The 10 Best Polarized Sunglasses, Explained by an Optometrist

Not all glasses and sunglasses are created equal – and that’s certainly true when polarized lenses are added to the mix.

Known as sports sunglasses for sporting purposes (hiking, boating, etc.), most people who typically wear prescription glasses can benefit from a sturdy pair of polarized sunglasses. Similar to how UPF protective clothing and sunscreen help bask in harmful UV rays, so do these sunglasses, as they help control the amount of reflected light that hits your eyes.

We turned to a certified optometrist who explained what to look for in the best polarized sunglasses and also picked out the best styles to buy for this season.

What are polarized sunglasses?

Reflected light in any form can cause discomfort and reduce visual performance – especially sharpness and diminished contrast – so these special lenses help alleviate this eye distress.

“In the late 1930s, the Army commissioned the Ray-Ban Company to create a lens to protect the vision of Air Corps pilots in flight,” Michelle J. Hoff, OD, FAAO, ABOM, FNAO, associate clinical professor of optometry at the University of California at Berkeley Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry and Vision Science, told the New York Post.

Now, there are plenty of polarized sunglasses on the market, including frames from GlassesUSA, RAEN, and even Dick’s Sporting Goods. Many of our favorites are also unisex.

What are the benefits of polarized sunglasses?

According to Hoff, polarized lenses “reduce haze glare to improve eye comfort, increase visual clarity and contrast, and improve image quality.”

Additionally, polarized sunglasses come in a few different lens colors that take advantage of different enhancements, as Hoff explains:

  • Pink: Increases contrast and may reduce the risk of developing a migraine
  • Yellow: Absorbs blue light and may reduce eye strain, fatigue and headaches
  • Grey: Features a neutral density filter that allows all colors to pass through evenly
  • Brown: Improves contrast, makes greens and browns brighter, good for slightly cloudy days
  • Green: This is an excellent filter for extreme reflections

Before you shop, click through to our Polarized Sunglasses FAQ to learn more about these lenses.

Best Polarized Sunglasses

1. Ray-Ban Erika Polarized Sunglasses, $175


From the company that started the polarized sunglasses trend, Ray-Ban offers the Erika Polarized Sunglasses for less than $200. Wonderfully, the nose isn’t too chunky (which is great for preventing foundation transfer) and we love the simplistic, matching design.

2. RAEN Wiley Square Sunglasses, $175

RAEN Wiley Square Sunglasses

If you’re tired of your old black sunglasses, take it to the next level with the Wiley Square Sunglasses from RAEN. The pair has a beautifully crafted black and brown design, as well as sturdy temples and a sharp look.

3. Oakley Holbrook Polarized Sunglasses, $197

Oakley Holbrook Polarized Sunglasses
Dick Sporting Goods

Shop one of Dick’s Sporting Goods best sellers: Holbrook Polarized Sunglasses from Oakley. With a sportier look and feel, they have a coveted lightweight frame with different types of polarized lenses to choose from. Moreover, they also come in a blue tone.

4. Coach Polarized Sunglasses, $210, original price: $300

Coach Polarized Sunglasses

Don’t pass up the classic aviators this season. Coach’s polarized sunglasses are a top score for the season. With a slim nature and golden hues, they look chic and elegant (especially when paired with a designer clutch and a new pair of shorts).

5. RAEN Norie Cat-Eye Sunglasses, $175

RAEN Norie Cat-Eye Sunglasses

If Audrey Hepburn and Kate Middleton had a sunglasses collaboration, it would look a bit like RAEN’s Norie Cat-EYe sunglasses. Not only do they have that tortoiseshell look (which won’t go out of style, BTW), but the frames are rounded to suit all face shapes.

6. QUAY Sweet Dreams Polarized Sunglasses, $50, original price: $60

QUAY Sweet Dreams Polarized Sunglasses

If we’re being honest, QUAY has some of the sweetest undertones in their repertoire. Namely, his Sweet Dreams polarized sunglasses are under $100 (in other words, add to your cart now) and its thin nose band will provide light support in hot weather.

