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Polarized sunglasses vs tinted sunglasses

One of the most frequent questions we get asked is why should I buy polarized sunglasses vs regular tinted sunglasses?  

Tinted lenses can block 100% of UV-A and UV-B light as well as shield from some of the sun’s brightness, but they do not help block out glare.  Basic tinted sunglasses can cause some of your surroundings to be a bit fuzzy because all they are doing is “dimming out” your entire vision by utilizing a basic film or dark dye mixed with the lens material.

Polarized lenses block glare from reflecting off surfaces which is why we recommend them to the majority of our patients.  

When sunlight strikes flat surfaces, the light that is reflected by the surfaces becomes polarized causing the light reflected beams to travel in a more uniform (usually horizontal) direction.  This results in an increased intensity of light that creates the annoying glare and reduces visibility.  Polarized lenses combat the glare by scattering the light before it reaches your eye; they do so by using vertical polarization and a special filter.  Additionally, polarized lenses help increase contrast sensitivity which makes things clearer by filtering out certain wavelengths.  This is the reason why you can “see through the water” with polarized lenses.  

There are a few situations where normal tints are better than polarized lenses.  Some examples include:

  • Skiing/snowboarding; you need to be able to see the bright patches of reflected light to alert you to ice
  • Occupations where you need to be able to see the LCD screen (ie pilot), polarized lenses reduce the visibility of liquid crystal displays which are found on some digital screens.  

Overall, we recommend polarized lenses to the majority of our patients because they provide much more comfortable and sharper vision than tinted lenses provide.

Written by Dr. Emily Lemburg

More Articles By Dr. Emily Lemburg

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