Polarised Sunglasses: Great for minimising glare

Medically reviewed by Wut Win, Dispensing Optician at Feel Good Contacts.

Polarised sunglasses are particularly popular with fishermen and skiers who have to deal with strong glare from surrounding water and snow. Reflected UV rays present an equally dangerous obstacle for protecting our eyes against the sun. Of course, anybody who spends a great deal of time outdoors will find these types of glasses useful. As a result, they’ve become an extremely popular part of mainstream fashion.

They can also be very useful when driving too, reducing glare caused by reflections from hoods, windows and mirrors, although wearing them does reduce visibility off of LCD screens on GPS devices and satnavs. Individuals who are sensitive to light, for example those who suffer from light sensitive epilepsy, or post-cataract surgery patients, may choose to wear them indoors.

Megastar and U2 front man Bono is known for almost always wearing dark shades, but few people may know he wears them to protect his eyes from the intense snaps of paparazzi cameras.

What are polarised sunglasses?

Polarised sunglasses are specialised sunglasses which are designed to reduce glare from surfaces such as light reflecting off water, snow or glass.

How do polarised sunglasses work?

Sunlight disperses in different directions, however, when it hits a flat surface, (e.g. a road) the reflected light travels in a more uniform horizontal direction. This creates an intensity of light that causes glare and reduces visibility.

Polarised lenses feature a laminated coat of vertical stripes to only allow vertically angled light to enter the eyes, therefore blocking horizontal light waves and reducing glare.

What are the benefits of polarised sunglasses?

The main advantage of polarised sunglasses is that they protect your eyes by helping to minimise glare. However, they also have many other less obvious advantages such as the following:

  • They can reduce the amount of eye strain you experience on a bright day; this stops you from squinting and therefore causing muscle fatigue around the eyes.
  • Polarised lenses make it easier to see beneath the surface of the water. This can help you to avoid potential obstacles in the water. They are therefore great for outdoor water sports, such as boating, fishing, and water skiing.
  • They work well in the winter months as they reduce glare and exposure risk of UVA and UVB rays that can be reflected back to you from the snow.
  • Polarised lenses are featured in a range of colour options which can help under numerous lighting conditions.
  • Anyone can wear polarised lenses. No matter what your skin tone is, polarised sunglasses will reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, they are ideal.
  • The colour contrast levels of polarised sunglasses are beneficial at all levels, meaning you can wear them in the shade.
  • Polarised lenses are a great choice as they reduce the impact of harmful UVA and UVB rays.
  • They enhance your visual comfort when you are in direct sunlight by reducing the amount of light reflecting off reflective surfaces causing glare. These lenses block horizontal light so that you will no longer have to process this in addition to vertical light.

What are the disadvantages of polarised lenses?

  • They are more costly than standard lenses.
  • Cheaper polarised sunglasses are less durable due to the way they are made. They are often created by applying a film over a standard lens, rather than applying the chemical process to the plastic lens. Over time, this can flake, peel, bubble and even fade, minimising the protection of your sunglasses.
  • It is difficult to see digital screens such as mobile phones while wearing polarised lenses.
  • Polarised glasses can also provide too much filtering for some people, making them an uncomfortable choice. This is why some opt for other coatings as an alternative. For example, mirrored sunglasses lessens the impact that horizontal light has on your sight.
  • Those who ski sometimes avoid polarised lenses as they make it tricky to distinguish between white colours. This can cause accidents as there are different variations of white on a mountain due to the snow, hills and ice.

Can sunglasses be both polarised and have UV protection?

Whilst polarised lenses and UV protection offer two different benefits, you can of course buy sunglasses which offer both. Sunglasses lenses with 100% UV protection are essential as they block out harmful rays and protect your eyes from the sun. Polarised lenses on the other hand, are a preference just like mirror-coated lenses and Gradient tint lenses.

Which are the best brands for polarised sunglasses?

The popularity of polarised sunglasses means that almost all major sunglasses brands include some in their range, although some are better suited for active wear than others. We highly recommend our sports polarised sunglasses by Dunlop, O’Neill or Oakley, specially made for active users.

Quick links:

Which sunglasses will suit my face shape?
Guide to different types of sunglasses
Protecting your eyes from UV Rays

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