7. Blenders Eyewear Surfliner Polarized Sunglasses, $49

Blenders Eyewear Polarized Surfliner Sunglasses, Blue
Glasses Blenders

Blenders Eyewear has the cool surfer-inspired blue polarized sunglasses we’ve all been waiting for. Its polarized Surfliner sunglasses are economical, add a touch of dynamism to your summer look and are suitable for everyone. It’s also a nice unisex option.

8. Foster Grant Marli Polarized Sunglasses, $31

Foster Grant Marli Polarized Sunglasses
Host grant

Give your eyes the clarity and protection they need without the high ticket price. Foster Grant’s Marli Polarized Sunglasses are some of our favorites on this list (and the ones we recommend IRL), so grab this tortoiseshell pair while you still can.

9. Nike Trainer Polarized Sunglasses, $99

Nike Trainer Polarized Sunglasses
Dick Sporting Goods

If athletic polarized sunglasses are more your gear, you’ll love the Trainer Polarized Sunglasses from Nike. They’re also the perfect mix of quality and affordability, and they’re still suitable for playing sports and lounging in the sun.

10. Michael Kors Anaheim Polarized Sunglasses, $182, original price: $202

Michael Kors Anaheim Polarized Sunglasses, Black

Elevate your look with the Anaheim polarized sunglasses from Michael Kors. These trendy, oversized sunglasses will look dynamite with your best bikini and cover-up this season, undeniably, and they’re on sale now.

A Polarized Sunglasses FAQ

Ahead, check out more information on these types of lenses and glasses – explained by Hoff.

Is it okay to wear polarized sunglasses all the time?

Polarized lenses have certain limitations and should only be worn under appropriate conditions, according to Hoff. Specifically, they are suitable for riding in direct sunlight, around water, snow and sand.

What are the disadvantages of polarized sunglasses?

While they’re great for a variety of uses, you don’t want to wear polarized sunglasses all the time. Since these lenses interfere with LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays), they are not recommended for airline pilots or heavy equipment users who use instruments or LCDs.

“Polarized lenses make it difficult to distinguish shades of white and obscure patches of ice making downhill skiing and snowboarding difficult,” notes Hoff. “Polarized lenses can also cause you to see the tempering pattern on windows, for example, when it looks like a grid pattern and can be distracting while driving when you see them in car windows.”

When it comes to price, polarized sunglasses typically cost up to 30% more than standard sunglasses lenses.

Do polarized sunglasses wear out?

According to Hoff, polarization generally does not fade unless it is combined with photosensitive technology. If so, they are good for two to four years.

How do polarized lenses work?

“Polarized lenses are designed to reduce light reflected from flat, shiny surfaces like glass, sand, snow, water, and the road to increase eye comfort and a sharper image,” says Hoff. “Polarized lenses have filters oriented perpendicular to the reflected light to also absorb the intense beam of light.”

Thus, the lens is tinted to absorb visible light. “Outdoor sunglasses are designed to absorb up to 85% of visible light,” she adds. “We need to let some light through for safe mobility.”

How do you know if the lenses are polarized?

They’ll likely be clearly labeled, but if you want to test for polarization, orient them 90 degrees apart, according to Hoff. “If the lens in question is polarized, light will be totally blocked, otherwise light will pass through,” she notes.

You can also hold the lens in front of an LCD screen and rotate it 90 degrees; if the appearance of the screen changes, the lens is polarized.

Are polarized sunglasses good for sports?

Polarized lenses can be useful for certain sports: fishing, boating, sailing, running, cycling, mountaineering and golf, to name a few.

However, be careful when using digital screens in sports. “Some bicycle handlebar displays are not polarization compatible,” says Hoff. “Also, due to decreased depth perception with polarized lenses, avoid polarized sunglasses with ball sports like baseball and tennis, and mountain biking.”

Is it okay to wear polarized sunglasses when driving at night?

Wearing tinted or polarized lenses at night is not recommended unless prescribed for certain eye conditions by a qualified ophthalmologist, according to Hoff.

Interestingly, “polarized sunglasses block a significant amount of light, and studies show they don’t help with glare from nighttime driving,” Hoff adds. “They can actually be harmful because in low light conditions, too much light is blocked, reducing sharpness and contrast to dangerous levels for driving.”

Check out the New York Post Shopping section for more content.

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