Polarised vs Non-Polarised Sunglasses – What’s the Difference?

by Jamie Wilson

Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA

When the summer finally arrives it’s important to get your hands on a quality pair of sunglasses. Although there are a lot of cheap accessories out there, you may be thinking of investing in a pair of polarised shades. Here’s all you need to know about the difference.

Let’s be honest, we all feel 100% cooler and ten times more attractive when donning our favourite pair of shades, but the real purpose of wearing sunglasses can often be overlooked. Our eyesight is something we take for granted on a daily basis, but the safety of our eyes is extremely important; not only in the summer months, but all year round

When it comes to sunglasses you’re probably one of two types of people; the cheap and cheerful type, or the expensive taste wins the race kind. If like many, you are option number one, you most likely buy numerous pairs of sunglasses each year due to the lower prices you spend, and you’re probably kitted out in the latest eyewear trends as you don’t have to play it safe if you’re not spending hundreds of pounds. If though, you’re in to your designer brands or you take the protection of your eyeballs very seriously, then you are no doubt comfortable spending a pretty penny for the best, but ‘forever’ sort of pair.

Polarised Sunglasses

What Does Polarised Mean?

Polarise: restrict the vibrations of (a transverse wave, especially light) wholly or partially to one direction.

The sun light reflected by any surface, for example while driving, walking on the beach, or skiing on the mountains, is the polarised light.

How Do Polarised Sunglasses Work?

What are polarised sunglasses? So here’s the science bit: Visible light waves from the sun reflect in all different directions. When this sunlight reflects off a horizontal surface such as a road or water, the rays become concentrated horizontally, causing glare.

Polarised lenses have a built-in laminated filter which let’s only vertical light rays through and almost completely blocks out horizontal ones. This in turn eliminates glare, and is most noticeable when on or near water, such as when sailing or fishing, as there is a drastic reduction in the brightness of shiny surfaces. Polarised sunglasses are also amazing for reduced eye strain and great comfort.

Non-Polarised Sunglasses

We’re not saying that non-polarised sunglasses don’t protect your eyes; they definitely do. Non-polarised lenses have a dark shade and reduce the intensity of light, however, unlike polarised lenses, they cannot counter the effects of horizontal rays. These lenses do not take into account the direction in which light is coming.

What’s the Difference Between Polarised and Non-Polarised Sunglasses?

The argument of polarised vs non-polarised lenses is largely dependent on when you will be wearing them and what you will be doing at the time.

Though polarised sunglasses improve comfort and visibility, you will encounter some instances when these lenses may not be advisable. Although often thought of as a great aide to any kind of winter sport, there is a slight exception when it comes to downhill skiing, as you don’t want to block the light that reflects off icy patches because this alerts skiers to hazards they are approaching.

In addition, driving is another area where polarised lenses may reduce the visibility of images produced by liquid crystal displays (LCDs) or light-emitting diode displays (LEDs) found on the dashboards of some cars or in other places such as the digital screens on Sat Navs. In the same way, polarised lenses may also make it difficult to see your mobile phone screen, which in this day and age is unthinkable!

However, for most other sports and activities polarised sunglasses offer some great advantages, and many polarised lenses are available in combination with other features that can enhance outdoor experiences.

Benefits of Polarised Sunglasses

A polarised lens offers the following advantages over non-polarized lenses:

  • Improves visual comfort
  • Improves contrast and visual clarity
  • Reduces eye strain
  • Allows for true perception of colours
  • Reduces reflections and eliminates glare
  • Complete protection from UVA and UVB rays

Cons of Polarised Sunglasses

  • Polarised lenses make it difficult to view LCD screens with images on the screen disappearing at certain angles
  • In certain light conditions they may compromise contrast when skiing, making it difficult to distinguish between patches of snow and ice
  • Polarised lenses come with a heftier price tag than non-polarised sunglasses

Are Polarised Sunglasses Worth it?

If you’re a keen fisherman or boater the use of polarised sunglasses is extremely beneficial as it helps to eliminate the strong glare from the surface of the water and allows you to view deeper in to the sea for fish or obstacles.

Similarly, if you do a lot of driving then we would definitely say it is worth investing in a pair of sunglasses with polarised lenses as any long summer road trips will benefit by reducing your eye discomfort and fatigue. If however you don’t usually take part in regular activities that would directly benefit from the use of polarised lenses, the higher expenditure might not be worth your while.

Best Polarised Sunglasses

Choosing your sunglasses should come down to a few main points first and foremost; overall protection is by far the most important aspect, with quality coming a very close second.

Ray Ban Polarised Sunglasses

In 1937 the world of sunglasses was changed forever when Ray-Ban was founded. An icon of the eyewear world, there is no other more recognised brand of glasses than Ray-Ban. With that in mind, it only made sense that they would get in on the polarised action and take their brand to the next level.

