Updated on 

October 25, 2021

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Polycarbonate Lenses

What Are Polycarbonate Lenses?

Polycarbonate lenses are distinguished by their resilient, shatterproof, and built-in scratch-resistant properties. Impact resistance sets them apart from other eyeglass lenses. This makes them an optimal choice for people with active lifestyles who are more prone to dropping or scratching their eyeglasses. Polycarbonate lenses are also ideal for children’s eyewear and prescription safety glasses.

Lighter and thinner than standard plastic or glass lenses, polycarbonate lenses may be more comfortable to wear and still don’t sacrifice quality. They don’t add thickness to correct vision, they minimize distortion, and they block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation (UV light).

Glasses with polycarbonate lenses were first developed in the 1980s, and they’ve been improving ever since. All standard coatings, such as anti-reflective coating, scratch-resistant coating, and tints can be applied to these lenses.

Polycarbonate Lenses Advantages & Disadvantages

All eyeglass wearers should weigh both the pros and cons of polycarbonate lenses before making any purchasing decisions. Your eye doctor can also provide more information on any specific questions you may have.

Here are some advantages of polycarbonate lenses:

  • Durable, providing extra safety to your eyes and promoting better eye health
  • 10 times more resistant to impact than plastic eyeglasses, so they don’t shatter or break as easily
  • Boast scratch resistance so they last longer than regular plastic lenses
  • The refractive index of polycarbonate lenses is 1.59, which means that they tend to be 20 to 25 percent thinner than plastic eyeglasses
  • Generally weigh about 30 percent less than plastic eyeglasses
  • Don’t add thickness to correct vision
  • Minimize distortion
  • Completely block the sun’s UV rays
  • Are ideal for anyone prone to impact
  • Come in all types — from strong prescriptions to glasses for specific eye concerns

There are also some disadvantages of polycarbonate lenses:

  • You get what you pay for. Polycarbonate lenses can cost up to double the price of regular eyeglasses. While quality eye care is important, the price can be a critical factor in your decision-making process. Having a conversation with your optician about your eyewear needs and shopping around for the best price is wise.
  • Less durable than Trivex lenses. Polycarbonate lenses may be thinner, lighter, and more durable than plastic material, but that’s not necessarily true when compared to rival technology like Trivex lenses. Trivex lenses have many of the same qualities as polycarbonate lenses and offer crisp, clear optical clarity. The biggest difference is that Trivex lenses are made of a urethane-based monomer that’s crafted through a cast-molding process (as opposed to an injection-molding process).
  • Lower Abbe value than regular plastic or high-index lenses. Abbe value measures the dispersion of light for different eyeglass lens materials. Polycarbonate rates lower, meaning they have the potential to cause slight chromatic aberrations (visual distortions) in your peripheral vision. However, many people do not notice this.

Polycarbonate Lenses Cost

Polycarbonate lenses tend to be more expensive than traditional plastic glasses and other eyewear, including some contact lenses. In fact, because of the high index plastic lens material, they can cost about two times more than plastic lenses.

The cost and quality of polycarbonate lenses will vary depending on your prescription (stronger prescriptions may cost more) and the seller — so it’s worth shopping around. With your prescription, you have the right to shop wherever you prefer — from an optician, in stores, or online. 

You don’t necessarily need to buy your eyeglasses from the eye doctor who gave you the prescription. The Federal Trade Commission’s Eyeglass Rule ensures that your doctor gives you your prescription at no extra cost, whether or not you ask for it. 

FAQs for Polycarbonate Lenses

Do polycarbonate lenses provide UV protection?

Eye safety is important, but it goes beyond your prescription. Polycarbonate lenses also protect from harmful UV rays. The lenses have a natural blocker to prevent ultraviolet radiation from damaging your eyes. The UV protection, coupled with their durability, makes polycarbonate lenses ideal for people who tend to be active outdoors.

How are polycarbonate lenses different from glass or plastic lenses?

Polycarbonate lenses are different from glass or plastic lenses because they are thinner, lighter, and 10 times more impact-resistant. They provide extra safety for your eyes without sacrificing comfort or fit. Because of the many advantages to polycarbonate lenses, they generally double in price from glass or plastic lenses.

An eye exam from your optician will help you to determine your eye health and the best lens type for your eyewear.

How do I remove scratches from polycarbonate lenses? 

The good news about polycarbonate lenses is that they’re much sturdier and better-prepared for the worst than typical plastic glasses. This means that they won’t scratch as easily because they have  a scratch-resistant coating. If you do scratch your polycarbonate lenses, however, you may have a warranty. Some polycarbonate lenses come with a warranty that will replace or repair your scratched lenses for free. Contact your optician or eyewear seller if you’re not sure.

If you don’t have a warranty, you can try buffing out any scratches by rubbing a cloth with toothpaste in a circular motion over them. The same goes for removing scratches on most eyewear.

DIY scratch removal can leave your lenses in worse condition if not done properly. Some toothpaste may be abrasive and can scratch the lens further.

What are polycarbonate lenses made of?

Polycarbonate lenses are made of a thin, lightweight plastic that is known for its impact resistance and UV protection.

6 Cited Research Articles
  1. “Buying Prescription Eyeglasses? Your Rights Are Clear.” Consumer Information, 13 Mar. 2018, www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2016/05/buying-prescription-eyeglasses-your-rights-are-clear
  2. Fripps. “Polycarbonate Lenses.” Short Pump Family Eye Care, www.shortpumpfamilyeyecare.com/eyeglasses-contacts/prescription-eyeglasses/polycarbonate-lenses/
  3. G., - Robert, et al. “Polycarbonate Lenses.” Pikes Peak Eye Care, www.pikespeakeyecare.com/eyeglasses-contacts/prescription-eyeglasses/polycarbonate-lenses/
  4. iCare Family Vision. “What Are Trivex Lenses?” ICare Family Vision, ICare Family Vision, 9 Jan. 2018, www.icarefamilyvision.com/blog/2018/1/9/what-are-trivex-lenses
  5. Sueq. “Polycarbonate Lenses.” Image Eyecare Optometry, www.imageeyecare.com/glasses-boutique/prescription-eyeglasses/polycarbonate-lenses/
  6. “What Are Polycarbonate Lenses?” Doctor Of Eye, 14 Dec. 2017, doctorofeye.com/what-are-polycarbonate-lenses/.
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
AnnaMarie Houlis earned her B.A. in Journalism & New Media with a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Gettysburg College. She spent several years as an editor at the helm of New York City's lifestyle scene before transitioning into full-time freelance writing from all corners of the globe. A full-time traveler, AnnaMarie's work is inspired by her fieldwork in communities around the world and grounded in extensive, expert-backed research. Her mission is to empower readers everywhere with the knowledge and resources they need—for their eye health, included.
Author: AnnaMarie Houlis  | UPDATED October 25, 2021
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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