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What Are Polarized Sunglasses?

Updated on December 2, 2012
Professional volleyball players prefer polarized sunglasses to reduce glare from sun and sand.
Professional volleyball players prefer polarized sunglasses to reduce glare from sun and sand. | Source

Polarized vs nonpolarized sunglasses: Are they worth it?

Polarized sunglasses have been used by fishermen for years to help reduce glare from the surrounding water. They are now becoming more popular with active people who spend time outdoors such as golfers, snowboarders, volleyball players, and runners.

When it comes to buying sunglasses, one of the things that makes a big difference in price is whether or not the lens is polarized. This factor might lead you to believe that polarized is better for your eyes. Are polarization glasses better for your eyes?

In this article, the discussion of polarized sunglasses goes further than the price difference. You will also get a quick lesson on optics, and how light can play a big role in making polarized sunglasses essential. You will be amazed at how complex and effective polarized sunglasses can be.

Benefits of Wearing Polarized Lenses

There are many benefits to wearing polarized lenses and it mostly depends on your lifestyle personal choice.

Polarized lenses are invaluable in high-glare situations, such as driving, boating, snowboarding, golfing, and fishing. A pair of high quality polarized sunglasses are effective in modifying incoming light to match it to your eyes, giving you relief from glare.

Glare caused by the brightness or high intensity can be discomforting, causing our eyes to squint. Squinting your eyes excessively can also lead to headaches and wrinkles.

Polarized sunglasses can assist in making things look better and more visible. For example, when you look at a lake or surface of water, the water will look clearer and more transparent. You can see the fishes through the water surface.

The main benefit to wearing polarized sunglasses: eliminate intense glare.
The main benefit to wearing polarized sunglasses: eliminate intense glare. | Source

Why Do Fishermen Use Polarized Sunglasses?

Who Should Wear Polarized Lenses?

Athletes prefer wearing polarized sunglasses over regular sunglasses because they believe their performance is enhanced. They are able to avoid intense glare, allowing them to see more clearly. In spite of the hefty price tag that comes with these sunglasses, athletes understand the need for value when it comes to increased performance.

  • Boating/Fishing. Polarized sunglasses can selectively eliminate the reflection from light coming from above the water. Fishermen can also have a better view when they look through the water surface.
  • Snowboarding/Skiing. Polarized lenses are helpful in reducing the extra glare from the sun (not snow) when you are skiing or snowboarding.
  • Sand volleyball. Volleyball players appreciate the blockage of intense light glare, as they are constantly in every angle of the sun’s rays and require visualization in critical details.
  • Driving. Polarized lenses are especially helpful while you are driving a car. The bright reflections of the sun on the surfaces that you see on the car in front of you will be slanted towards you while the sun will be aligned in the vertical plane through both cars. The sunglasses will help with the reflections from the glasses and the hood of the car. You will also get relief from the brightness of the road, even when it’s wet.
  • Post Surgery Candidates. Another important advantage to polarized sunglasses is for people who have sensitive eyes such during post-surgical recovery.

Water in lake Czarne, Marki, Poland.  Photo on the right taken with polarization filter, on the left without polarization filter.
Water in lake Czarne, Marki, Poland. Photo on the right taken with polarization filter, on the left without polarization filter. | Source

What is polarized lightwave?

Let's quickly review the subject of optics, physics and how it relates to our eyes. Light consist of waves that vibrate and travel in random different directions. However, when light waves from the sun hit the surface of a lake, it vibrates and radiate outwards in a uniform, horizontal direction. These intense waves are called “polarized light waves,” which causes glare. Most of the glare comes from horizontal surfaces, such as water, street, sand, or snow.

When you look at a lake, the reflected glare off the surface is the light that does not make it through the filter of the water; hence the reason why you can’t see much of anything below the water. Polarized lenses are fixed at an angle that only allows vertically polarized light to enter. When you wear polarized sunglasses, the filters in the lenses block horizontal light waves, reducing blinding glare.

Buying Polarized Sunglasses

The most important thing to factor when purchasing for sunglasses is to make sure that the pair blocks UVA and UVB rays. Remember, polarization has nothing to do with UV. Instead, it prevents glare, which can cause you to squint, leading to eye strain and wrinkles.

The method used to create a polarized lens can affect both the optical quality and cost of the sunglasses.

  • Inexpensive styles have the polarizing filter applied as an external chemical film coating.
  • More expensive styles (mainly for sports) have the polarizing filters placed in between the layers of lens.
  • The newest technology actually combines the lens material with the polarizing filter. This allows the two layers to bond without the need for adhesives. This high end method yields a more sustainable and durable sunglasses with exceptional high optical quality.

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Beware of the fakes!

Just because you see a sticker labeled “polarized” doesn’t necessarily mean they are made of real polarized lenses.

Here is a quick test that you can do at the store.

  1. Take two pairs of polarized sunglasses and place them perpendicularly against each other. Look through the lenses and if you see complete darkness, they are real. If you can see through them, they are not polarized.
  2. Another simple test is to look through the polarized sunglasses at the reflection of any object on a window panel. (Don’t look at yourself) Now tilt your head slowly in clockwise direction. The intensity of the reflection should change with respect to what you see through the window. The glare off the surface should brighten as you tilt your head.

You can get a better deal from reputable sellers online. As with any purchases on EBay, Amazon, or online stores, always check the seller’s reputation. How many sunglasses have they sold? How many satisfied customers do they have? Is there a return policy? Where is the seller located? If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Remember, a high quality polarized sunglass has a steeper price tag due to its valuable characteristics explained in this article.

In conclusion, polarized lenses are a great feature if you enjoy certain types of sports, sch as fishing, golf, or skiing, or you are sensitive to glare. Your comfort levels will increase dramatically, as will the health and protection of your eye. If you ask me, polarized sunglasses are just as important as the right performing snowboard. A high quality pair of polarized sunglasses is well worth the extra money.

© All rights reserved, Turtlewoman(Kim Lam)

Comments for Polarized Sunglasses

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    • carrierichard profile image

      carrierichard 5 years ago from California, USA

      for outdoor polarized sunglasses are best the only drawback i find that not many funky frames in these..

    • theblindpeacock profile image

      theblindpeacock 5 years ago

      You can buy polarized REVO Sunglasses (best quality lenses) from The Blind Peacock ( at very good prices. They also offer free worldwide shipping and super fast delivery.

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Haha prasetio30, those polarized sunglasses will definitely make you turn a few heads! ;-) Thanks for voting and I appreciate you stopping by.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia's a great stuff. I might looks more handsome while wearing the polarized sunglasses..hahaha. You wrote useful hub and thanks for share with us. I love your tips and enjoy the pictures above. Voted up and awesome :-)

      Best wishes, Prasetio

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      No problem. Glad to spark a writing inspiration. Will look forward to the hub.

    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Thanks jp! Transition lenses are becoming more popular nowadays. You just inspired me to write another article on photochromic lenses...thanks buddy.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      This is a great hub on polarized lenses. It's true, having UV protection is important when buying polarized lenses. Avoiding fakes will ensure that your eyes don't get damaged. When we use tinted glases, our iris automatically widens to allow more light. If the lense does not have UV protection, you're actually exposing your eyes to more damage.

      I use photochromic lenses for my prescription glasses.