Are Polarized Sunglasses Worth the Extra Money?

An optometrist weighs the pros + cons
Woman hanging out a car window wearing polarized sunglasses

When the weather is glo-ri-​ous and all you want to do is soak up the sun, you still need to take protective measures for your eyes by wearing sunglasses. But with countless styles and prices to choose from, how do you know which is the best choice — and offers the best protection? Optometrist Chris Erwin, OD offers advice when picking out your next pair of sunnies.

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Q: Polarized vs. non-polarized: What’s the difference?

A: “Polarized glasses reduce glare from horizontal surfaces such as water, the road and snow,” Dr. Erwin says. Though usually more expensive, these lenses are an optimal choice for those who drive often or spend a lot of time by the water. 

If you choose not to opt for polarized sunglasses, Dr. Erwin assures that any UV protective lens works fine. “Larger is generally better as it offers more protection from UV rays from odd angles such as above or from the side,” he says.

Q: Do mirrored lenses offer better sun protection than regular lenses?

A: Mirrored vs. regular lenses are purely a style choice. “There is no difference in sun protection between difference styles of lenses as long as they are all UV protective,” Dr. Erwin says. “Appropriate lenses will generally say UVA/UVB or UV400”. 

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Choosing sunglasses with gray lenses will also provide the least color distortion, while yellow lenses improve contrast (but don’t usually help with the sun).

Q: What are the possible effects of UV radiation on the eyes?

A: UV rays can affect your eyes both in the short and long term. “It’s possible to develop keratitis, which is like sunburn on the eye,” Dr. Erwin explains. “Long term exposure to UV rays can increase the risk for cataracts, macular degeneration or cancers around the eye.” 

When shopping for sunglasses, he says, take the time to ensure you are purchasing a pair that are stylish, comfortable and offer the best protection from the sun.

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