on what they're doing.

 

Side view of bearded man wearing tortoise shell sunglasses touching his head in bright sunlight

Why would someone not want polarized sunglasses?

While many find polarized sunglasses beneficial, for others, the cons outweigh the pros. To help you determine if these are the lenses for you, I've listed some scenarios where these sunglasses may not be the best option.

You should avoid wearing polarized lenses if you:

  • Rely on an LCD screen while driving. When operating a motor vehicle, you should be able to access important information with the help of a GPS or car display.
  • Frequently engage in skiing or snowboarding activities. Having good depth perception is important for these sports, which can be altered by polarized sunglasses.
  • Ride a motorbike. Motorcyclists are much more susceptible to road conditions. They need to be able to detect minor details, which may not be possible with polarized lenses.
  • Enjoy outdoor photography. Most cameras use LCD screens, which photographers may not be able to see well while wearing these glasses.

 

Bearded man leaning against sandstone wall with sunglasses on top of his head on bright sunny day

FAQs

When should you not wear polarized sunglasses?

You should not wear polarized sunglasses in low light conditions, as they make it harder to see. Furthermore, polarized lenses darken LCD screens which may be inhibitive for driving whilst trying to read important displays. For the same reasons, polarized sunglasses may not be suitable for certain occupations such as for pilots, train drivers or if you operate heavy machinery.

 

Is it OK to wear polarized sunglasses all the time?

Yes, it's perfectly OK to wear polarized sunglasses all the time. In fact, you'll experience the benefits of these lenses over multiple days or weeks of strong sun exposure as they reduce the accumulative effects of eye strain. Over abnormally lengthy periods in the sun, such as golfing or beach holidays, the divergence of performance between polarized sunglasses over non-polarized sunglasses is notable.

 

 

Do I really need polarized sunglasses?

No one needs polarized sunglasses. But if you spend long durations outdoors or driving, then polarized lenses have the secondary benefit of glare reduction. This can be a nice upgrade in addition to UV400 protection (the primary purpose of any sunglasses).

 

Are polarized glasses good for sensitive eyes?

Yes - because they filter light, polarized sunglasses can be helpful if you suffer with light sensitivity (photophobia). If you're particularly prone to the discomfort and strain associated with glare, polarized sunglasses can be a great option for you to alleviate any symptoms. Everyone is different, though, so it is advisable to consult your eyecare professional to ask what's best for you.

 

 

How can you tell if sunglasses are polarized?

You can tell if sunglasses are polarized by holding them horizontally in front of a digital screen at arm's length. Looking through the lenses, slowly rotate the frame so it's at 90 degrees (sideways). If the lenses darken the screen, then the lenses are indeed polarized.

For a more detailed guide on how to do this, check out this article.

 

Why do polarized glasses make things look weird?

Because polarized glasses filter light waves, they can occasionally make certain objects and devices appear strange. They could distort or darken the look of LCD screens, car windshields, and more. Furthermore, if misaligned, they might produce uneven polarization, which can sometimes change how objects appear.

 

 

Conclusion

Polarized sunglasses can be incredibly beneficial. They filter light, reduce glare, prevent eye strain, and promote good eye health. However, they can be disadvantageous for a number of reasons. This includes the following:

  • They're on average 25% more expensive.
  • You might not be able to see LCD screens well while looking at them.
  • Polarized glasses reduce visibility in low-light conditions.
  • They cannot be used when for certain activities.
  • Lens colour options are more limited.
  • May cause disorientation, nausea or headaches.

 

I hope that this article gives you a good understanding of what to expect when investing in polarized sunglasses. If you'd like to know more, please check out our other polarized sunglasses blogs for more useful advice.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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