Adding your prescription to a high performance sun lens is a great route to a seriously good pair of sunglasses.
Tailored for your eyes only.
Your prescription gives the usual benefits of your spectacles; it’s a no brainer really.
But when you add polarisation to the equation, this is where your sunglasses become truly special… if you’re willing to go the extra mile.
This article answers the key questions on polarised prescription sunglasses and if they’re really worth your investment.
Can prescription sunglasses be polarised?
Of course, polarisation is a secondary benefit to any sun lens as the main priority is proper UV protection (UV400 or UV40.)
Polarised sunglasses are commonly misconceived to provide superior protection from the sun, but this simply isn’t true.
Please, if there’s anything you can take away from this article it is simply this…
Polarised lenses are good at reducing the effects of glare, but they still need to block-out UVA and UVB light. This is single-handedly the most important function of any sunglasses frame.
Very simply, UV light protection is what stops your eyes from being burnt by the damaging frequencies of the electromagnetic light spectrum.
Cheaply made or illegal sunglasses can unknowingly expose your eyes to the sun’s damaging rays, which can lead to significant or even permanent eye damage.
You’ve been warned.
It's worth checking your current or prospective sunglasses frame for their UV capabilities. Look for EU certification or a label stating UV400 or UV40. This means they’re legal and will legitimately protect your eyes from the sun.
Concluding this first section, your sunglasses don’t have to be polarised to give you proper eye protection. Regular, non-polarised lenses will do just fine.
However, polarised prescription sunglasses still provide you with proper UV protection but with the added bonus of glare reduction.
To learn how polarised lenses work, scroll to the section below.
How do polarised sunglasses work?
Polarised sunglasses use a filter to diminish reflected glare from flat shiny surfaces such as water, cars or buildings. This reduces eye strain, prolongs visual comfort and yields superior optical clarity.
In other words, polarised sunglasses filter sunlight based on the the angle it hits the lens. This means the only light that can pass through a polarised sun-lens is vertically aligned.
Sounds technical, but let me explain.
When sunlight reaches our atmosphere, it makes contact with the air, sea and land. Reflecting off shiny surfaces such as a car bonnet or water, the light’s orientation changes as it bounces off the horizontal plane.
This is known as glare.
Painfully bright to look at, you’ll have experienced glare at the beach when the sun is bouncing off the water in a piercingly focused direction.
This is exactly where prescription polarised sunglasses step to the fore.
As glare is horizontally orientated, it cannot pass through a polarised lens. This is because polarised lenses contain a specially designed layer called a polariser.
The polariser is a thin film hosting tiny rows of molecules which create a vertically orientated filer. These molecules are super small and super accurate, to the point where they can block light that isn’t vertically orientated.
You can say goodbye to all that glare because it’s not getting through your sunglasses anymore… if indeed they’re polarised.
Which sunglasses are better polarised or non polarised?
Polarised lenses are deemed superior as they can diminish reflected glare. However non polarised lenses still provide the same level of UV protection. Choosing the better option depends on your sunglasses usage.
Shall we compare?
Polarised lenses block most, if not all glare from flat shiny surfaces.
Your vision is generally smoother and more consistent than non-polarised lenses due this polarised filtration.
With less disruption from reflected sunlight, your eyes are put under less strain over long periods of visual focus. For performance tasks such as driving, hillwalking, fishing or skiing, polarised lenses alleviate eye fatigue from prolonged exposure.
Polarised lenses are 100% UV protective, therefore provide the same level of safety as any other sun lenses.
They generally cost more than non-polarised equivalents.
Non polarised lenses do not contain a polariser layer therefore glare will be more noticeable depending on your orientation to the sun.
For recreational purposes, regular non-polarised lenses are perfectly good for providing basic eye protection. However, varying intensities of glare puts more strain on your eyes giving you that tired 'frazzled' feeling after prolonged exposure.
Non polarised lenses are 100% UV protective therefore provide the same level of safety as any other sun lenses.
They generally cost less than polarised equivalents.
Arguably, polarised lenses are deemed as a superior type of sun lens, simply because they’re more consistent in various light conditions.
Which happens all the time when you're next to anything remotely shiny such as water, ice, snow, pavements, roads, cars… the list goes on.
Combined with your prescription, you can see why polarised lenses are a worthy upgrade. They’ll correct your vision, protect your eyes and reduce glare from the sun.
Do prescription sunglasses need to be polarised?
Prescription sunglasses don't have to be polarised. As long as they provide proper UV protection between 99-100%, polarisation is a secondary bonus which only helps minimise reflected glare.
