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There are many benefits to using polarized sunglasses vs non-polarized sunglasses but it is important to understand how light affects them and have they can benefit you.

The biggest difference between polarized vs non-polarized sunglasses for outdoor use is the glare. Polarized sunglasses are better for outdoor activities, because they are anti-reflective and better against haze and glare.

Here are the main differences between polarized sunglasses vs non-polarized sun glasses and how they can benefit you.

Polarized Glasses

Our eyes are able to react to the things we see due to the light entering them. Unless we are wearing proper sun wear, the brightness and glare will reduce our eye’s visibility which makes it difficult to drive, ride bicycles or even walk around.

Glare occurs when the amount of light in our field of vision surpasses the amount of light that our eyes are naturally adapted to. Although tinted lenses can provide a partial protection against glare, only polarized lenses can provide effective protection against glare.

best polarized sunglasses for hiking

The Dangers of Glares and UV Rays

Light is essentially made up of a lot of waves that are travelling in many different directions. The vertical light rays are good for the human eyes while the horizontal ones are harmful. When concentrated light bounces off horizontal surfaces such as car windshields, sand, snow and even asphalt, it creates glare.

Glare is incredibly uncomfortable and painful to the eyes, and makes it very difficult and dangerous to perform activities such as driving or riding a bike. Vertical light, on the other hand, is preferable as it respects the tendency of the optical system to focus on the vertical aspect of an image.

In addition, because regular sunglasses work by effectively filtering all light, regardless of whether it’s horizontal or vertical, it also diminishes visual acuity.

Most of us know that prolonged exposure to UV rays can be a pretty bad thing. Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that just because they wear any random pair of sunglasses, they think they are protecting their eyes from these harmful rays.

The fact is that when you wear sunglasses, the pupils actually tend to widen thus allowing more UV rays to enter the eyes.

So, unless the sunglasses specifically offer UV protection, you are actually increasing the risk of long-term, permanent damage causing macular degeneration with the potential to result in vision loss and cataracts.

How do Polarized Glasses Protect from Glares and UV Rays

Polarized glasses effectively eliminate blinding horizontal glares and offer 100% protection from UV rays. Unlike regular sunglasses that filter out all components of light, polarized glasses allow more vertical light to our eyes which improves our visibility while effectively blocking the horizontal components.

Polarized glasses have been favored by boaters and fishermen who would otherwise be constantly crashing into each other due to the glare reflecting off the waters surrounding them. Other outdoor sportsmen who prefer polarized glasses vs non-polarized glasses include skiers, bikers, drivers and joggers. In addition, polarized glasses can be used indoors for use on people that have a high sensitivity to light or for those who are recovering from a post-cataract surgery.

One way to tell if your sunglasses are polarized is by looking through the glasses at a reflection of any object on a window panel and then flip the glasses and repeat. If you don’t notice any difference in the image, then the glasses are not polarized.

3 Major Benefits of Polarized Glasses Over Non-Polarized Glasses

Polarized glasses are made with vertical polarization that enables them to block intense light reflected from horizontal flat surfaces. A special built-in, laminated filter only lets vertical light in while blocking the glare.

Here are some of the additional benefits of polarized sunglasses vs non-polarized sunglasses.

Enhances Visual Comfort

This means no more glares which means no more squinting, straining and making silly faces which can wear our your eyes and even cause eye fatigue.

Greater Contrast and Clearer Vision

Provides a far more defined field of vision and also allows you to see objects in brighter conditions.

True Color Perception

Oh look, what you thought was green is actually red… Stop!!

When NOT to Use Polarized Glasses?

Of course, there are other situations where wearing polarized glasses may not be as beneficial. Actually, in some cases they may be downright dangerous to use. For example, downhill skiers rely on the reflections of light off of icy patches as this alerts them of any potential hazards.

Polarized glasses also reduce the visibility of LED and LCD screens which can be found on self-service gas stations, cell phones (you shouldn’t be checking your social media accounts while driving anyways) and GPS devices. This is a significant issue if you are a boater or a pilot and rely on instrument panels that still have LCD screens as there is a risk that they could potentially miss certain readings that may require split-second decisions.

hiking polarized sunglass

Lens Options For Sunglasses

The following 3 options of polarized glasses offer appealing options.

Gradient Tints

Features a fully dark tint near the top end which gradually clears up as it nears the bottom section of the lens. Double gradient tips block light from above as well as from below as their top and bottom sections are tinted.

Mirror Coatings

As the name implies, it has a mirror coating that helps reflect light away and can be combined with a tint.

Photochromic Lenses

These lenses will darken and change color whenever it is exposed to sunlight. The UV rays activate the lens and will clear up once taken indoors. Although versatile, they do not get quite as dark as a regular pair of sunglasses especially when driving. This is due to the car windshields partially blocking some of the incoming UV rays, therefore not allowing the photochromic lens to darken all the way.

Who should get Polarized Glasses?

Look, if you’re a boater and/or if you enjoy fishing, don’t think about it, you need these so do yourself a big favor and go get them. For others who are still on the fence, or not entirely sure, try talking to your local eye doctor to see if polarized glasses are the right choice for you.

Although polarized glasses may not be beneficial in every situation, they do provide significant benefits for people who spend most of their time doing outdoor activities and sports. Not only do they help protect your eyes, they will let you get much more enjoyment out of your day.