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What are Polarized Sunglasses?

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A young man is wearing polarized sunglasses on a sunny day outdoors with a mountains background.

When it comes to safeguarding your eyes, the available options are as unique as you are. One choice is polarized sunglasses. These trendy accessories are more than just style statements—they reduce glare from water, concrete, and snow.

As the summer vibes crank up and you’re planning beach time with family, embarking on a road trip, or simply enjoying a park stroll, give your eyes the boost they need to see clearly. But polarization alone doesn’t protect your eyes from UV radiation, and exposure to the summer sun can increase your risk of harmful eye conditions

How Do Polarized Sunglasses Work?

Polarized sunglasses feature a chemical filter that blocks horizontal light waves while giving the green light to vertical ones.

But why does this matter? 

When light bounces off a flat surface like water, pavement, or snow, it “flattens” into horizontal waves, causing an intense glare that can be quite harsh on the eyes.

However, polarized sunglasses dramatically cut down this glaring menace, offering clearer, sharper vision even in bright outdoor settings. As an added bonus, they also boost colour contrast and depth perception.

What Is Polarization?

The concept behind polarization is pretty straightforward: horizontal shapes can’t go through vertical openings.

From high school science, we know light moves in waves. When light encounters an object, it bounces off and scatters in all directions. But when it hits a horizontal surface like a car hood, pavement, or water, it morphs into a horizontal wave.

Polarized sunglasses use this phenomenon to their advantage. The molecules in the chemical coating are lined up to leave vertical gaps, reflecting away horizontal waves while allowing vertical waves to pass through. This significantly curbs glare, making it easier to see in bright conditions.

A view of a beach through polarized sunglasses.

What Can I Use Polarized Sunglasses For?

Polarized sunglasses offer several benefits, particularly for those who enjoy spending time outdoors, such as:

  • Glare reduction: By reducing glare, polarized lenses can make it safer to operate around water or while driving on a sunny day. They can also make it easier to see below the water, a feature ideal for fishing and boating.
  • Enhanced visual clarity and contrast: Not only could polarized sunglasses make your surroundings appear sharper, but they also could enhance colour contrast and visual clarity. They’re excellent for outdoor sports and activities requiring precision, such as fishing or golfing.
  • Reduced eye strain: By minimizing harsh glares and boosting visual clarity, polarized sunglasses can help prevent eye strain, fatigue, and discomfort, especially during prolonged exposure to sunlight.
  • UV protection: Polarization alone won’t protect your eyes from harmful UV light. However, many polarized sunglasses also offer complete UV protection. So check the label to make sure your sunglasses block 100% UV-A and UV-B radiation.

When Not to Use Polarized Sunglasses

While polarized sunglasses offer myriad benefits, there are certain situations where they might not be the best choice.

Have you ever noticed your phone screen turns black when wearing polarized sunglasses? Many liquid crystal displays (LCD) and screen protectors have built-in polarized filters to reduce glare and enhance direct sunlight visibility. But, if the polarization of your screen and sunglasses go in different directions, it can make your screen appear dark.

Don’t worry! Your phone’s not broken. It’s an interesting quirk, but once you’re aware of it, you can quickly fix it by tilting your head or phone or simply taking off your glasses.

Moreover, there are instances when glare can be helpful. Polarized sunglasses might not be the best pick in situations like:

  • Detecting ice on roads while driving
  • Identifying icy patches while skiing or snowboarding
  • Driving at night, as polarized lenses can dim the brightness of headlights and reflective tape

So, while polarized sunglasses are generally an excellent accessory for outdoor activities, it’s essential to consider when they’re most appropriate.

Fashion Meets Tech in Maple Ridge

Polarized sunglasses can be an ally for those who relish the great outdoors under a bright sky. They can provide significant glare reduction and colour enhancement. As long as they have proper UV protection, they can also protect your eye health.

And any pair of sunglasses you get should also make you feel confident! At Maple Ridge Eye Care, our seasoned team is committed to helping you and your family look and feel great with stylish, protective sunglasses from our range of polarized and non-polarized options.

Why wait? Schedule an appointment with us today, and gear up for your next summer escapade with a brand-new pair of polarized sunglasses!

Written by Dr. M. Hurlbert

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