Squinting into the sun and focusing in bright light is very hard on your eyes. Eye care professionals stress the importance of sunglasses and shading your eyes to protect your vision, but many people aren’t aware of the benefits that come from polarized lenses. They’re not just for fishermen to see into the water!
Polarized lenses can help cut glare off of surfaces like the road in front of you or the hood of your vehicle. Even bright light outdoors or through windows can be mellowed with polarized lenses.
The reason that polarized lenses work is that they cut out certain waves of light. Normal light tends to go in all directions, but light that bounces off of a surface tends to “polarize” and align itself horizontally. So sunlight beating down on the water doesn’t appear as ambient light once it bounces off the water, because it hits that reflective surface and bounces up, glaring into your eyes. Polarized lenses are specially made with a vertical polarization so that they cut out that intense reflected light and let you see more of the natural light you’d see if there was not glare. Pretty cool, right? You can even experiment with glasses to see if they’re polarized by holding them out and rotating the lens to see if the glare lessens or not.
Some people may notice instances where polarized lenses are not helpful, however. Cell phone screens, LCD and GPS displays can be more difficult to read. In some cases, much brighter light is something you need to see, like in downhill skiing. A bright patch alerts the skier to ice, and polarization would make it harder to see. But most everyday skiers and snowboarders would like to ease the bright light reflecting off of the snow if they’re not in icy conditions. Other than a few rare occasions, polarized lenses can do a lot to improve your vision for many applications.