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What's the Difference Between Polarized and UV-Blocking Sunglasses?

man wearing UV-blocking sunglasses poolside

When it comes to protecting your eyes from the sun, there are two main types of sunglasses lenses: polarized and UV-blocking. Both types have their benefits, so here's a breakdown to help you choose the right pair of sunglasses for your needs.

UV-Blocking Lenses

As the name suggests, UV-blocking lenses shield your eyes from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. They're coated with a substance that absorbs or reflects UV radiation before it reaches your eyes. This protection is crucial, as prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause sunburn of the eye — photokeratitis — and may lead to long-term conditions like cataracts or macular degeneration.

Sunglasses labelled with "100% UV protection" block both UVA and UVB rays, the most harmful wavelengths. This level of protection is essential for preserving the long-term health of your eyes.

Polarized Lenses

Polarized lenses, on the other hand, are designed to reduce glare caused by reflected light. They accomplish this by incorporating a special filter that blocks horizontally polarized light waves. These lenses are helpful in environments with surfaces that give off intense glare, such as bodies of water, snow-covered landscapes and roads.

Glare leads to eye strain and decreased visibility, so it’s bothersome and potentially hazardous. Polarized lenses significantly enhance visual comfort by reducing glare and improving clarity. However, polarized lenses don’t provide direct protection against UV rays. Even if your sunglasses have polarized lenses, you also need 100 per cent UV protection.

When Do You Need Polarized Lenses?

Polarized lenses aren’t always necessary. If you wear sunglasses occasionally or mostly in overcast conditions, you may not need this feature. Wearing polarized lenses for an extended time in sunny conditions, however, can help you see more clearly with less glare.

Is 100% UV Protection as Good as Polarized?

All sunglasses should have 100 per cent UV protection, but polarized lenses aren’t as essential. If you need to protect your eyes from UV rays only, then a pair of non-polarized sunglasses with 100 per cent UV protection will be sufficient. For optimal eye protection, however, sunglasses with both 100 per cent UV protection and polarized lenses are recommended.

Designer Sunglasses in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario

Our network of retail optical stores carries a wide range of luxury and affordable designer sunglasses with various lens options, including polarized and UV-blocking lenses. We also offer eye exams and a wide selection of prescription glasses and contact lenses. Visit one of our partner locations today near you in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario


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