If you’re a fan of sunglasses, then I believe you’ve heard the phrase “polarized vs non-polarized sunglasses”, right? If you’re curious enough, I believe you’ve wondered what this means and what should you get between the two. Since most people tend to get confused whenever they hear these eyewear features and terminologies, this short guide will discuss the main difference between polarized and non-polarized sunglasses as well as highlight the main pros and cons that sets them apart.
The main reason why polarized and non-polarized sunglasses are so common today is due to their ability to protect your eyes from UV radiation. Now, light can travel both vertically and horizontally. When it bounces vertically on a surface (on the road or surface of the water), the light waves that bounce off (now horizontal waves) are usually concentrated due to the reflection. This results in glare, which can be dangerous to your eyes unless it’s filtered away by wearing sunglasses. With that said, this guide will help reduce the herculean task of choosing the right sunglasses by discussing everything regarding polarized and non-polarized sunglasses to improve your visual acuity and clarity when you’re in the outdoors.
What are Polarized Sunglasses?
Now, most newcomers in the sunglasses field are likely to get confused whenever they hear these two terms. However, we will define these terms in plain language to help you understand. Now, polarized sunglasses are simply those sunglasses that contain polarized lenses. These lenses are coated or rather treated with a thin chemical film that provides the wearer with anti-haze and anti-blur protection making their vision clearer when viewing things with naked eyes.
As you already know, light is reflected in different orientations. However, the horizontal orientation is usually the most problematic as it causes glare that can be irritating and blinding especially if you’re driving a car or riding a boat. So, to reduce this glare, especially to people with eye sensitivity, polarized sunglasses are the best to consider.
What are Non-Polarized Sunglasses?
Although nothing can beat the convenience of polarized sunglasses, non-polarized sunglasses cannot just be ignored. Although they’re nowhere near competing with their high-performance counterparts, these sunglasses offer immense substantial benefits when it comes to visual health. If your lifestyle regularly takes you to the great outdoors, non-polarized sunglasses will offer essential UV protection just like polarized sunglasses.
However, the lenses of these sunglasses are not coated with the protective film that can help them counter the effects of horizontal polarization. Due to this reason, these sunglasses cannot reduce the glare from reflective light to offer you improved visibility.
Although that’s a huge blow, non-polarized sunglasses are considered the best when it comes to viewing images on Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) especially on flat TVs, Smartphones, and GPS navigation systems. This, therefore, makes them the best for drivers, boaters, and pilots relying heavily on GPS assistance.
Advantages of Polarized Sunglasses
Now that you’re fully aware of what polarized and non-polarized sunglasses are, this section will now discuss some major benefits of polarized sunglasses as well as some key drawbacks over their non-polarized counterparts.
Enhance Visual Comfort:
The first major benefit of polarized sunglasses is the ability to reduce extreme amounts of glare from your eyes when viewing objects in bright conditions. When light reflects on a surface vertically, it concentrates the light waves in a horizontal direction.
This can cause extreme dazzle that prevents you from viewing objects with clarity. Thankfully, with polarized sunglasses, this condition is carefully handled allowing you to view the environment in authentic colors even when conditions are exceptionally bright.
Increased Vision Clarity:
Another key advantage of polarized sunglasses is that they provide you with clear visibility when viewing objects that are on the ground level. You see, if you’re driving on a wet road or maybe riding a boat for the case of fishermen, the reflected horizontal light is capable of causing over-exposure, which can strain your eyes and decrease visual clarity.
Thankfully, with polarized sunglasses, the horizontal light waves are easily filtered away giving you improved contrast and visual clarity.
If you happen to suddenly walk out of the house, what happens is that you’re likely to get irritated by the extensive light. In response to that, you’re likely to reduce the shape of your eyes to control the amount of light getting into your retina. This is likely to cause eye strain that can lead to headaches, fatigue, and redness.
So, to reduce these eye-related complications, polarized sunglasses work by neutralizing the glare from outside reflections to make your eyes feel comfortable and more rested.
They Work for Everyone:
Another benefit of these sunglasses is that they can work for anyone unless a professional doctor tells you otherwise. Since they’re not for medical purposes, polarized sunglasses protect your eyes against the harmful UVA/UVB and HEV rays. High impact on harmful radiation from the sun can lead to reduced vision if you’re not careful.
Improves Visibility Below the Water Surface:
If you have ever watched outdoor enthusiasts participate in boating, fishing, and waterskiing sporting activities, there’s a high chance they’re wearing polarized sunglasses. You see, when light bounces on the surface of the water, it causes reduced visibility that makes it harder for you to view objects that are below the water surface.
