Photo courtesy of Wiley X.


As lens manufacturers introduce more polarized lens options, eyecare professionals (ECPs) are recommending them more often to patients. Although there’s still plenty of room for growth in this market, it’s clear that polarized lenses are the best choice for most outdoor sunglasses. So how are ECPs utilizing polarized lenses? To find out, three opticians from around the country were interviewed. They share their perspectives on this lens category below.

Sam Morgenstern, Optical Manager, Optical Shoppe of the Princeton Eye Group, Princeton, NJ

Mary Ann Hargrove, Owner, Empire Optical, Tulsa, OK

Mickey Bradley, Owner, Patrick Optical, Fort Worth, TX

What advantages do you feel polarized lenses provide patients?

Sam Morgenstern: There’s really one sun lens we use and that is a polarized lens. We recommend it for sun because it’s the only type that truly eliminates reflected glare. We used to tell patients it was good for fishing, but now we tell them it is a great lens for driving because it takes away road glare. An added benefit while driving or cycling or road running is the fact that a polarized lens allows you to see through the windshields of oncoming cars, so you can tell if the driver sees you.

Mary Ann Hargrove: Their main benefit is that they eliminate reflected glare, so they have a remarkable effect on light-and glare-sensitive patients. These patients return again and again to have their tint darkened and still aren’t comfortable. You believe they need more visible light and less reflected glare to be comfortable. A visit to the glare box demonstrator is the most efficient way to help them understand this principle.

Mickey Bradley: Polarized lenses offer more comfort, clarity, and protection for the consumer by eliminating reflected glare from horizontal reflective surfaces such as streets and sidewalks, sand, water, and snow. By eliminating this reflective glare, the dark tint of the lens is able to reduce the brightness of the light.

Do you recommend polarized lenses to every sunwear patient?

SM: We recommend polarized lenses to everyone because we feel it’s the best type of sunglass lens available. We explain the benefits but the real closing occurs when we demonstrate what a polarized lens does. It gets us the “wow” factor and makes the lens sale easy. The only people we don’t recommend polarized lenses to are those who might use an LED display on their vehicles, such as an airplane. Sometimes, skiers don’t care for polarized lenses because they
like to see the glare off moguls when skiing.

MH: No, I need to know more about their lifestyle and environment. If they need to look at a digital instrument panel or are overly confused by the pattern on their auto’s rear window, or certainly if they’re an amateur or professional pilot, we find non-polarized lenses, a polarized clip, or a fitover for the times when they cannot operate with polarization.

MB: Our use of polarized lenses has caused our use of tinted sun lenses to virtually disappear. We begin with the recommendation of polarized lenses to everyone, explaining the benefits of the reflection eliminating ability of the lens. During this conversation, we sometimes find that certain activities make polarized lenses an unsuitable choice for sunwear. These could be golf, piloting, etc. Of course, we still offer polarized lenses for their other activities.

Photo courtesy of Maui Jim.

What sunwear categories are best suited for polarized lenses?

SM: Every category of sunwear can benefit from polarized lenses. Whether the patient is wearing a fashion or sports sunglass, polarized lenses offer them the best protection against annoying glare.

MH: Most sports are well served by polarized lenses with two exceptions: certain sailboat operators feel they can’t see the wind patterns on the water, and pilots. Golf, tennis, and most outdoor activities seem to be enhanced by polarized lenses. For photochromic lens wearers who aren’t comfortable with their lenses in the car, a fitover or clip-on gives them the extra light management they require without too much fuss.

MB: Driving is always the first suggestion for polarized lenses because the reflective environment on roads is challenging. Fishing sunwear is certainly the next category for polarized lenses due to the highly reflective water surface. Cyclists and runners are also subjected to highly reflective surfaces for long periods of time.

What lens add-ons do you typically recommend with polarized lenses?

SM: We recommend backside anti-reflective (AR) treatment. Patients don’t realize that sometimes their sunglass lenses can reflect light off the inside of the lens. Backside AR helps prevent this.

