Mirrored vs Polarized Sunglasses: Which is better?

If you're looking for high-quality sunglasses to protect your eyes and look great, then you've probably seen the options for mirrored and polarized lenses. 

Because they each have glare-blocking properties, these two lens options are often compared (and confused) but there are some crucial differences you should consider.

For your comfort, well-being, and long-term optical health, picking the right sunglasses is important. This guide compares the pros, cons, and features of mirrored vs polarized sunglasses to help you decide which lens types fits best with your lifestyle.

Let's dive in.

 

Upward view of man wearing round glacier sunglasses frame with side shields and orange jacket in mountains on a bright sunny day

What are mirrored sunglasses?

Mirrored sunglasses use a thin, reflective layer of metal which is applied externally to the front surface of the lenses. This visibly metallic coating provides 99-100% protection against invisible UV light. It also creates a mirror effect (hence the name) which reduces harsh reflections of visible light from water, snow or ice.

By reducing glare, mirrored sunglasses alleviate the strain put upon your eyes over long durations of sun exposure. This makes them especially popular for alpine, road or water sports such as skiing, hiking, cycling, driving, fishing and boating.

Characterised by their vibrant and flashy aesthetic, mirrored sunglasses are distinctively reflective and completely conceal your eyes.

 

 

Close view of man adjusting his shirt collar wearing thick blue frame sunglasses

What are polarized sunglasses?

Polarized sunglasses use a thin filter called a polarizer, either applied externally on each lens surface or sandwiched within two lens-layers. This undetectable film contains vertically aligned rows of molecules which block horizontally orientated visible light known as glare.

By blocking nearly all glare, polarized sunglasses drastically reduce the effects of visual fatigue during long periods of visual focus when faced with harsh reflections. This makes them incredibly useful for driving and for water sports as they help you detect finder details more easily without having to squint or strain.

The filter within polarized sunglasses lenses doesn't provide UV protection, therefore this is added as a coating along with a darkening tint to reduce visible light.

 

 

What are the pros and cons of mirrored sunglasses?

Advantages of mirrored sunglasses

UV protection - CE marked mirrored sunglasses block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays.

Glare reduction - the reflective mirror coating helps reduce glare from wet roads and other reflective surfaces.

Conceal your eyes - The metallic layer on mirrored sunglasses means people can't see your eyes which can look fashionable, sporty and enigmatic.

Endless tint options - Mirrored lenses come in a wide variety of metallic lens colors, ranging from neutral silver, gold, green, red, blue... this list goes on.

 

Disadvantages of mirrored sunglasses

Easily Scratched - the reflective mirror coating is easily scratched or marked. This can impact the efficacy of the protection and the mirrored aesthetic appeal.

More regular cleaning - mirrored lenses show dirt and marks more easily so you need to clean them regularly to keep them looking their best.

More costly - mirrored sunglasses are more intricate to manufacture therefore are more expensive than regular non-mirrored sun lenses.

Visible mirror coating - the obvious mirror coating can be very garish and stylised. Although some styles are more subtle than others, they're evidently mirrored.

 

 

What are the pros and cons of polarized sunglasses?

Advantages of polarized sunglasses

UV Protection - CE marked polarized sunglasses block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays.

Glare blocking - The filter within polarized lenses blocks nearly all glare for smoother, sharper visual performance that puts less strain on your eyes.

Long-term benefits - After long or multiple days of sun exposure, polarized lenses drastically alleviate the onset of visual fatigue and even ocular headaches.

Visual Clarity - Polarized sunglasses boost color and contrast perception, which is helpful for precision and safety. They're perfect for fishermen and boaters, providing clearer views over and into the water.

Aesthetic Subtlety - Polarized lenses look identical to non-polarized lenses with a much more traditional, subtle aesthetic. The most common polarized lens colors are gray, brown, and green.

 

Disadvantages of polarized sunglasses

Higher cost - On average, polarized sunglasses cost 25% more than non-polarized versions. This is due to the more intricate lens manufacturing process.

Darken LCD screens - The LCD displays found on smartphones, computers, and GPS devices is often darkened or distorted through polarized lenses. It can be hard to read these screens through polarized lenses, which is a frequent drawback for wearers.

Reduced visibility in low light - It's not advisable to wear polarized sunglasses in low light- especially when driving or operating any vehicle. Although they improve visual clarity in daylight, they can significantly reduce visibility at dawn or dusk.

Limited lens tint options - Most polarized sun lenses are gray, brown, or green. If you prefer brighter, bolder lens colors then you have far more options with non-polarized or mirrored sunglasses.

May cause nausea - The way these glasses filter light and reduce glare can also alter the perception of distance and depth. It can cause disorientation, dizziness, nausea, and headaches in some wearers.

 

 

Round metal sunglasses with blue mirrored lenses lying on tree branch outside on sunny day

Comparing Mirrored vs Polarized Sunglasses

#1 UV Protection

Both mirrored or polarized sunglasses which bear the CE marking offer 99-100% UV protection up to 380nm (nanometres). Therefore, both are equally UV protective and safe for your eyes against UVA and UVB light.

