Along with lots of other jargon that is thrown around when talking about sports eyewear, polarization is a feature often assumed to be universally beneficial and a sign of superior, higher-quality sunglasses. However, this isn’t always the case and in certain situations can mean a reduction in protection and performance.
What are polarized lenses?
Polarized lenses work by preventing light glare from hitting you directly in the eye. When light rays reflect off uneven objects they are scattered before entering your eye. However, with flat and highly reflective surfaces, such as water, the light is much brighter. This is because it reflects directly into the eye without being scattered.
Polarized lenses are treated with a special chemical that blocks some of that light as it passes through them. It acts as a filter for what’s being reflected directly into your eyes.
Essentially, a polarized lens filters raw light and allows only the vertical light waves to pass through the lens. Reflected light waves and glare are often horizontal so have a harder time passing through the vertical filter.
What are the main benefits of polarized lenses?
- Reduce glare
- Boost colors and enhance contrasts
- Additional comfort and protection on water
How do they improve clarity?
Predominantly by filtering out horizontal light waves. Also, due to tiny particles within humid or polluted air, the blue sky can appear dimmer than its true-blue color, giving it a white, yellow, or grey appearance.
When a polarizing lens stops the reflections from those particles, the sky can retain its deep blue appearance.
What makes polarized lenses a good choice for water activities?
A polarized lens will bring you richer colors and enable you to see more clearly from the surface down through the water, as opposed to a more ‘washed out’ and unclear view with a non-polarized lens. Your eyes aren’t therefore working as hard to pick out specific objects in the environment, so you can avoid fatigue-related issues like headaches and eye-strain.
Overall, this means a better experience for sports such as fishing where clear vision is critical to performance, as well as other water sports such as kayaking, canoeing and standup paddle.
When are polarized lenses a disadvantage?
Due to the different disparities and shades of white from snow and ice on the mountains it can be challenging for some people to easily distinguish one surface from another. Skiing, as such a fast-paced sport that requires quick reactions and decisions is not the best activity for using polarized sunglasses and consequently skiers may wish to stay away from them when on runs.
It should be noted however, that when you are surrounded by fresh snow, up to 80% of UVA/UVB rays the sun emits can be reflected towards you and almost double your exposure.
It is useful to know how and why polarized lenses work to determine if they will enhance your comfort and safety when enjoying your chosen sport or activity. Other factors such as the lens category, color and material are all important when choosing sports eyewear so make sure to do your research before buying.