MH: If we have a patient who needs to pull out all of the stops, we recommend an AR treatment for their polarized sunwear. Once someone decides to begin wearing polarized lenses, she rarely returns to non-polarized lenses.

MB: A backside AR treatment is always a viable recommendation for sunwear to eliminate back-surface reflections. This reflection can be annoying and even hazardous. Along with a backside AR finish, we also use a premium treatment that adds a hardcoat to the front of the lenses, which is beneficial for those involved in rougher sporting activities.

What color of polarized lenses do you sell?

SM: Most of the time, we sell either gray or brown polarized lenses. Each brand of Rx lenses has their own polarized colors, so depending on the brand, the grays and browns will vary. There are some companies that sell polarized lenses in other colors but they aren’t common and we rarely need to use them. The one exception to this is the Rxable Maui Jim lenses that now come in four colors.

MH: For our custom clip-ons, we stock 6-base polarized polycarbonate lenses in gray, high contrast brown, gray/green (G 15), driver’s rose, and French apple green. The only 8-base lenses (for high-plus patients) are in brown and gray at the moment. Colors are demonstrated with flippers that fit over the patient’s glasses to determine which one gives them optimum visual results. We know all too well that it isn’t nearly as effective to recommend a color as it is for the persons who are going to wear it to test it for themselves.

MB: Most of our polarized lenses are gray for their more natural color rendition. For a customer desiring more contrast, a brown polarized lens is the next most recommended color. For someone with more specific filtering needs such as shooting, tennis, or skiing, a rose amber or yellow lens is sometimes suggested. The limited availability of some of these more specific colors makes recommending them challenging.

Have you tried photochromic polarized lenses?

SM: We offer Younger Optics’ Drivewear® polarized photochromic lenses but haven’t sold many. This might be due to the cost of the lenses, which is higher than normal photochromic or polarized lenses.

We also offer Transitions® Vantage™ polarized lenses but there hasn’t been much call for it yet. For those who like the photochromic properties, it doesn’t get clear enough inside, and for those who really want a polarized lens,
it’s too light outside.

MH: While we have begun to try the new Vantage photochromic polarized Transitions lens, the results are still out on how effective they’re going to be. Patient satisfaction has been mixed. The lens we have had the most experience with is Drivewear. The people who have been well placed in that photochromic polarized option love their sunglasses.

MB: We’ve had negligible usage of these lenses, so positive or negative feedback has been minimal. The Transitions Vantage lens looks interesting but my initial observation is that the darkest tint level is not quite as dark as a typical polarized lens. Because of this, I view it as an excellent entry level lens for someone that has not worn a dedicated sunglass.

The Drivewear lens has an interesting range of tints, but we have had resistance to the extra cost of a photochromic polarized lens.

What lens material do you usually recommend for polarized lenses?

SM: The patient’s prescription is what determines the material we recommend for their polarized lenses. Some prescriptions are higher than others and need a thinner, lighter lens, especially in a bigger sunglass. Fortunately, most polarized lenses come in polycarbonate. Lately, we’re beginning to use more 1.67 progressive polarized lenses as they become available. Maui Jim has the Evolution™ material lens, which is also a thinner polarized lens. For optics (and some color) reasons, we would always rather use CR-39®. We have found that a CR-39 lens gives us a truer darker polarized effect than the polycarbonate versions.

MH: We use Trivex® material polarized lenses, even though they don’t seem quite as efficient as polycarbonate, CR-39, or a higher-index material polarized lenses. Our aim is to match the index of refraction and technical requirements of the frame selected with the patient’s lifestyle needs so they get the best option.

MB: We use a variety of lens materials for polarized lens Rx’s, selecting the material based on how the individual will use it. CR-39 is commonly used, while polycarbonate or preferably a high-index lens material is recommended for more active lifestyles. As it becomes more available, Trivex will be a choice for more active patients.



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