 

#2 Eye visibility

Mirrored sunglasses hide your eyes completely.

Polarised sunglasses don't.

 

#3 Detectability

Mirrored sunglasses have a visible metallic coating.

Polarised sunglasses use undetectable filters.

 

#4 Aesthetics

Mirrored sunglasses lenses are garish, bold and look very modern due to their range of bright tint colors.

Polarised lenses are much more subtle, classic looking with limited tints color options.

 

#5 Lens colors

Mirrored sunglasses lenses come in a wide variety of tint colors which each have benefitial properties for certain light conditions.

Polarized sunglasses are much more limited, often being only available in gray, brown or green.

 

#6 Glare filtration

Mirrored sunglasses reduce glare, but don't block it entirely.

Polarized sunglasses block nearly all glare due to their polariser filters.

 

#7 Eye strain

Mirrored sunglasses alleviate eye strain by reflecting glare away from your eyes.

Polarised sunglasses also alleviate eye strain by blocking glare from passing through the lenses.

 

#8 LCD side effects

Mirrored sunglasses don't interfere with LCD screens. Polarised sunglasses do.

 

#9 Durability

Mirrored sunglasses lenses are more prone to scratches than polarized sunglasses lenses, which is highlighted by the reflective metallic coating.

 

#10 Price

Neither of these sunglasses can be considered the cheapest option. Non-polarized sunglasses are significantly cheaper than those with polarized lenses. Mirrored sunglasses are often even more expensive because of the additional reflective coating. 

 

 

Young man in mountains on sunny day wearing blue mirrored sunglasses frame

Choosing between mirrored vs polarized sunglasses

Mirrored sunglasses reflect glare away from your eyes due to their externally applied, metallic coating. This alleviates eye strain in very bright environments where glare can heavily strain your eyes. They're absolutely ideal for driving or high exposure sports such as fishing, boating or skiing.

Aesthetically, mirrored sunglasses are very bold and not particularly subtle if you prefer a more classic aesthetic. The coating is particularly bad for exposing dirt or scratches which means you need to keep them clean and well-cared for to maintain their performance and mirror aesthetic.

If you play sports or spend long durations in bright sunlight, mirrored sunglasses are a great option for reducing glare in addition to full UV protection. They can look stylish if you like bright colours and don't darken LCD screens.

 

Polarized sunglasses block glare from interfering with your eyes due to their externally applied (or in-built) polarizer filters. This drastically alleviates eye strain when faced with harsh reflections from wet roads, water or snow making them ideal for driving or water sports.

Aesthetically, polarized sunglasses are very subtle, showing no identifiable difference to regular, non-polarized sun lenses. Polarized tint color options are generally more restricted, however they have a much more understated look compared to mirrored lenses.

For maximum glare reduction, polarized sunglasses are the better option for preventing eye strain whilst giving full UV protection. They harmonise with traditional, non-sporting sunglasses frames as they look just like regular sun lenses. They're much less 'shouty' than mirrored lenses which can be more aesthetically appealing.

 

 

Man leaning against wall wearing sunglasses and green shirt

FAQs

Are polarized lenses better than mirrored?

Whilst both lenses reduce glare, polarized lenses block nearly all glare from passing through the lenses. Aesthetically, polarized lenses are much more subtle compared to reflective mirrored coated lenses. If you're looking for high performing, classic looking sunglasses, polarized lenses are nearly better in every aspect, except for their darkening effect on LCD screens.

 

Is polarized or mirrored better for driving?

Over lengthy car journeys, polarized lenses would marginally outperform mirrored lenses as they block nearly all glare from wet roads or other cars. However, mirrored still help to reduce glare by reflecting it away from your eyes. Either lens option are great for driving as they both alleviate visual fatigue, improving color perception and offer sharper visual acuity.

 

What is the point of mirrored sunglasses?

The metallic coating on mirrored sunglasses is used to reflect glare away from your eyes. Nearby water or snow, this drastically reduces the strain put upon your eyes by preventing the need to squint or strain to see properly. Over lengthy durations of sun exposure, this glare reduction can keep your vision sharp whilst avoiding visual fatigue and even headaches.

 

Are mirrored sunglasses better for your eyes?

Any sunglasses which are CE marked or UV400 rated are perfectly good for UV protection which is the primary function of any sunglasses frame. Mirrored lenses are optional and have the secondary benefit of reflecting glare away from your eyes due the metallic coating which is applied externally to the front surface of the lenses.

Mirrored lenses aren't better for UV protection, but they can help to improve your visual comfort by reducing glare from wet roads, the sea, lakes or snow-covered terrain.

 

Can sunglasses be both mirrored and polarized?

Yes, sunglasses can have an externally applied mirror coating with an in-built polarizer within two lens layers. The mirror coating helps to reflect initial glare away from your eyes, whilst the polarized filter blocks any remaining glare from passing through. Together, they work in unison to both reflect and block glare whilst offering UV protection and a mirror finish aesthetic.

 

Do polarized glasses have to be mirrored?

No, polarized lenses don't have to be mirrored. Typically, most sunglasses will be either be polarized or mirrored. It's less common for sunglasses to be both.

 

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

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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