What is the difference between Polarized and Non-Polarized Sunglasses?

What is Polarization?

Light waves travel in all directions -- up, down, right, left, and everything in between. When you polarize light, you filter out all the directions of light waves you don’t want and only keep the ones you do. The chemical coating on the lenses has small slots that only allow vertical light to pass through. The rest of the waves that don’t fit are blocked.

Polarization in Nature

Not only does polarization occur in lenses, but it also occurs naturally. An example of this is when you experience glare when you look at the ocean. Water is a natural filter and the light waves that don’t pass through this filter are reflected back and create glare. The polarization of water is also the reason why you cannot see anything below the surface of the water.


Couple wearing sunglasses riding moped together on scenic road
Polarized lenses can help you while driving by reducing the glare reflecting off of the road and other surfaces. Photo @bransonbowler

What is Polarization in Sunglasses?

Polarized sunglasses have lenses that use a special chemical to filter out unwanted light waves. The chemical coating on the lenses has small slots that only allow vertical light to pass through. This is because of the molecules that naturally align in parallel relation to one another. Most of the glare that you see, comes from horizontal surfaces like highways and large bodies of water. This is why sunglasses have polarized lenses that only allow vertically polarized light to enter.

What Are the Benefits of Polarization?

1. Blocks Glare
As mentioned above, polarized lenses can help reduce that glare that happens when light is naturally polarized. Stopping these blinding light reflections can make your outdoor activity much more enjoyable and safe.

2. Increases Color Contrast
Objects will appear crisper and clearer through polarized lenses. It increases the visibility of details because of the increased color contrast. It’s like high-definition for your glasses.

3. Reduces Eye Strain
There is no need to squint anymore with polarized lenses. The reduction of the sun’s brightness and the blockage of glare helps keep your eyes more relaxed. This makes a long day of sun exposure easier on your eyes.

4. See Into the Water
Polarized lenses are useful for everyday sun wear, but it is particularly beneficial for activities like fishing. Since polarized lenses block glare and haze that reflects off the water, it helps with seeing wildlife and other objects below the water’s surface.

Woman with long brown hair wearing sunglasses with cosmic Fuse Lenses on boat
Polarized lenses are a must on the boat! Photo @leaannep

What are Non-Polarized Sunglasses?

Both polarized and non-polarized sunglasses are great for reducing the brightness of the sun.
It is important to mention that just because your sunglasses may be polarized does not mean that the lens view will be darker. The darkness of the lens is affected by the tint, not the polarization.

Non-polarized sunglasses don’t have the layer that polarizes light. Non-polarized lenses can be any tint, clear, or photochromic. There are some instances where you do not need to have sunglasses that are polarized. In some cases, certain people can also have sensitivities to polarized lenses that can cause headaches and thus avoid them. Sometimes it is even recommended that you don’t wear polarized sunglasses.

For example, using polarized lenses with an LCD screen can actually blackout at certain angles and prevent you from seeing. People in the aviation industry, like pilots, tend to stay away from using polarized sunglasses due to LCD displays being commonly used to navigate.

Other common LCD screens can be:
Car dashboards with LCD screens
Cell phones
ATM machines
Some digital watches

Which Sunglasses Should You Buy?

Buying polarized versus non-polarized lenses is a matter of preference. Many people prefer polarized lenses due to their ability to ease eye strain caused by glare and extend your day while doing activities in bright light. But, it is still a preference.

Whether you plan on getting polarized or not, good quality lenses should be 100% UV protected. UV light can be harmful to you and you want a pair of sunglasses that can protect you from the damage UV rays can have on your eyes. You can learn more about UV protection here.

Lucky for you, all of the lenses at Fuse Lenses are 100% UV protected, so you can relax and make your decision just a little bit easier.

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