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Are Transitions Lenses a Good Alternative to Sunglasses?

Transitions photochromic lenses have been around for decades now, and […]

By Published On: 9 March 20153.8 min read

Transitions photochromic lenses have been around for decades now, and have always been popular, especially with those who wear glasses full time.  As UV light increases, they darken, providing comfort in a range of light conditions.

But are they really as good as sunglasses?

Do transitions lenses protect against UV?

UV light is everywhere and damage to our skin and our eyes is cumulative.  But we receive 40% of UV radiation when we least expect it – indoors or on cloudy days.  Transitions can be a useful addition to your prescription glasses to help provide UV and glare protection around the clock.

When are Transition lenses the best choice?

If you wear glasses full-time in a range of conditions

Busy Mum?  Running from school drop off to the gym to the soccer game?  If you’re in and out of the sun all day and wear glasses anyway, Transitions can be a huge boon.  Instead of grappling with prescription sunnies and chopping and changing, you can relax – about your glasses at least!

Add a coating

The latest anti-reflection coatings for glasses are very selective in what they transmit and what they filter.  For example, Essilor’s new Crizal Prevencia coating allows essential blue-turquoise light to pass through while blocking harmful blue-violet and ultra-violet light.  Applied to your glasses lenses, this coating blocks harmful UV light from being transmitted through the lens as well as reflected off the back of the lens into your eyes.

When are Transitions not the best option?

Very bright conditions

Even at their darkest, Transitions generally don’t get as dark as a pair of dark sunglasses. So, for outdoor activities involving extreme glare, a pair of dark sunglasses that give adequate eye coverage will always be best.  The range of sunglasses designs which are suitable for prescription lenses has expanded considerably in the past few years with even the most sporty, wrap-around styles being suitable for prescription lenses in many cases.

Plane-polarised light conditions

When light is reflected off a non-metallic surface such as an asphalt road, a lake or a snow field, it becomes plane-polarised.  This means all the light waves coming from that surface are vibrating in the same plane and it results in uncomfortable glare.  Skiers and fly-fishermen are very familiar with this type of glare and the solution is a pair of polarised sunglasses.  Polaroids cut down drastically on glare as well as filtering out UV light.  Many high quality sunglasses brands such as Maui Jim make a range of polarised sunglasses.

In the car

Photochromic lenses such as transitions go darkest in cool conditions.  Most photochromic lenses also need exposure to UV light in order to activate and UV light is largely blocked by car windscreens.  Newer lens designs are polarised and/or activate while driving but these are not fully photochromic and do not fade to clear for indoors/night time use.

How do I decide if Transitions are for me?

Similarly to choosing what features you would like in a new car, it’s useful to look at what you do 90% of the time when deciding which type of sun protection glasses to choose.  If you drive a tour bus on sunny days, a pair of dark polarised lenses will give you best comfort.  If you spend most time in an office but would like the convenience of some protection from glare and UV as you walk to the bus stop, then a traditional photochromic lens is best for you.

Whilst there are Transitions lenses that activate well even when driving a car, producing a lens that darkens well for driving and also fades back to completely clear for indoors, is still the nirvana for the lens companies that make them.  Traditional photochromic designs are completely clear indoors, darken when outdoors but don’t activate in the car.  More sophisticated designs will activate for driving but they don’t fade to clear for indoor use and this can be an issue if worn for all tasks including reading small print or driving at night.

Photochromic lenses offer lifestyle benefits that are hard to argue with. They are convenient and handle much of the day-to-day variation in light conditions, protecting your eyes from glare and UV light.  They are best supplemented with sunglasses for certain tasks such as prolonged driving and certain sporting activities (e.g. skiing, fishing).

Want to know more about choosing the best UV and glare protection for your eyes?  Interested in Transitions or Crizal Prevencia as part of your vision correction solution?  Call (02) 9290 1899 and experience The Eye Practice difference. 


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