Polarized vs. Non-Polarized Sunglasses

Which Should I Choose?

Deciding on the right pair of sunglasses can be tough, particularly if you’re considering polarized versus non-polarized lenses. This guide will help you to understand the difference between the two, which choice is best for you, and how to tell whether or not your sunglasses are actually polarized. The main thing to consider when you’re making your decision is what you are going to be doing when you're wearing them.

Polarized Sunglasses:

Polarized sunglasses are specially designed to reduce the effect of glare and the intensi-ty of light. Glare is a problem anytime light reflects off of a surface and disturbs your vision. There are two types of glare: discomfort glare, which causes the viewer to look away from the bright object and disability glare, which is so luminous that it causes temporary blindness. Both types of glare can be dangerous causing accidents and sometimes even retinal damage. Re-flective surfaces such as water and snow are commonly known to produce excessive glare, but perhaps the most often experienced danger posed by glare is for drivers blinded by light reflect-ing off of passing cars.

How do they work?

When our eyes take in light it usually comes from all directions, but when a reflective sur-face is introduced at a particular angle its luminance intensifies causing glare. Most of the sur-faces that make glare problematic for viewers are positioned at a horizontal angle from our viewpoint and therefore reflect light horizontally. Polarized lenses work by restricting the pas-sage of horizontal light. They are designed with a special chemical film that filters horizontal light to make objects with a lot of luminance appear normal.

Who are they for?

Polarized sunglasses are popular amongst outdoor sports enthusiasts, but they also of-fer many advantages for everyday use. Anyone participating in outdoor activities near water or snow will benefit from polarized lenses. It is recommended that drivers use polarized lenses in sunny weather as glare can be produced from light reflecting off of the road or passing cars. People with sensitive eyes may even prefer to wear polarized sunglasses for daily use and in-doors as light can cause glare reflecting off of many surfaces such as glass windows or doors.

How to tell if you’re lenses are polarized:

Keep in mind that not all sunglasses advertised as polarized are actually made with the special lens to filter horizontal light. Without this uniquely treated lens, the sunglasses will not effectively reduce glare. It’s important to be sure to purchase polarized sunglasses from a legit-imate vendor. You can also test the sunglasses yourself by holding them to a reflective surface and then slowly rotating the sunglasses vertically. As you rotate the glasses, the glare should reduce if the lenses are polarized. Similarly, you can hold the glasses to a computer screen and rotate them slowly to see the polarized lenses darken as they are rotated. Non-polarized sun-glasses will not change.

Non-Polarized Sunglasses:

Unlike polarized sunglasses that provide an extra filter for horizontally reflected light, non-polarized sunglasses filter light from all angles equally. These lenses are designed to min-imize the brightness of light altogether. Without glare, non-polarized sunglasses should be suf-ficient to protect your eyes from the sunlight if the lenses are properly designed for UV protec-tion. It’s always a good idea to ask the vendor to be sure since many sunglasses are being sold without UV protection lenses, which do not properly protect your eyes.

Who are they for?

In some cases, non-polarized sunglasses are preferable. Polarized lenses filter horizon-tal light regardless of the source, which may make it difficult to see luminescent objects like computer screens. If you need to spend a lot of time on a computer or iPhone while you are wearing sunglasses, non-polarized sunglasses may be a better choice. For this reason, many pilots often prefer non-polarized sunglasses.


It’s always worth it to invest in a good pair of sunglasses! Well designed sunglasses will protect your eyes from bright light and retinal damage. Now that you know which type of lens will work best for you, have fun trying on different styles and materials! Check out my other arti-cles for tips on which designs will look best on you and why you should choose bamboo frames!