Are Polarised Lenses Better Than Regular Sunglasses?

It depends on what you're doing.
You tell us, Jude.
You tell us, Jude.

Maybe you're a constant squinter, or perhaps you relish in the way the world looks through a polarised lens.

But what's actually going on behind those frames, and are we better off for wearing polarised lenses over regular sunglasses?

Normal sunglasses can make you feel like you are squinting and that can induce headaches and muscle fatigue around the face. These make glare more comfortable.

How do they work?

Think back to your last road trip and that intense light that flashed across your windscreen. On flat roads or smooth bodies of water, light is generally reflected in a horizontal direction, instead of its usual scattered fashion. This horizontal polarisation creates glare -- and this is what polarised lenses target.

"There's an extra filter within the lens that blocks out scattered, glary light off reflected surfaces," optometrist Simon Allen told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It filters that light out and makes it a more comfortable light to view."

Beat the glare.
Beat the glare.

Polarised lenses were traditionally worn by fishermen and boaters to extend their gaze further down the boat or deeper into the water.

Today, they are widespread. So should we all be paying that little bit extra to own a pair?

Personal preference over protection?

The benefits of opting for polarised sunglasses extend from glare reduction and its associated discomforts.

"Normal sunglasses can make you feel like you are constantly squinting and that can induce headaches and muscle fatigue around the face," Allen said. "Polarised lenses can make glare more comfortable."

But the health benefits tend to stop there.

"There's no more UV protection -- any sunglasses must meet the Australian standards for UV protection and of course there are different levels there."

"Despite this, I would always recommend them."

Allen suggests opting for polarised lenses if you spend a chunk of your time in high-glare outdoor environments (hello summer water sports).

"There are certain hobbies or sports that will benefit from polarised lens and make performing them easier. Polarisation works well at blocking out the glare from the snow when you're skiing, but you can also possibly lose some of the contours of the snow due to different reflections coming off different surfaces."

"These instances are few and far between."

There's that glare again.
There's that glare again.

Screens are a similar story.

"When you look at LCD of LED screens from certain angles, the polarisation will actually block out the screen. This is the only time that you shouldn't wear them."

What should I look for?

You've decided to follow in the footsteps of your wise mother (or your optometrist, for that matter) and are looking to pick up a pair.

Like non-polarised sunglasses, the spectrum of types on offer is far-extending (and these days, they are not all super daggy).

"It depends on how they have been made and the quality of the lens," Allen said.

"You can get cheap ones, but the lenses are quite thin and the polarisation is usually just a layer on the front that can be scratched off. They can also warp a little, which is not ideal in terms of optical comfort."

This could explain the headaches and dizziness that you feel coming on and are particularly common with wraparound sunnies.

These days, they don't have to look like this...
These days, they don't have to look like this...

By spending a few extra bucks, you'll take home a pair that has had polarisation embedded into a layer within the lens.

"You'll also have all of these other layers on top -- from different anti-reflective coding to tints -- to keep the polarisation protected and away from the surface."

Worth it, huh?

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