Do Polarized Sunglasses Make A Difference?

Photo: Raen Honey Havana Collection

Despite its 93 million mile distance from our rock in the solar system, the sun can inflict some significant damage when we least expect it. Typically, this immediate observation comes in the form of sunburn during the warm summer months — a direct result from ultraviolet rays emitted by our closest star. However, therein lies a more serious and longitudinal element of damage that can be inflicted upon us from overexposure. We’re talking glaucoma, cataracts, and several other sun-induced damages to the eye. Not ideal, we know, which is why we’re of the assumption that sunnies are so much more than just contemporary fashion statements. Rather, they’re protective elements purposed to enhance the longevity of our eyesight by reducing the sun’s direct access to our retinas.

More recently, the world of polarized sunglasses has continued to expand on the backbone of lofty features and prevention statistics. We hear about them all the time — glare reduction, 100% UV ray blocking lenses, and overall enhanced clarity. Almost sounds too good to be true. Which is why some potential buyers out there decide to opt out of the up-charge based on the assumption that polarized lenses do not make a difference. We’re here, however, to help settle the argument once and for all.


Antique Sun Shields

If we’re to rewind history back to the very first of sun-blocking eyewear, we’d encounter Inuit peoples sporting flattened walrus ivory eyewear with narrow horizontal slits across the “lenses” to help block the sun’s reflected rays off surrounding ice and snow. Centuries later, the infamous Roman emperor Nero supposedly watched gladiator fights through emerald viewing lenses. Later still, one of actual earliest depictions of someone wearing sunglasses in the more modern sense was that of the renowned scientist and “Father of Modern Chemistry,” Antoine Lavoisier, back in the late 18th century.It wasn’t until in the early 20th century when the first pair of sunglasses were built with the sole purpose of blocking ultraviolet light.

It wasn’t until in the early 20th century, however, when the first pair of sunglasses were built with the sole purpose of blocking ultraviolet light. Then, Hollywood took over throughout the early 1920s resulting in cheap mass-produced sunglasses made from celluloid that debuted in Northeastern beach cities come summertime during the early 1930s. Then, in 1936, the polarized vs. non-polarized argument found its pillar when Mister Edwin H. Land began experimenting with sunglasses housed with his patented Polaroid filter — the first historical instance of a polarized lens.

Photo: Sunski

Benefits Of Polarized Sunglasses

Gone Glare Gone

Before diving into the benefits surrounding polarized sunglasses, we must first understand the reasoning behind them. In short, understanding light’s movement and angular spread as the sun bestows its power and life-force onto earth must serve as a sort of primer in this instance.

Sunlight 101: all light given off from our nearest celestial neighbor is either absorbed or reflected across the surface of the earth. Absorbed in a way that heats up the planet and breathes life into all living things, reflected in a way that produces those annoying glares and squint-inducing afternoons on the water. This, naturally, is where polarized lenses come in handy — it’s this horizontal light (light that’s reflected horizontally off horizontal surfaces) that causes the most damage. And while standard non-polarized lenses work to block harmful UV rays from this light source, it’s only the polarized member of the family that boasts a glare-reducing characteristic to help you experience life in “high-definition” so to speak.

This is all accomplished via polarized films that work to filter reflected light in a vertical plane (away from our eyes) thus reducing or even eliminating glares from impeding our sunlit outings. As for the perceived benefits, we’ve outlined some key line items to consider the next time you’re torn between either a polarized or non-polarized pair of sunglasses.

Pros Of Polarized Sunglasses

  • Improves visual comfort via glare-reduction and/or elimination
  • Improves overall visual contrast
  • Reduces reflections for enhanced visibility
  • Complete protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays
  • Reduced glare equals reduced eye strain

Sunski Moraga Sunglasses

Best Polarized Pick On A Budget
Combined with a lifetime warranty and comfortable polarized build, Sunski’s Moraga Sunglasses are both stylish and sleek for the modern city to mountain traveler. It’s what we’ve come to expect over the years from the San Francisco brand. Named after the small town settled amongst the rolling hills of the Bay Area, each Moraga hosts the brand’s iconic flexible frames, forest green lenses, and durable lightweight construction.

Purchase: $58

Tom Ford Laurent D-Frame Sunglasses

Best Polarized Luxury Pair
Italian-made and subtle as can be — which says a lot for a high fashion brand — these Laurent sunglasses are fitted with a set of dark grey polarized lenses that work to keep the glare at bay. You’ll also notice how comfortably lightweight each pair is thanks to a matte-black acetate construction complete with handsome gunmetal-tone accents. Can’t rule out the flexible silicone nose pads either.

Purchase: $595

Photo: State Optics

Do They Make A Difference?

More Than Meets The Eye?

To address this common question as simply as possible. Yes, polarized sunglasses do make a difference. The key, however, is asking yourself whether or not that difference is worth your while and/or the extra dough that’ll inevitably have to be shelled-out to cover the cost. Basically, asking yourself whether your lifestyle could be positively affected by a pair of polarized sunglasses is highly beneficial throughout the buying process.

To help clarify a common need for polarized lenses, we turn to the water. Whereabouts, it’s not uncommon for fishermen to rely on polarized sunglasses to eliminate the strong glare off the surface of the water. In fact, any waterman is more than likely to own a pair, as are mountaineers, snowboarders, and skiers to reduce the presence of blind spots from the snowpack. On the contrary, some disadvantages do exist but most are tied to the digital age.

Cons Of Polarized Sunglasses

  • Digital devices (smartphones, tablets, E-readers, and sat-nav systems in automobiles) become more difficult to read
  • The inability to decipher ice sheets while skiing or snowboarding could cause harm
  • They’re often more expensive

Knockaround Fast Lanes

Best Non-Polarized Pick On A Budget
Low risk, easily handled, and no-frill involved. Knockaround sunglasses are just that: purposed for reckless abandonment without remorse. The best part? They look stylish in the process, and in some cases, cost less than $20. The Fast Lanes, for instance, host a set of gold reflective lenses with UV400 protection, glossy black and amber ice frames, and you can even get them polarized for as little as $5 extra. Really a no-brainer when it comes to affordable eyewear.

Purchase: $20

State Optical Elston

Best Non-Polarized Luxury Pair
Here’s the thing about sunglasses. Most of them are made abroad. Not State Optical, though. And it’s that USA-made mindset that draws us into the brand’s storied history and incredibly well-made sunnies. This pair, named after Chicago’s Elston Avenue, comes equipped with a custom three-barrel hinge and nylon coated screws. They are available in several colorways and handmade in their Chicago warehouse. Can’t argue with those stylish round frames either.

Purchase: $387

The 20 Best Movie Sunglasses

Polarized lenses or not, these are the guys who wore them with uninhibited swagger. So, why not learn from the best and get your hands on one of the best movie sunglasses around? This guide can help.