If you drive a lot or work outdoors often, you may have encountered glare and light reflection from the sun that can temporarily blind you. That’s where polarized sunglasses come in. They protect your eyes by filtering out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are known to cause conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. Polarized sunglasses are designed to reduce this glare so you can see clearly. These sunglasses aren’t made for specific people. Anyone who’s light-sensitive or wants to protect their eyes can wear them, but, the thing is, what does polarized sunglasses mean in this context?
What Does “Polarized” Mean? What Are Their Benefits?
A polarized lens means it has a built-in filter that blocks bright, reflected light (aka glare). Glare can blind your sight, making it dangerous especially when driving. Polarized sunglasses reduce glare so you can see your surroundings more clearly.
To make you understand better, sunlight is multidirectional. That is, it scatters in all directions. But, when it hits a smooth, flat, and shiny surface, like a body of water, the reflected light becomes polarized. This means the reflected rays travel unidirectionally, often horizontally.
This creates an annoying and usually intense light that can significantly reduce visibility. All sunglasses are designed to protect the eyes against ultraviolet rays to reduce glare. But polarized sunglasses are specially made to filter out this type of intense glare.
Polarized sunglasses make images appear slightly darker because of the lens filtering, but you can still see images more clearly. The sunglasses help reduce eye strain on sunny days.
Who Uses Polarized Sunglasses?
Polarized sunglasses can help drivers and athletes avoid hazards. It is also useful when boating, fishing, or just relaxing on the beach. Bikers and riders can also use them to safely ride on the road.
Golfers need to see where the ball lands, which can be difficult without a pair of polarized sunglasses. If you skate, drive, or walk in a snowy environment, polarized sunglasses can protect your eyes from the incoming glare from the snow.
Do Polarized Sunglasses Have UV Protection?
Keep in mind that polarized sunglasses and UV-protected sunglasses aren’t the same. While many polarized sunglasses have UV protection, not all of them do unless specified on the label. On the other hand, UV protection by itself won't be effective in reducing reflected light.
So, before buying a pair of polarized sunglasses, make sure they have this feature.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Polarized Sunglasses
A good pair of polarized sunglasses can be beneficial in many ways. But to really know if they are for you, it's important to understand their positives and negatives.
Owning a pair of polarized sunglasses has several advantages:
Minimizing glare eases the eye strain drivers feel due to long hours on the road.
Photographers can use polarizing filters on their camera lenses to increase the range of effects on the images they capture, as well as enrich images by giving them more contrast.
Polarized sunglasses reduce glare, helping drivers see much clearer. The lenses boost the contrast and visual clarity.
Polarized sunglasses allow for a true perception of colors more than what you see with regular sunglasses.
Polarized sunglasses allow fishermen to see under the surface of the water, which can help them see fish or other objects.
Other than these benefits, polarized sunglasses are customizable, just like other sunglasses. They are available in many colors, such as gray, which allows images to retain their true color, or brown, which enhances blues and greens.
Besides choosing the color of your lens, you can get prescription and non-prescription polarized lenses, depending on your preferences. Moreover, you can opt for mirror coatings if you want to block more light.
Despite the benefits they offer, polarized sunglasses also have a few demerits:
They are not ideal for flying. Polarized sunglass can cause distortions when looking at LCD displays, making it hard to read phones and watch screens. That’s why pilots can't wear polarized sunglasses since they can't see the dashboard on their screens.
Some people say they feel dizzy or disoriented when they wear polarized sunglasses. In such cases, tinted sunglass may be better.
While polarized sunglasses are designed for driving because they reduce glare, they cannot be used at night.
How to Check If Your Lenses Are Polarized
If you're unsure how to tell if the lenses are polarized, here’s what you can do:
Check if they turn dark or nearly black in the sun. If they do, they are polarized.
Try looking at a reflective surface (like a water body or reflection from a car) with and without the lenses. You should see a slight increase in contrast, making it easier to see things clearly.
Look at an LCD screen. Polarization makes it difficult to see screens compared to regular tinted sunglasses. LCD screens will appear black or very dark.
To be safe, buy your sunglasses from an optical or drug store.
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