How Do Polarized Sunglasses Work: A Brief Guide

Posted by Ken Courtright on

If you're here, it means you're interested in a particular type of glasses, and finally made the decision to ask your search engine, "How do polarized sunglasses work?"

Well, you're not the first person on Earth to ask this great question, so don't overthink it. In a few minutes, you'll be able to pass on the knowledge while looking like a million bucks.

But first: the science behind polarization. Please activate your imagination.

Let's Get on the Same Page

You need to know what these glasses are before asking, "How do polarized sunglasses work?" Polarized sunglasses are a type of eyewear designed to block hazardous glare from flat surfaces like glass, water, asphalt, and snow.

Polarized lenses were invented in 1936 by Edwin H. Land and popularized by people who spent a lot of time near water.

That's because the accessory allowed them to make out distortions, which helped to identify and avoid potential accidents.

Now, let's answer your most burning question.

How Do Polarized Sunglasses Work?

Sunlight scatters outward in various directions. However, when it strikes a flat surface such as water, the light that bounces back and becomes polarized — which means that it moves in the same horizontal direction as the surface.

That produces an intense and dangerous form of light that causes glare and compromises your vision. Polarization explains why it's difficult to see through a river or lake, even when the water is clear.

And that's because the reflected light beams which don't make it through the water remain on the surface, producing a mirror-like film.

So, how do sunglasses combat polarization?

Polarized filters

This is where we answer the question, "How do polarized sunglasses work? Polarized sunglasses have a layer of chemical film or laminated filter on their lenses to block the intense light that causes glare and visual discomfort.

The laminated filter comprises of molecules aligned strategically to create a microscopic filter. The filter has a primary role: absorbing any reflected wave moving in the same horizontal direction as its surface.

When the lenses are ready (i.e., polarized), they're fixed at an angle within the sunglasses that only allows vertically polarized light to pass through.

Glare reduction

When you put on a pair of polarized sunglasses and look at something with a highly reflective horizontal surface — such as a hood of a car -- your sunglasses will only allow the vertically polarized light to pass through.

That action blocks the horizontally polarized light, quickly eliminating glare and improving visibility.

Polarized lenses are available in several colors, with the most common ones being darker colors — green, brown, and gray. The lens color impacts how much light reaches your eyes and how you can efficiently identify true colors and contrast.

Darker lenses are suitable for outdoor activities.

On the other hand, lighter lens colors such as vermillion, gold, rose, amber, and yellow, are ideal for moderate to low light conditions.

Why You Need to Consider

Now that we can answer the question, "How do polarized sunglasses work?" we can turn our attention to exploring the advantages of owning a pair or two. Here are the primary benefits of wearing polarized sunglasses.

  • Reducing intense reflections can be helpful when driving since it eliminates glare from the hood of the car and reflective pavements
  • They improve contrast, which helps users to identify true colors from a distance
  • Improves visual comfort by reducing eye strain
  • Beneficial to people who are sensitive to light and helps to prevent eye pain by reducing the intensity of light

Even though the benefits of polarized sunglasses are undeniable, the reality is that it's not for everyone. Reportedly, some people feel disoriented or dizzy after wearing them.

That's why it's essential to contact an ophthalmologist or optometrist for their medical recommendation if you have an eye problem.

How to Choose Your Lenses

We're delighted you can answer the question, "How do polarized sunglasses work?" Now, let's take it a step further by helping you to pick the right lenses when buying high-quality polarized sunglasses.

Progressive lenses

Polarized sunglasses with progressive lenses are an excellent choice for people over 40 who spend a great deal of time outside. These lenses make use of line-free multi-focals that amplify intermediate and near vision.

Photochromic lenses

These are the perfect lenses for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors. Polarized lenses with photochromic lenses shield your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Anti-reflective coating

If you wear prescription sunglasses, ask your doctor about applying an anti-reflective coating to the back of your lenses. It enhances your sunglasses' performance and eliminates distractions when the sun falls behind you.

How to Test If Your Lenses Are Polarized

When you invest in a new pair of polarized sunglasses, it's not enough to explain, "How do polarized sunglasses work?" You also need to confirm if the glasses are indeed polarized. Here's the quickest way to find out.

Go to the nearest drugstore with your sunglasses and grab a pair of polarized sunglasses, and place your sunglasses at a 90-degree angle to those lenses.

If both lenses turn dark, your sunglasses are polarized.

To use another method, hold your sunglasses in front of a backlit LCD screen. As you turn the sunglasses, the lenses should turn darker.

To reiterate our earlier point: If you have an eye problem, make sure you speak to your doctor before buying a pair of polarized sunglasses.

Now if someone walks up to you and asks the question, "How do polarized sunglasses work?", would you be able to explain briefly? Share your thoughts in the comment section.


Featured Image Provided by Pixabay

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