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What Does Polarized Sunglasses Mean? - Everything You Need to Know

Polarized sunglasses are high-functioning glasses with many benefits. While the term may sound familiar, you may have many questions like “what does polarized mean?” and “do I need polarized lenses?”.

If you’ve found yourself asking these questions and wonder about whether or not polarized sunglasses are good for you, read on to find out more!

What are polarized sunglasses?

Polarized sunglasses use an anti-glare filter to create vertical openings for light to pass through. Not only do they make colours more distinguishable, but they also add clarity to your vision by reducing or eliminating glare from the sun. 

Glare can be annoying and dangerous as it alters colours and causes visual discomfort.

If you paid attention in physics class, you may remember that light waves oscillate in different directions as they move through space (up-down, left-right, or any diagonal in between). The direction in which these light waves move is known as polarization:


1. Light oscillating up-down is known as vertical polarization

2. When light oscillates left-right it’s called horizontal polarization

3. Any diagonal oscillation of light is a combination of vertical and horizontal polarization



Sunlight is unpolarized, so it oscillates in different directions. Some of this light is horizontally polarized and some vertically. In most situations, it’s a combination of the two. The important bit to know is that light reflected off a perfectly horizontal surface (such as a lake, hot road, or other shiny surfaces) is mostly horizontally polarized (hello annoying glare).

Let’s take a better look at how polarized sunglasses work.

How do polarized sunglasses work? 

Polarized lenses have a special coating that’s aligned in horizontal rows across the lenses. These molecules absorb horizontally polarized light before it reaches your eyes but allow vertically polarized light to pass through. As direct sunlight is unpolarized, the polarization filter doesn’t completely block out the light – but don’t worry, polarized sunglasses contain other coatings that protect your eyes from direct sunlight. 

On the other hand, the benefits of blocking the horizontally reflected light is what makes polarized lenses worth the money. You’ll notice this if you’ve ever looked at the water’s surface on a sunny day before and after putting on polarized lenses. 

Polarized lenses can also enhance the colour contrast we see when exposed to the sun. This attribute is beneficial for athletes, fishing enthusiasts, and outdoorsmen who want to receive greater depth perception to enhance their performance.

Polarized sunglasses are perfect for time spent by the water, as they help eliminate the light that reflects from the surface. Similarly, polarized lenses are commonly found in ski goggles to improve performance and block the glare reflected off the snow.

How to tell if sunglasses are polarized

With the aspects of polarized lenses in mind, you can determine whether your sunglasses are polarized by looking through the lenses towards a reflective surface, such as water or pavement.  If you don’t experience blurry vision, you are probably wearing sunglasses with polarized lenses. 

Another way to test your sunglasses is to put them on and look at your phone or tablet when switched on. If your screen is black, that means your sunglasses are polarized with a filter that blocks horizontally polarized light. All you have to do to see your screen is rotate your device 90 degrees.

If you are curious about the differences between polarized sunglasses and normal sunglasses, we have you covered!

What is the difference between polarized and non-polarized sunglasses?

The anti-glare coating on polarized lenses is the main difference between polarized and non-polarized sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses are not necessarily better for eye health, as both polarized and non-polarized sunglasses come with UV protection. Another difference between the two types of lenses is the visual quality that each offers. Polarized sunglasses eliminate glare for clearer vision and less squinting while outdoors. 

So, are polarized sunglasses better? While it is a matter of preference, there are some situations where non-polarized sunglasses might be more beneficial than polarized glasses. Sometimes, non-polarized sunglasses can be better for skiers as they allow you to tell the difference between ice and snow. However, your vision could also be compromised because they do not protect you from the glare of wet surfaces. Polarized lenses can also make it more difficult to see electronic screens, which is why pilots are advised to wear non-polarized sunglasses while flying.

Should you get polarized sunglasses? 

Regardless of whether you spend time on the water or near the snow, polarized sunglasses offer many practical applications for everyday life. If you are serious about protecting your eyes from UV light, having a pair of go-to polarized sunglasses is a no-brainer.

If your lifestyle involves spending a lot of time in the sun (even if that’s just sitting in traffic jams), you may be exposed to many objects where light is reflected horizontally, such as roads, puddles, cars, and buildings. There’s a high risk of experiencing sudden blinding moments as a result of the glare, which is very dangerous for driving (to say the least).

If you’re an avid golfer or fisherman, polarized sunglasses are for sure a good match. Even if you love skiing, polarized lenses can be beneficial. If you want to ensure you can distinguish ice from snow, you can alternatively try mirrored sunglasses.

In the table below you’ll see which sunglass lens colour, polarized or non-polarized, are best suited to your lifestyle:


What are the advantages of polarized sunglasses? 

There are many benefits of polarized lenses to consider when purchasing a pair of sunglasses. Anyone who participates in activities under direct sunlight or near the water can greatly benefit from polarized glasses. As polarized lenses reduce glare, they improve visual clarity and hugely enhance the world around us with vibrant colours. 

Among these, let’s also mention that:

Prescription sunglasses can also be polarized

• Many polarized sunglasses can offer 100% UV protection (always check the product description)

• To some degree, polarized lenses can block blue light from entering the eye

• They also help alleviate eye strain 


If you find that your outdoor activities often cause visual discomfort, then you might be wearing the wrong pair of sunglasses. When you are near flat surfaces that reflect sunlight and cause glare, you should make polarized sunglasses your go-to.

The technology of polarized lenses reduces the light that affects your eyesight on a sunny day. Whether you enjoy a day on the lake or skiing down exciting slopes, there are a variety of sunglasses with polarized lenses that will be perfect for you. You’ll find that various tinted lenses also work best for particular outdoor activities, allowing for you to mix and match frames and lenses to fit your every eye need and personal style.

Before jumping into buying polarized sunglasses, read through articles about other lens types such as reflective lenses, Transitions® lenses, and more. Once you decide which lenses are the best fit for you, have a look at the variety of sunglasses and prescription styles available at SmartBuyGlasses