What Are Polarized Sunglasses? A Guide To Everything You Need To Know

If you don’t know what polarized sunglasses are, you’re not alone. While many have noticed that word on more expensive sunglasses at the store, understanding what they really are, their benefits, and their disadvantages just isn’t common knowledge.

The most basic explanation is that polarized sunglasses reduce glare. Meaning, they reduce the brightness you see when light is reflected off a surface in front of you. So when the sunlight bounces off the road and into your eyes while you’re driving, polarized sunglasses are specifically designed to reduce that kind of light.

They are also designed in ways that reduce eye strain, improve your visual clarity by providing greater contrast, and they allow you to see color as you normally would.


How Polarized Sunglasses Work

Any pair of sunglasses you wear is designed to reduce brightness.

But what are polarized sunglasses? What makes them special?

Polarized sunglasses have a unique chemical filter. This tint is usually applied to the glasses using a film.

Direct light, like from the sun, is known as vertical light. It comes in vertical waves that are actually shaking as they shine down on us. Reflections are different. These are horizontal light waves. The chemical filter in polarized sunglasses is specifically designed to remove the horizontal light from your vision.

This reduces glare and eye strain. At the same time, your ability to perceive color, depth, and clarity are preserved.


Regular Sunglasses vs. Polarized Lenses

With regular sunglasses, your eyes are shaded from all light. This isn’t unique to reflective glare. Because they need to shade all light, they only do so at a certain level. They also typically change your perception of color and depth. While this dims everything, glare may still be too bright for your eyes to handle because reflective light is at a higher magnitude than vertical light.

Regular sunglasses work to filter out everything, while polarized sunglasses are just filtering out glare.


When People Like To Wear Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized sunglasses are a popular choice that can be worn in most situations.

They are most popular in situations where glare is common. For example, driving, winter sports, and water sports. Sunlight reflects off the road while driving, bounces off the snow while skiing, or shines off the water while kayaking.

However, there are some things you should know about polarized lenses before you decide to wear them.


The Advantages And Disadvantages of Polarized Sunglasses

As great as this type of sunglasses can be, there are both pros and cons to them. While the negatives aren’t things that would discourage you from ever wearing polarized sunglasses, they are important to know so you can understand when to and when not to wear them.


The Advantages of Polarized Sunglasses

They offer greater visual acuity.

The polarized lenses are more comfortable to wear.

You can see true colors.

They reduce glare.

If you’re boating, you will be able to more easily see under the surface of the water while wearing polarized lenses. This is because the glare is reduced and your color perception improves.

Polarized lenses protect your eyes from strain, which keeps them healthier over time.

These advantages make polarized sunglasses the perfect solution in most situations. But let’s break into some times they can put you at a disadvantage.


The Disadvantages of Polarized Sunglasses

We’ve established that polarized sunglasses block out horizontal light waves. This is great because it means they block out glare, which is some of the harshest light your eyes can encounter.

However, LCD screens also have horizontal light waves. This means that if you are trying to read on your phone, you may not be able to see the full screen.

Today, many vehicles use LCD screens on their dashboards with important controls while driving. If your car has an LCD screen, you cannot safely drive while wearing polarized lenses. You won’t be able to see the full screen in this situation.

This also means that while you’re wearing polarized sunglasses, you may need to lower them every time you go to check a text on your phone. Otherwise, there may be dark spots on the screen.

While some people love polarized lenses for sports on the snow, others have found that they need to be able to see the glare off the snow to know where the slick and icy patches are. This is a personal preference for the type of sport you’re participating in.

If you’re trying to get cash from an ATM, you will have a problem reading the screen while wearing your polarized lenses. Similarly, this will be a problem when you go to pump gas into your car.


How to Know If Your Sunglasses Are Polarized

Because polarized sunglasses are often more expensive and sought after, there are people out there who attempt to say lenses are polarized when they are not. They can do this through confusing marketing speech that makes it difficult to understand what you’re purchasing. Fortunately, there are ways you can tell if your lenses are polarized.

As you’re testing the glasses, remember what you know: polarized sunglasses block horizontal light and they don’t work well with liquid crystal displays (LCD screens).

Do you have a pair of sunglasses you trust as polarized? One way is to find a trusted brand at the drugstore and bring your sunglasses in. Then, hold your glasses at a 90-degree angle to the polarized pair. If the light through them now looks nearly black, then your lenses are polarized.

Another option is to put on your polarized sunglasses and turn your head to the side. With your head at a 90-degree angle, look at your cell phone screen. Do parts of it turn black? That’s because the polarized sunglasses are blocking the horizontal waves.

If you are near something with a terrible glare, like light bouncing off a car hood in the parking lot, you can put on the polarized sunglasses and look directly at the glare. Then, tilt your head from side to side. If the glasses are polarized, the glare should become worse when your head is horizontal.


Choosing Polarized Sunglasses

When you buy a pair of sunglasses, you do so hoping to make it easier to see on a bright day. Mostly people buy these at the last second before they’re about to spend a full day outdoors. Their sunglasses help them see better, but they don’t realize how polarized sunglasses could improve the situation further.

By improving the contrast in your vision and giving you true color perception while blocking the harshest light your eyes encounter, polarized sunglasses make a surprising difference in your experience.

If you have prescription lenses, your eye doctor can help you get polarized lenses that match your prescription and give you the best outdoor vision possible.

Make sure to choose glasses with a comfortable frame, a style you know you’ll want to keep wearing, and polarized tint that offer your eyes the relief they deserve.


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