A complete sunglasses lens guide

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Bollwitt on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Bollwitt on Flickr

As the days get longer and summer approaches, you might just find yourself spending more time outdoors. Whatever you have planned, from driving on vacation, spending time on the beach or participating in your favorite sport, having the right type of sunglasses can make those activities more enjoyable. Understanding the available lens options will help to enhance the time you spend outside.

Whatever outdoor activity you partake in, utilizing glasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection can protect your eyes from the damaging effects of the sun. UV rays can cause early cataract formation, macular degeneration and other aging effects. All sunglasses lenses should provide protection from UVA and UVB rays.

The right tint color can enhance your outdoor activities by eliminating glare, reducing eyestrain and providing better depth perception. Lens tints may block certain colors while enhancing others. Contrast may be increased with certain tints.

  • Grey lenses provide decreased brightness and glare while maintaining normal color perception; useful very bright conditions.
  • Brown lenses block blue light to improve contrast and depth perception, but change color perception; great for overcast to sunny weather.
  • Yellow lenses are useful in lowlight and hazy conditions and also enhance contrast; useful in indoor as well.
  • Green lenses provide mild increase contrast with maintaining color perception; another good general-purpose lens.
  • Pink and red lenses provide increased contrast but also alter color perception; can be useful in snowy conditions.
  • Polarized lenses are another lens option for your sunglasses. These lenses are available in different tints and decrease glare by use special filter to block glare of flat surfaces such as roads or water; may block certain LCD or LED screens.
  • Photochromatic lenses change colors or darken depending on the amount of UV light. These lenses are useful in variable or changing light conditions. However, these lenses may not fully darken while you are inside a vehicle.
  • Anti-reflective coatings are often used on the back surface of sunglasses to eliminate reflected glare.

Finally, the right lens material is important. Certain glasses may provide the best optical clarity and scratch resistance, but are not impact resistant. Plastic lenses are tintable and more lightweight than glass lenses. Polycarbonate lenses are the lightest weight and most impact resistant making them suitable for sport settings. Regardless of your lens selection, be sure to stay safe and have fun this summer.

~ John Barrón, O.D.
California Optometric Association

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