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Polarized sunglasses help to protect your eyes from the light that reflects off of highly reflective surfaces like water, sheet metal, snow, and asphalt. Usually, light scatters when it bounces off an object’s uneven surface. But if the surface of an object is smooth, the light will vibrate in one direction into your eyes. That strong glare can be painful and even harmful to your eyes. Polarized sunglasses, however, reduce the reflection to protect your eyes.
The polarized lens is actually the brainchild of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists who’d studied eagles’ razor-sharp vision. They discovered a naturally occurring oil in eagles’ eyes that control certain light properties and limit specific wavelengths. Scientists were able to mimic that effect in polarized sunglasses with a chemical that basically filters the light that meets your eye. Because the filter on polarized sunglasses is vertical (and glares are typically horizontal light), only some light can make it through each lens.
Polarized sunglasses can help protect your eyes, however, understanding the difference between polarized and non-polarized sunglasses is important to your eye health.
Here’s what you should know about polarized sunglasses before purchasing your first pair:
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Polarized sunglasses and non-polarized sunglasses both protect your eyes from harmful light, but they differ in a few key ways:
You should purchase a pair of polarized sunglasses over non-polarized sunglasses if you spend a lot of time on the road or by the water. This is because polarized sunglasses will help to deflect bright glares from surfaces like asphalt and calm water.
Other benefits of polarized sunglasses include:
A polarized pair of sunglasses help to reduce glare from highly reflective surfaces. So, you should wear polarized glasses when you are:
Non-polarized sunglasses are still a great option to keep your eyes safe from the sun’s dangerous UV rays if your polarized sunglasses don’t shield against UVA or UVB rays. You may also choose to wear non-polarized sunglasses instead of polarized sunglasses if you have trouble reading text on LCD (liquid crystal display) screens (e.g., your phone, your car dashboard, your watch, ATMs machines, etc.).
Because polarized sunglasses can be dark, situations where you should wear non-polarized sunglasses include:
“Polarized Lenses and How They Work.” Dr. Floyd Smith | Optometrist, Westwood, NJ 07675, 31 July 2013, drfloydsmith.com/polarized-lenses-and-how-they-work-3/.
“Polarized Lenses: Are The Better for Your Eyes?: Vision Source.” VisionSource, 3 Aug. 2016, visionsource.com/blog/polarized-lenses/.
“Polarized Sunglasses.” Exploratorium, 17 June 2020, www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/polarized-sunglasses.
“Recommended Types of Sunglasses.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 28 Feb. 2018, www.aao.org/eye-health/glasses-contacts/sunglasses-recommended-types.
“What Are Polarized Lenses For?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 14 Jan. 2019, www.aao.org/eye-health/glasses-contacts/polarized-lenses.