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What is AR Coating in Lenses?

Have you ever taken a group photo or selfie and the photo gets ruined by the reflection of your glasses? Or is it hard to see at night with the glaring headlights of other cars? With anti-reflective (AR) coating, these situations will be a thing of the past and you can start wearing your glasses with confidence.

The Problem

Unlike UV protection, AR coating, also known as anti-glare coating, is not always something that is stressed about when purchasing glasses. People may then think that AR film on lenses is not always worth the extra cost. So is it really needed? One of the problems with prescription glasses and sunglasses, it is called back-glare. Back-glare is the light that hits the back of the lenses and bounces right into your eyes. This can actually impair visibility, especially at night when driving, when the headlights of cars appear to have a halo around them. It can also produce a front glare, which is the light reflecting off the front of your glasses.

Cars at night with bright headlights can hinder visibility if you are wearing glasses without AR protection. Photo by Nabeel Syed on Unsplash
The headlight of cars can appear to have a halo around them during the night due to the back-glare of lenses. Photo by Nabeel Syed on Unsplash.

How Does AR Coating Work?

AR coating is a very thin film that is layered on the lens. If you have polarized lenses, the AR coating is layered on the back of the lenses because the polarized film is layered on top. Otherwise, the AR coating is usually placed on the top and bottom.

The AR film is made out of multiple layers of metal oxides. These metal oxides have an index refraction that is greater than air but less than glass. An index of refraction is the measure of the bending of a ray of light when passing from one medium into another. This is important because the degree of the bend of the light entering and then exiting the surface of each film layer cancel each other out. By canceling each other out, they eliminate the glare.

The process of applying anti-reflective coating is highly technical and involves using vacuum deposition technology. It is very important that the lenses be free from lint, dirt, smudges, moisture and any unwanted gases before applying the coating. It’s like installing a screen protector on your phone, you have to make sure you are working on a clean surface so unwanted things don’t get trapped under the protector.

Unlike the past methods, AR coatings are baked on and contain chemicals that make them hydrophobic, which means that the lens surface will reduce adhesion of water and grease. The hydrophobic property makes the lenses easier to clean. Also, since the AR film is applied by heat, the coating does not peel off like it did in the past. This reduces the amount of scratching on the lens and it makes it more durable overall.

Worker at Fuse cutting a pair of AR coated lenses for a customer at the Fuse Lenses office in Clearwater, Florida
A worker at Fuse cutting a pair of AR coated lenses. The anti-reflective coating is a thin film that is layered ontop of the lenses and is made up of multiple layers of metal oxides.

Benefits of AR Coating

One of the greatest benefits of AR coating is the elimination of the reflections from the back and front surfaces of your glasses. The elimination of these reflections makes it possible for more light to pass through your lenses.

  1. AR coating helps with eliminating back-glare which make objects appear clearer, especially when you are driving at night. The halo effect of headlights will be a thing of the past, unfortunately, it will not be able to help with people who use their high beams with oncoming traffic.
  2. AR also reduces the amount of light that is reflected off the front surface of your lenses. It helps other people view your eyes through your glasses instead of seeing the glare. This will improve how you look in glasses, both in person and in pictures.
  3. Since the anti-reflective coating helps more light to pass through your glasses, your vision will be clearer and sharper resulting in less eye strain. This includes less strain when using your computer or any other technology that produces blue light.
  4. Anti-reflective coating has greatly evolved in the past decade making it easier to clean. Premium AR lenses, like the ones at Fuse Lenses, include a surface treatment that seals the anti-reflective layers and makes the lenses easier to clean. This is the Hydrophobic surface treatment that prevents the formation of water spots by repelling water.
Women smiling while riding a boat and wearing AR coated sunglasses. This helps reduce front glare and helps you take better pictures.
AR coating reduces the amount of light that is reflected off the front surface of your lenses. This helps you take better pictures because it reduces glare.

How To Tell If Your Lenses Have AR Coating?

There is a simple experiment you can do to check if your glasses have an anti-reflective film on them. You just hold the glasses where they will reflect light, this can be sunny windows, computer screens, or anything else that produces light. Look at the front surface of your glasses, if they reflect the light in a color like green, gold, purple or blue, then you have the AR coating. If the colors reflected are the same color as the original light, then your lenses do not have AR coating.

A worker at Fuse Lenses checking the AR coating of a lens by holding it up to the light in the Fuse Lenses lab
You can check if a lens has AR coating by holding it up to the light. If the lenses reflect the light in a color like green, gold, purple or blue, then your lenses has the AR flim.

 

Finding out if your sunglasses have AR coating might be tricker. However, most sunglasses that have an AR film will be only the backside of the lenses. You can see the shimmer of the AR coating on the backside of every pair of Fuse +Plus Lenses.

Caring For Glasses With AR Coating

Mirrored lenses and anti-reflective coating both contain metal properties. Therefore, both mirrored glasses and lenses with AR coating are cared for in the same way.

Before cleaning, you want to make sure you always blow away as many particles as possible. Even the smallest particle stuck to the lenses can act like sandpaper and create scratches. If the particles will not come off, then you can rinse your glasses under running fresh water. Like mirrored lenses, AR film can also be damaged by saltwater. If left to dry the saltwater can scratch the lens. That is why it is important to rinse your lenses in fresh water afterward.

Fuse Lenses' lens cleaning spray. Alcohol-free and safe for all types of coatings, including AR
When getting rid of smudges on lenses, you want to make sure you don't use a lens cleaner with any harsh chemicals that can be damaging to the AR film. A perfect option would be Fuse Lenses cleaning spray that is alcohol-free.

 

To get rid of smudges, you want to make sure you use a lens cleaning spray. It is important to use lens cleaners that do not have any harsh chemicals that may damage the AR coating. Try using the Fuse lens cleaner that is alcohol-free and safe for all types of coating, including anti-reflective.

 

Summary

  • Lenses without anti-reflective (AR) coating can cause back-glare as well as annoying reflections bouncing off the front surface of your lenses
  • Back-glare is when light hits the back of your lenses and bounces into your eye. This can decrease visibility and create a strain on the eyes. It also produces the halo effect around lights in low-light situations.
  • AR coating is a thin layer of film made up of multiple layers of metal oxides. AR coating is usually layered on the front and back of lenses, but if the lenses are polarized then the polarized layer goes on top and the anti-reflective coating goes on the bottom.
  • How the AR coating works is based on the index of refraction. Basically when light enters the film and exits the film, the angle of which the light is reflected cancels each other out. The cancellation of this means that there is no glare.
  • The technology of applying the AR coating has significantly improved in the past years. The coating is baked in instead of layered on, this helps prevent the coating from peeling off. The coating is also hydrophobic, which means that the lens surface will reduce adhesion of water and grease making it easier to clean.
  • Some of the benefits of having AR coating is helping objects appear clearer, especially at night by reducing the halo effect. It also reduces the amount of light that is reflected off the front surface of your lenses. This helps other people view your eyes better, therefore appearing more attractive, and helps with taking better pictures. Since more light will be passing through your lenses, your vision will become sharper will helps reduce eye strain. AR lenses are also easier to clean, compared to the AR coating of the past.
  • To find out if your lenses have the anti-reflective coating on them you must first hold up your lenses towards the light where it reflects. If the light reflected is a color like green, gold, purple or blue, then you have the coating.
  • When cleaning your lenses with AR coating, it is important not to use harsh chemicals or it might strip away the coating. A safe option to use is Fuse lens cleaner.

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