Ray-Ban’s polarised lenses are the result of more than 70 years of innovation and research, and they block more than 99% of the reflected lights. They offer three different qualities of Polarised lenses: P, P³ and P³Plus, ranging from the simplest to the most sophisticated additional features.

Styling Your Polarised Sunglasses

Sunglasses can totally make an outfit, and leaving the house without a pair can often leave you feeling incomplete, or worse, naked. Now that the summer months are here (kind of), you want to make sure you’re well equipped for the sun and looking as cool as a ‘cuc’.

Summer Holiday

Channel French Riviera chic with a lightweight casual shirt, chino shorts and boat shoes. Sunglasses and other accessories such as a belt will complete your look with a touch of finesse to create the perfect men’s summer fashion.

English Summer Casual

Summer in England can be a bit hit and miss as far as the weather is concerned, but as soon as we see a little bit of sun we’re the first to strip down and throw on our warm weather gear. Smart casual for men is the perfect look for warmer weather. Make sure to accessorise with polarised sunglasses for a classic look.

Cold Weather Cool

Sunglasses aren’t only confined to the summer months, and on the rare occasion we are actually treated to some sun elsewhere in the calendar, sunglasses add some subtle cool to your outfit. A biker jacket look always benefits from the added cool of a pair of sunglasses.

Picking the Right Shades for You

What is the Right Shape for Your Face?

Picking the right pair of sunglasses to suit your face shape can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what it is that makes that perfect pair.

For Round Faces:

If you have been blessed with a youthful round (baby) face, then your best bet as far as glasses go is an angular pair. The angles of the frames will add some structure and strong lines to your face which you’re likely to be grateful for, and they will accentuate your features.

For Square Faces:

Square faces require a softer frame if you go by things mentioned in the previous shape. Opt for a thinner frame such as a metal one to soften your angular features, and a round shape frame would be the perfect way to balance your look.

For Heart/Triangular Faces:

A heart shaped face is exactly how it sounds; a small, possibly pointed chin and a top-heavy upper half of your face. The way to balance this face shape is by choosing sunglasses which manage to contour your cheeks and chin. Opt for frames that are wider at the top than the bottom.

For Oval Faces:

As with most things in life, the oval-faced brother has very little to worry about when choosing his frames and can pretty much go for whatever he likes. This universally wonderful face shape doesn’t particularly need any balancing out, so you have your pick of the bunch.

How Your Sunglasses Should Fit

If you’re going to be spending a bit more cash than usual on your frames, make sure you get some sunglasses that are the perfect fit for your face. When buying cheaper pairs from high street stores, this may be a little more difficult as most retailers will do a standard one size fits all.

If you’re really pushing the boat out, you could go for a bespoke pair and get them specially fitted for your face, but otherwise just make sure you try before you buy and keep an eye out for the following measures.

First of all, find a frame that corresponds to the width of your face, as overhang at either side mostly looks odd and obviously ill-fitting. It can also make your head look smaller which can be a good or bad thing I suppose, depending on the size of your noggin. Make sure that you don’t assume that just because one particular style fit perfectly, that all other sunglasses of that shape will do the same. Treat every pair on a case by case basis.

Make sure that the frame of the sunglasses fits as close to the eyes as possible; anything sticking out a mile or hanging off the end of your nose is just going to look plain wrong, and your eyebrows should be visible from above the frame.

As a rule, your eyeball should be directly in the middle of the lens/frame, and the distance from the outer corner should be equal on both sides. This point is of course very specific, and we don’t expect you to be whacking your tape measure out in the shop, just use it as more of a rough guide to getting it right.

The tip of the sunglasses’ arms should fit snugly around the ears and should definitely not be allowing the sunglasses to slide down. If this is the case you will need to get the tips adjusted and bent slightly so that it creates a better fit, AKA no slippin’ n slidin’.

How to Clean Your Sunglasses

It’s all well and good wearing your sunglasses, nailing the style so you look perfectly suave, and even getting a pair that fit like a glove; but what about those really annoying smudges and finger prints that you inevitably get all over the lenses? Nightmare.

Polarised vs Non-Polarised Sunglasses

  • Polarised offer 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays, non-polarised don’t.
  • Polarised help to eliminate all glare, non-polarised only help direct shine.
  • Polarised sunglasses are great for activities such as driving and fishing, non-polarised are more suited to skiing.
  • Polarised can make it difficult to view LCD and LED screens, non-polarised won’t have any effect
  • Polarised will usually work out more expensive.

On That Note

The decision is all yours! Polarised sunglasses are great for certain outdoor activities, and we think they could be a real game-changer for those of you who spend a lot of time in or near water but have yet to try polarised lenses. However they do have their drawbacks, and if you are just your average sunglasses wearer there may not be the need to splash out so extravagantly on a pair.

One thing we can be sure of though, is their ability to protect our eyes more than anything else on the market, and what could be more important than that?

Feature image from Pinterest

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