What is the Difference Between Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Sunglasses?

What is the Difference Between Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Sunglasses?

I was first introduced to polarized sunglasses by my stepfather when I was a young teenager. He was an avid fisherman and swore by polarized sunglasses.

"They help you see beyond the surface of the water, down to where the fish are" he'd said.

I didn't understand it much at the time, but the reality couldn't be denied. Without polarized sunglasses, the river reflected a lot of light, making it impossible to the see the fish.

Once I put on my polarized sunglasses, the glare disappeared as the fish appeared.

But polarized lenses are useful to more than fisherman. They have a variety of benefits and one major pitfall.

Are polarized lenses right for you? Let's deep dive into the differences between polarized vs. non-polarized sunglasses to find out.

Difference Between Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Sunglasses

Differences Between Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Sunglasses

Before start listing out the differences of polarized and non-polarized lenses, let's first answer the question of what polarization actually is.

What are Polarized Sunglasses?

Polarized sunglasses have a special chemical applied to the lenses that help reduce glare. Polarized lenses can be traced back to 1936 and the Polaroid camera, but their most useful application of the time was to help pilots during World War 2.

This special chemical blocks horizontal light, allowing only vertical light through the lens. Horizontal light is formed from reflective surfaces like the hood of a car or a rain puddle. When light from the sun hits these surfaces, the light bounces and changes direction.

Polarized sunglasses remove glare from our eyes by blocking that specific type of light while allowing regular light through.

Benefits of Polarized Sunglasses

There are plenty of reasons why polarized sunglasses are better than non-polarized sunglasses in most situations.

  1. Polarized lenses remove the reflective surface of water or fishing or boating related activities
  2. Polarized sunglasses have a higher contrast, making colors more vibrant. Trees have darker greens and the sky is a deeper blue for the hiker and adventurer.
  3. Polarization provides a safer driving experience in normal conditions, eliminating reflections from vehicles or wet roads.
  4. Polarized shades are darker than their non-polarized counterparts, helping individuals with light sensitivity.
  5. More comfortable viewing experience overall

Drawbacks of Polarized Sunglasses

But that doesn't mean that polarized lenses are right for every situation. Here are a few reasons you might prefer non-polarized sunglasses vs. polarized sunglasses.

  1. Polarized sunglasses are more expensive
  2. Polarized lenses are less safe driving in icy conditions because it removes the glare from ice on the road, making it harder to spot slick patches.
  3. Polarization makes it more difficult to see LCD screens and can cause headaches if viewing them is prolonged.
  4. Because of the chemical treatment, polarized lenses are not as durable as non-polarized sunglasses.

Two of the drawbacks above are manageable, but the really big danger of polarized lenses is for those that live in colder climates.

If driving on icy roads is normal in the winter for you, be sure to have another pair of non-polarized sunglasses handy. That last thing you need is to get into an accident because your sunglasses prevented you from using all your senses while driving.

How are Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Sunglasses the Same?

We've talked about how polarized and non-polarized sunglasses are different, but how are they the same?

Both polarized and non-polarized lenses are still sunglasses, meaning that they'll darken all forms of light, making it easier to see in sunny conditions.

They both also protect against UV rays, provided that they have UV-400 protection. Polarization simply removes horizontal light, AKA glare. Both lenses have the same amount of protection against UV rays.

Despite this UV protection, neither polarized nor non-polarized sunglasses allow you to look directly at the sun, even during solar eclipses. Please don't burn out your cornea trying.

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