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Polarized vs Non Polarized Sunglasses: The Ultimate Showdown

polarized vs non-polarized sunglasses

Most of us reach for our shades when the sun is out. They look cool, and they protect us, right?

But did you know your eyes are ten times more sensitive to UV than your skin?

Too much UVA or UVB exposure can damage your eye tissue, corneas and retinas. You could also face a higher risk of eye disease down the line.

But with so many types of sunglasses on offer, how do you choose the best ones for you?

Style is your choice, obviously. But what about polarized vs non-polarized sunglasses?

Depending on your lifestyle, this choice could prove key. Lucky for you, we have a guide with all you need to know.

What Is Polarization?

Not all light reaches our eyes directly. Some of it reflects off surfaces such as water, snow, ice, glass and even white sand.

Have you ever driven down a wet road with the sun in full force? It can be hard to see, right?

That's called glare. It is polarized light reflected into our eyes.

When light hits a surface and bounces off, it changes direction to match the angle of the surface. In the case of roads and water, this light is horizontally polarized.

It comes at us from a different angle to the sun and ambient light.

Non-polarized UV400 sunglasses lenses filter out up to 100% of UVA and UVB. They also tint our vision to reduce brightness on sunny days.

But they cannot stop glare. 

So what can we do?

Enter the polarized lens.

How Do Polarized Lenses Work?

Polarized lenses have a filter, usually a coating or film, which only allows in vertically polarized light. They filter out horizontal light, such as road glare.

For this reason, polarized sunglasses help us see under the surface of the water on, say, a lake or in the ocean. Normal UV lenses would only give us dazzling, reflected light.

They also reduce the lumens blinding us as we try to drive home on a bright, wet day.

Polarized UV400 lenses filter out the same harmful UV rays as their non-polarized cousins. It is reflected light they do a better job at reducing.

So why don't we all wear polarized sunglasses all the time?

There are some situations where they are not needed. And sometimes non-polarized sunglasses are the better choice full stop.

When Should You Reach For Polarized Sunglasses?

For some sports and activities, polarized is the best choice. If you plan to drive, cycle, sail or fish, a pair of polarized sunglasses will serve you well.

They will boost the clarity of your surroundings, reduce eye strain and save you from squinting.

Golfers swear by polarized sunglasses for their enhanced contrast. This makes it easier to nail a par 4. And the reduced glare makes spotting golf balls in water features a breeze too.

They also reduce the risk of snowblindness. This is a temporary loss of vision caused by reflected light in high, frozen environments.

Yet some winter sports pros claim non-polarized sunglasses are better for the snow-white, icy places they compete in.

More on this later.

Where Do Non-Polarized Sunglasses Rule the Roost?

For some tasks, polarized sunglasses have their drawbacks. And you would be better served by a non-polarized pair of UV400s.

Many people use polarized lenses for work: professional drivers, sailors and fishermen. But if you need to use an LCD screen, GPS, or even your smartphone, non-polarized are better.

The same technology which stops glare also makes it hard to read screens. This could be annoying when trying to send a text. But it could be dangerous if you are operating machinery or trying to navigate.

Some skiers and snowboarders also choose non-polarized sunglasses. Many claim polarized lenses make it hard to spot icy patches in the snow. But why?

The same issue can make driving in icy conditions a problem. Polarized sunglasses filter out reflected light from icy puddles. So it can be harder to see them on the road. The same applies to ice on a ski slope.

In these cases, a pair of full-eye, non-polarized sunglasses could suit you better. Make sure they fit your face shape and cover your whole eye area. This will protect you from light sneaking in at the corners.

What Do Polarized vs Non-Polarized Sunglasses Cost? 

There's no doubt that polarized sunglasses cost more than their non-polarized equals. But how big is the difference? And is it worth it?

You can pick up a cheap pair of polarized for less than $50. And yes, they will have polarized lenses, but the coating may not last long.

Cheaper sunglasses will tend to have weaker frames too, and they may not cover your eyes as well as a premium pair.

Non-polarized sunglasses can be had for less. Think $20 for a pair. But don't expect much. High-end non-polarized sunglasses can be $80-150 per pair.

If you do opt for the cheap option, make sure they are UV400. Some budget 'sunglasses' are just tinted glass. These are worse for your eyes than going au naturale.

But for a quality pair of polarized, aim to spend between $100-$200.  If you use them often, they will pay for themselves. 

Solid frames and lenses you can trust are worth every cent.

And the Winner Is ...

So you've picked a winner in this polarized vs non-polarized sunglasses faceoff. We hope our guide helped you choose the best type for your lifestyle.

And let's face it, if you look the part, that's half the battle won.

So, you like the outdoors right? Sunshine? Sports too?

Well, if you're also a bit of a techie, you'll be spoilt for choice at Lucyd. Check out our new Lyte Sport Bluetooth sunglasses.

They have polarized UV400 lenses and built-in, open-ear speakers. So you can shield your eyes and listen to your tunes wherever you are.

Made to be active.

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