An optician offers his opinions on polarized sunlenses
by Brian P. Dunleavy
Ask veteran optician Paul Glaser why he sells polarized sunlenses and you get a simple answer.
“They work,” says the owner of Captree Opticians in Babylon, N.Y.
Glaser has been an optician for 20 years and has been dispensing polarized lenses nearly as long. Polarized lenses, of course, are specifically designed to reduce or eliminate glare (reflected or bounced light from a smooth surface such as water, snow or ice), making them ideal for activities such as water sports (i.e., boating or fishing). Given Captree’s location in Babylon, an oceanside community on Long Island (near a state park and boat club of the same name) Glaser would seem to have a built-in market for polarized products.
“That’s sort of the stereotypical market for polarized lenses,” he notes. “And I have a lot of patients who spend a lot of time on or around the water. But I really push polarized lenses as an all-around performance sunlens. They block glare off white pavement and black asphalt as well as the hoods and windshields of cars. I tell a lot of my patients, ‘If you’re at a stoplight and you want to be able to see whether an oncoming motorist is watching the road, you can do that with these lenses.’ To me, they are an all-around performance sunlens.”
As a result of this philosophy, Glaser says, roughly 80 percent of the sunwear and sunclips sold at Captree are equipped with polarized lenses. Overall, polarized lenses make up 25 to 30 percent of all the lenses the shop sells.
Opticians such as Glaser wouldn’t be able to take such an across-the-board dispensing approach with polarized lenses were it not for the expanded product offerings of lens manufacturers, including KBCo., Specialty Lens, Vision-Ease and Younger. Today, prescription polarized lenses are available in a wide variety of lens designs and materials, including progressives, photochromics, high-index plastic, polycarbonate, glass and conventional plastic.
Manufacturers have also worked to make polarized products more compatible with valuable optical and cosmetic lens treatments such as ultraviolet, scratch-resistant, mirror and anti-reflective (A-R) coatings. For patients concerned about fashion, polarized lenses are also available in a variety of shades and colors—beyond the usual gray, green and brown. Some manufacturers now offer the product in fashion shades such as red, blue and yellow.
“There’s not a big call for it,” Glaser says of the fashion-tinted polarized lenses.
“But they have had a small impact on sales. Hey, the more products I have available, the better I can meet the needs and wants of the people who come in here.”
Including plano sunglass wearers. Because of his location, Glaser has stocked Captree with a wide selection of plano sun styles from companies such as Maui Jim, Persol and Bollé. Most of these styles feature polarized lenses.
“It’s a decent chunk of my business,” he notes.
Of course, despite their obvious benefits, polarized lenses haven’t always been so popular. In the past, many questioned the durability of polarized lenses because the filters were added to them through a lamination process. Lenses had a tendency to “peel” or delaminate, resulting in customer complaints. In recent years, manufacturers have developed new methods of polarizing a lens, however, depending on the material involved. Hard-resin and high-index plastic lenses, for instance, are now polarized through a molding process, and polycarbonate lenses have a polarization film added to the base material when it is still in liquid form (because of the added durability this method offers, polarized polycarbonate lenses are among the most popular polarized products sold). The lamination process for glass lenses, which still need to be laminated, has also been improved.
Glaser, though, says the problems of the past were largely overblown. He has never had any serious issues with durability of polarized lenses, adding that the performance of recent vintage products is more than sufficient.
“You would never have problems, even in the old days, as long as you were obtaining your lenses from a top-quality company with a top-quality product,” says Glaser, who has ordered KBCo. polarized lenses through his labs, Tri-Supreme and Progressive Lens Lab, for years. “The lenses I dispense hold up very well. I haven’t had one returned in years.”
Price has also been an issue with polarized lenses, because they are a premium product. Experts say patients can expect to pay as much as $100 to $300 more for lenses with a polarized filter and this has often been a deterrent for patients seeking glare protection in their everyday sunwear. Still, dispensers such as Glaser believe patients should be willing to pay for the performance polarized lenses offer if they are serious about their outdoor activities and their sunwear purchases.
“There is such a tremendous difference between polarized and regular sunlenses in terms of performance,” he says. “Polarized lenses are so much better. I was once accused by some people in the local community of pushing premium too much. They once said, for instance, ‘Oh, Glaser. He’ll sell progressives to anybody.’ I took it as a compliment. I feel the same way about polarized lenses. If you’re looking for a high-performance sunlens, they’re the best.”