Thankfully, with the help of polarized sunglasses, this glare is reduced significantly making it easier for you to view objects or other swimmers beneath the water. This can help you improve your swimming experience by helping you to dodge obstacles that might be lying below the water.
Disadvantages of Polarized Sunglasses
It’s clear that polarized lenses tend to cost more than ordinary lenses used in conventional sunglasses. While ordinary sunglasses cost anywhere from $15, those with polarized lenses are usually costlier with prices that can go up to 30% of the cost of standard lenses. Since they’re a hefty investment, their high prices can offset customers who’re looking for sunglasses with a decent range of affordability.
To offer a cost-effective solution, some polarized sunglasses consist of basic plastic lenses that have been coated with a thin film to create the polarization effect. What happens with such goggles or sunglasses is that the thin film can start peeling, flaking, or bubbling over time making it quite impossible to use them.
Challenging to Distinguish Between Colors:
Now, the technology behind polarized sunglasses is only designed to filter horizontal light waves. There are situations, however, when this technology may become ineffective. For instance, if you’re skiing late in the evening or early in the morning, it might be challenging to distinguish white colors such as snow, hills, and other obstacles. This means that a skier can find it difficult to distinguish obstacles, which can lead to a catastrophe.
Hard to View LCD Screens:
Although the chemical agents used in polarized lenses have immense benefits, their filtering mechanism can substantially reduce the amount of light your eyes process from LCD monitors. Although you can easily view a screen from a direct line, the objects on the screen can disappear completely if viewing them at an angle.
Due to the substantial effects, the filtering process has on your vision, polarized sunglasses are highly restricted to operators that rely on LCD screens to operate heavy machines. This includes airplane pilots keeping in mind modern cockpits are equipped with more LED screens than before.
Advantages of Non-Polarized Sunglasses
The first major advantage of non-polarized sunglasses is that they’re usually cost-effective. That’s because they lack the additional layer that’s used by polarized sunglasses to filter the glare in a bid to increase visibility.
Reduced Color Clarity:
Now, most people tend to hail the increased contrast and color clarity offered by polarized sunglasses. Although it reduced headaches and eyestrains, it may not work for everyone. There are some people whose eyes get irritated by too much filtering forcing them to consider non-polarized sunglasses as an alternative.
Best for Skiing:
One of the key benefits of non-polarized sunglasses is when you’re skiing. The technology behind polarized lenses may cause them to block reflections from snowy surfaces making it extremely hard for skiers to distinguish obstacles. Since it only takes a single mistake for a catastrophe to occur, non-polarized sunglasses are usually considered since they’re not affected by such surface reflection.
Best for Flying:
Another major advantage of non-polarized sunglasses over their polarized counterparts is that they make it easier for pilots to view images on their LCD screens. This is quite different from polarized lenses as they cause the images to disappear from an LCD screen if viewed at an angle.
Operating Heavy Machines:
Just like in airplane situations, operators using heavy machines that rely on LCD screens can face difficulty viewing if they’re wearing polarized sunglasses. This makes it difficult to see the controls clearly or use the GPS for that matter.
Disadvantages of Non-Polarized Sunglasses
Inability to Filter Glare:
The only major drawback with non-polarized sunglasses is their inability to restrict vibrations from transverse waves (in this case light waves). This comes in the form of harsh glare caused by reflective surfaces such as wet and snowy roads, headlights from oncoming cars, and water for the case of boaters. This can lead to extreme headaches and eyestrains following prolonged exposure.
Reduced Vision Clarity:
Another negative effect of non-polarized sunglasses is reduced vision clarity. Since they lack the polarization advantage, these sunglasses are susceptible to harsh light and glare that significantly reduces contrast and color clarity leading to reduced optical experience.
So, are polarized sunglasses better than their non-polarized counterparts? Well, the answer to this question will boil down to your preference. Some people may decide to gravitate towards the visual clarity of polarized sunglasses while others may prefer the natural view of non-polarized sunglasses that resembles the naked eyes. Whichever path you take, always consider the various benefits and drawbacks that come with each of these sunglasses to avoid buying the wrong pair.
As we conclude, we would like to remind you about the fundamental purpose of sunglasses—to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by blocking bright sunlight. So, whether you decide to take the polarized or the non-polarized route, always make sure the lenses have adequate UV protection (usually UV400).