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Are Polarized Sunglasses Worth It?

Updated 10/16/20

Every couple of years, a new version of an old product debuts with some changes made to the classic model.

A lot of times, the change is an improvement.

Most people would probably agree seatbelts improved cars. Airbags have been a plus, too.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash were cool, but Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young really turned things up a notch.

Then, there have been less successful attempts.

On paper, combining rock with rap seems genius. In reality…not so much.

Water? Essential. Beds? Near essential. Waterbeds? …almost impossible to actually sleep on.

So, if you’re not completely sold on polarized sunglasses, I get it. Chances are you’ve worn sunglasses before and think the traditional model is doing a pretty good job.

However, I’m here to tell you that polarized sunglasses are definitely worth it.

Polarized vs. Nonpolarized Sunglasses: What's the Difference?

Polarized sunglasses are a good example of a small improvement making a huge difference.

First, I’ll cover what exactly this difference is.

Then, I’ll explain the really surprising way these lenses are able to achieve it.

Lenses on polarized sunglasses are designed to block glare. The photo below shows how our shades don’t just tame the sun, they also cut glare out completely:

As you can see, polarized lenses aren’t any less transparent than nonpolarized versions. Glare isn’t blocked by simply using a darker lens.

Instead, polarized lenses are prepared with a specific chemical process that allows them to block glare. How this works is actually pretty cool.

Though we usually think of “beams” of light, the truth is that those beams are made up of light waves that vibrate all over the place. It’s not an orderly trip from the sun to the earth. These waves are full of movement.

That is until those waves reflect off something. Then, they all of a sudden arrange themselves in the same direction. When they are bouncing off a horizontal surface, like a body of water, they typically arrange themselves in a horizontal fashion.

Thanks to the chemical process I just mentioned, polarized sunglasses only allow in vertical waves of light. In other words, light that has bounced off the water, a window, the snow, or any other reflective surface – and has, therefore, become “glare” – gets turned away.

So, plenty of light still makes it through. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be sunglasses. They’d be sun…blockers...that would not be an improvement.

It’s just that the kind that causes glare never makes it to your eyeballs.

If you’re interested in learning more of the science behind polarized lenses, this video goes into a lot more detail:

What About Reflective Lenses?

There’s nothing wrong with reflective lenses for sunglasses.

But reflective lenses don’t automatically mean the sunglasses are polarized. Even though they reflect a lot of light, they can still admit as much glare as nonpolarized lenses.

A lot of reflective lenses these days are polarized, but you’ll want to check to make sure a pair is before buying them. Otherwise, you may look cool, but actually looking around will be difficult.

Why Polarized Sunglasses Are So Important

The main reason polarized sunglasses are so popular is that, without glare, you don’t need to squint to see what’s around you. Have you ever noticed that you still need to do that even when you’re wearing sunglasses? That’s like needing an umbrella even though you’re wearing a poncho.

Except that, when you constantly need to squint to look around, you’re going to suffer from serious eye strain.

Most people have learned about eye strain because of office work. Long hours in front of computer screens can actually begin to hurt your vision. Of course, it doesn’t help when you leave the office only to spend more time looking at your phone, TV, or another computer screen.

While there is a lot you can do to treat your eye strain, the best way to do it when you’re outside and away from any screens is simply to wear polarized sunglasses, so you’re not constantly squinting against glare.

When Should You Wear Polarized Sunglasses?

The easier question to answer would probably be, “When shouldn’t you wear polarized sunglasses?”

…so we’ll do that one next.

Just about everyone should probably wear polarized sunglasses as their day-to-day shades. Again, I’ll cover the times when you shouldn’t wear them in a second, but otherwise, you should wear polarized sunglasses whenever you don’t want to deal with glare.

For most of us, that’s all the time.

As we just covered, glare causes eye strain, but it’s also just annoying when you’re driving in traffic, walking through a city full of windows, or near the water. Basically, polarized lenses will increase your comfort anywhere there are surfaces that reflect the sun’s rays.

Best of all, some manufacturers of polarized glasses have made them extremely affordable. I’m not trying to play favorites or anything, so I won’t mention any specific manufacturers. I don’t want to run the risk of you thinking I’m biased.

My point is that there’s no reason to be without them anymore. You don’t need to be an avid outdoorsperson or made of money to justify the minimal cost.

So, basically, as long as you go outside when the sun is also out, you should probably wear polarized shades.

If you live in complete solitude and almost never go out, like a monk or something, fine. You don’t need polarized sunglasses.

 

…never mind.

When Shouldn't You Wear Polarized Sunglasses?

You should avoid polarized sunglasses whenever you feel like straining your eyes and having trouble seeing because of glare.

Okay, there might be a couple of other times, too.

Aside from the monks who may be reading this (and, apparently, even you guys wear shades), there actually are occasions when it would be best to wear nonpolarized lenses.

For example, if you happen to be a pilot, don’t wear polarized sunglasses. They could make it difficult to read your various dials and, while I’m not pilot myself, I imagine those are fairly important.

The same goes for anyone else who has to read LED or LCD screens while outside. It’s not a big deal to take your shades off for a second to check a text message, but if you need to regularly check something really important like GPS or a speedometer, you probably want nonpolarized lenses.

Downhill skiers and snowboarders should probably stick to nonpolarized sunglasses, too. On a sunny day, glare may actually help you distinguish between snow – which is good for skiing – and ice – which is decidedly not.

Polarized Sunglasses vs. UV Sunglasses

While there’s a lot to be said for the benefits of wearing polarized sunglasses, don’t mistake their advantages for those of UV sunglasses.

Both provide your eyes with added protection, but they do it in different ways. Whereas polarized lenses are chemically-treated to defend against glare, sunglasses with UV400 protection – the highest level possible – will keep your eyes safe from the very real dangers of UV rays.

Among other things, prolonged exposure to UV rays – even when you’re in the shade – can result in:

  •         Cataracts
  •         Ocular Melanoma
  •         Growths on the Eye
  •         Snow Blindness

Even short-term exposure to UV rays can cost you in the form of sunburned eyes.

So, although polarized sunglasses are definitely worth it, they’re even better when outfitted with UV400 protection, as well.

Polarized Sunglasses Are an Easy Choice

Fortunately, I know just the manufacturer for you. They make polarized sunglasses that feature UV400 protection. Their sunglasses are also very stylish and equally durable.

At RunnersAthletics, we make sunglasses for active people who don’t want to spend a fortune or buy a second pair for day-to-day activities.

If you want fashionable sunglasses at an affordable price that can keep up with your active lifestyle, check out our shop.

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