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How do polarized and non-polarized sunglasses differ?

by Bella Xiao on January 11, 2019

Since their invention in 1936, polarized lenses have quietly been starting a sunglasses revolution. Although the term may sound familiar, there are still many questions that need answering like ‘what exactly are polarized lenses?’ and ‘do I need polarized lenses?’.

Polarized Lenses

Put simply, polarized lenses eliminate glare which non-polarized sunglasses don’t do, which is defined as light reflected on any surface. These special lenses make it easy to see in sunny conditions and protect our eyes from harmful UV rays. Polarized sunglasses are perfect for time spent on or near water as they help eliminate the light that reflects from the surface of the water. These lenses are also commonly found in ski goggles to improve performance and block the glare that reflects off the snow.

How do Polarized Sunglasses Work?

Polarized lenses are coated with molecules that block horizontal light. These molecules are vertically positioned meaning that any light that reaches the lenses in a horizontal direction is blocked. In addition, polarized lenses can also enhance color contrasts we see when exposed to the sun. This attribute is beneficial for athletes and outdoorsmen who want to receive greater depth perception to enhance their performance.

Polarized technology is also used in 3D glasses. One side of the lens is polarized horizontally and the other side is polarized vertically. For 3D movies, two films are actually shown at the same time, shot from slightly different angles. This results in two directions of light that enter the differently positioned lenses, which creates the amazing 3D visual effect.

Do I Need Polarized Sunglasses?

Polarized lenses are becoming increasingly popular since many designer brands like Ray-BanPersolDolce & Gabbana are all integrating this amazing technology into their eyewear. The advantages of polarized lenses, such as increased clarity and improved depth perception, means that polarized eyewear has become a must-have for athletes looking to take their performance to the next level.

In the case of snow sports or watersports, they are a necessity due to the environment where these sports are practiced (water and snow are some of the worst culprits for causing glare, as any skier or surfer will tell you). However, polarized lenses can also offer huge advantages for people who practice more mainstream hobbies, such as running or cycling, or indeed anyone who enjoys the great outdoors.

However, the aesthetic benefits of polarized lenses, such as sharper definition and enhanced colour contrasts, as well as the more serious business of UV protection, can be enjoyed by anyone, and once you try a pair of polarized lenses, you can clearly see the difference. Several major eyewear brands specialize in polarized technology, including OakleyMaui Jim, Spy, Smith and Polaroid. Oakley has, numerous polarized lens patents, including their Iridium lens technology, a favorite of extreme sports enthusiasts the world over.