By Preston Fassel

Let’s talk about the elephant in the optical room. In my time in the optical field, there’s one product I’ve never been able to
get a consistent bead on from anyone. No two opticians I’ve met share exactly the same opinion. Some love it. Some hate it. Some are indifferent. A few have never heard of it. One optician I knew venerated it to an eerie degree. I’m talking about Transitions XTRActive. While the majority of the opticians with whom I’ve worked are Transitions devotees, XTRActive, it seems, has long been the eccentric cousin of the photochromic world. The office where I spent the majority of my optical career had a vacillating opinion of them. While our head optician/office manager had them in her own glasses, she readily admitted that she didn’t think they were for everyone, and during my tenure there I think we dispensed maybe five or six pairs. We didn’t bring them into the conversation unless a patient specifically brought up a special need we thought they’d
fulfill. Otherwise, it was “Would you like your glasses to get dark when you go outdoors? Transitions Signature!” Wham, bam, happy patient.

What were these fabled lenses exactly? What did they do? How were they different? Would they improve my love life? Recently, it was time for me to get a new pair of lenses, and I decided to take the plunge.

First, as the name implies, XTRActive are Transitions lenses taken up a notch. Rather than being entirely clear indoors, they always retain a residual tint to shield the eyes from potentially irritating artificial light sources (my major motivation in deciding to try them out, as I’ve got incredibly light sensitive eyes). They get slightly darker outdoors than Signature, and are supposed to tint behind the windshield of a car. On top of that, they block 100 percent of UVA and UVB, and filter blue light.

So, what was my assessment of the mythical XTRActive lenses? Being light sensitive, they’ve been a boon. I’m much more comfortable in general environments since getting them, from the fluorescent-lit nightmares of the grocery store to the blinding glare of post-rain Texas summer days. True to their word, the lenses darken behind the windshield of my car—so quickly and so darkly, in fact, that I’ve only used my Rx sunglasses once or twice since getting my new specs. XTRActive, where have you been all my life?

I understand why the lenses haven’t taken the photochromic world by storm, though. The ’70s-era number one tint lenses, especially in photos. I look like I’m wearing shades in most of the recent pictures I’ve had taken. That effect isn’t necessarily desirable for me in lower light conditions. While it has had zero impact on my night driving, there is a slightly perceptible hue while doing things like watching movies in a theater, or having dinner in a lower-light restaurant.

What’s the verdict? In a way, XTRActive has changed my life—more comfortable eyes, less hassle wrangling for my sunglasses in the car. The impact on my love life? No comment. And as for the slight drawbacks?

Well, you can always sell your patient a second pair with Transitions Signature. Your patient will thank you—and you’ll have a second sale. That’s a win for everyone.