Ordering polarised prescription lenses works exactly the same way as if you were ordering any other type of prescription lens.
Just like your spectacles, your prescription details are used to determine the strength of your lenses. This can be for single vision, reading, bifocals or varifocals.
At Banton Frameworks, all of our handmade sunglasses are available with prescription polarised lenses.
Are polarised lenses darker?
By blocking glare, polarised lenses reduce the amount of light passing through the lens. Depending on their tint darkness, polarisation can make them slightly darker than equivalent non-polarised lenses
Ready to go down another rabbit hole?
The darkness of sun lenses is separated into five lens categories. Ranging from category 0 to category 4, lenses are measured by their visual light transmission, otherwise known as VLT.
Lenses with 100% light transmission let 100% of sunlight through the lens. This wouldn’t be useful as a sun lens and would be within category 0.
At the other end of the spectrum, lenses with a VLT of 8% or less are extremely dark and generally used for high-exposure environments such as mountaineering. Lenses this dark are within category 4 and aren’t suitable for most daily situations, especially for driving.
To maximise your polarised prescription sunglasses investment, a category 2 or 3 lens will be the ideal tint without being either too light or too dark.
The darkness of your sun lenses is entirely up to you, but for your reference, this chart indicates each of the VLT categories.
80% - 100%
43% - 80%
18% - 43%
8% - 18%
3% – 8%
Day & night
For context, our non-prescription polarised sunglasses are fitted with category 3 sun lenses.
They have a VLT of 11% which makes them relatively dark, but suitable for daily general use and driving during the day.
Are polarised sunglasses worth it?
For the extra cost, polarised sunglasses are worth it if you regularly spend long periods outdoors, working, driving or playing sports in various light conditions. Compared to non polarised lenses, they'll minimise eye fatigue whilst providing superior optical clarity.
And that’s before you add your prescription.
Here’s a list of pros and cons to help you decide if polarised prescription lenses are right for you.
Advantages of polarised prescription sunglasses
- UVA and UVB light protection
- Drastically reduces glare
- Improved visual acuity
- Consistent in numerous light conditions
- Contains your prescription
- Legal to use whilst driving
- Reduces visual fatigue
Disadvantages of polarised prescription sunglasses
- Not suitable for certain occupations & sports
- Can distort or block LCD screens
- 28% more expensive (market average)
- Flattens white tones
Listed above, polarised lenses have a habit of affecting your ability to see liquid crystal displays (LCD’s.) Depending on the angle of how you look at digital devices, polarised lenses can actually make the screen go entirely black.
Explained earlier, this due to the way these lenses work to block horizontal light.
For prescription use, this side-effect might discourage you from a polarised lens, especially if you’re wanting to see your phone or iPad more easily out and about in the sun.
Other screens such as petrol/diesel pumps or bank ATM screens can also be hindered so it can become a bit of an issue for various life tasks.
Polarised sunglasses are an excellent choice if you spend long periods out in the sun where you require long-term visual focus.
You may have noticed polarised lenses’ popularity for sports and for driving. This is because they help to reduce visual fatigue over long periods of time.
What are the best prescription sunglasses?
The best prescription sunglasses provide 100% UV protection, cater for your lifestyle, usage and eye prescription. For added benefits, you can upgrade to scratch resistant coatings, rear-surface anti-glare, custom tints and of course polarisation.
Scratch resistant coatings prolong the life of your sun lenses and aids your visual clarity. This addition helps protect the lens from being damaged thus minimising distracting defects whilst looking through the lens.
Rear surface anti-glare is a premium option designed to prevent bounce back. This stops sunlight from reflecting backwards into your eye if it enters from the side/rear of your frame.
Custom tints allow you to choose the darkness of your lenses. If you're particularly sensitive to light or fancy a gradient tint, your prescription sun lenses can be made to your preferred colour and darkness.
Polarised lenses are generally available in grey, brown or green. For more information about tint colours, check out this handy guide.
Based on the evidence above, polarised lenses are arguably a worthy, secondary upgrade.
As a reminder, prescription sunglasses don’t necessarily have to be polarised but you’ve seen how they can improve the overall performance of your sunglasses.
Polarisation is a nice way to improve your vision, accompanied by your optical prescription. For many tasks, this upgrade can improve daily scenarios by protecting your eyes from UV light, reducing glare and ultimately, help you to see more clearly.
If you find these aspects to be important, you can see why polarised prescription lenses are worth the extra money.
Thanks for stopping by.