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What Are Polarized Sunglasses?

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A pair of polarized sunglasses sitting in the sand on a beach.

Summer is in full swing, and it’s time to get ready for fun in the sun! Whether you’re hitting the beach with the family, going on a road trip, or taking a stroll in the park, you need to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

UV exposure can increase your risk of developing harmful eye conditions, but the bright summer sun can also make it hard to see. Polarized sunglasses can protect your vision from sunlight bouncing off water, concrete, and snow.

There’s a lot of cool technology packed into these little things, so grab a cold drink, throw on those shades, and let’s talk about polarization.

What Do Polarized Sunglasses Do?

Simply put, polarized sunglasses have a special filter that blocks horizontal light waves while allowing vertical light waves to pass through. 

Why is this important? When light reflects off a flat surface, such as water, pavement, or snow, it becomes “horizontally polarized,” meaning that it creates a glare that can be blinding and uncomfortable for the eyes.

Polarized sunglasses help reduce this glare and provide clearer, sharper vision in bright outdoor environments. Plus, they enhance colour contrast and depth perception, making everything look more vibrant.

What Does Polarization Mean?

Polarized sunglasses use a vertical filter that blocks the glare caused by horizontal light waves. The logic here is simple: you can’t put mail through a slot sideways. It’s blocked and can’t get through.

Unlike mail, however, light moves in waves. When it strikes an object, it scatters all over the place. But when light hits a horizontal surface, such as pavement, water, or a shiny car hood, it turns into a horizontal wave. Sunglasses with polarized lenses reflect just these horizontal waves while letting the vertical waves through, significantly reducing glare and making it easier to see in bright conditions.

A young woman wearing a sun hat and polarized sunglasses on the beach.

Do I Need Polarized Sunglasses?

The primary use of polarized sunglasses is to reduce glare. For many lovers of the outdoors, they’re a must-have accessory. We all know glare can be annoying, but it can be downright dangerous in some situations.

Glare can dramatically impair your vision, making it hard to distinguish colours and overwhelming the photoreceptors in your eyes, potentially filling your view with white light. This can be incredibly dangerous if you’re driving a car or boat.

Polarized sunglasses are an excellent choice for people who enjoy:

  • Fishing
  • Golfing
  • Boating
  • Driving
  • Snowboarding

Anyone who spends time outside and wants to avoid the annoyance of glare can benefit from polarized sunglasses.

More Benefits of Polarized Sunglasses

Blocking glare is good, but polarized sunglasses also offer benefits like:

  • Increased visual comfort
  • Enhanced contrast between light and dark
  • Maintained true colors
  • Prevention of eye strain and fatigue

It’s worth noting that polarization alone won’t protect you from UV radiation. However, many sunglasses provide both polarization and UV protection. Always check the label and choose shades that block 100% UV radiation.

Wait, Why Is My Phone Screen Black?

Like many accessories, there are times when polarized lenses aren’t recommended. One interesting effect you may notice is that polarization makes your phone screen almost entirely black! What’s going on here? 

Many liquid crystal displays (LCD) screens and screen protectors have built-in polarized filters to reduce glare and make using your phone in direct sunlight easier. However, if the polarization on your screen and your sunglasses clash, you could start thinking something’s wrong with your phone. It’s a pretty cool effect once you know to expect it. You can fix it by turning your head (or phone) 90 degrees or removing your glasses.

Polarized sunglasses are also not recommended when seeing glare is advantageous, such as:

  • Spotting ice on roads while driving
  • Spotting ice while skiing or snowboarding
  • Driving at night—polarized lenses can dim headlights and reflective tape

Cutting Out Glare, Staying in Style

Polarized sunglasses are a game-changer for anyone who loves spending time outdoors in bright conditions. They offer substantial glare reduction, colour enhancement, and UV protection to support your family’s eye health.

And while sunglasses should protect your eyes, they should also make you feel confident! At Total Focus Optometry Centre, our expert team works with you to outfit your family with stylish and protective sunnies from our selection of polarized shades.

Book an appointment today, and keep your next summer adventure in sight with a fresh pair of sunglasses!

Written by Dr. Craig M

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