Polarized lenses are true performance products. Designed to reduce uncomfortable glare off reflected surfaces such as snow, ice and pavement, polarized lenses promise wearers enhanced visual comfort in the outdoors over a standard tinted sunlens. They can even can enhance colors and contrasts, depending on the tint.
Moving beyond the technical problems that plagued earlier versions of the product, polarized manufacturers have focused recent development efforts on expanding design and material options within the category in an effort to grow the potential prescription wearer population. Among the noteworthy developments: “fashion-tinted” polarized lenses, increased selection in high-index plastic materials and the proliferation of “latest-generation” progressive designs in polarized.
• Polarized lens manufacturers produce a broad range of prescription lenses including single-vision, bifocals, trifocals and several progressive designs. There are also eight-base polarized lenses available for the popular wrap sunglasses. Some lens manufacturers offer customized polarized lenses that use aspheric designs to compensate for perceived power changes (i.e. reduced acuity in the periphery or change in magnification on higher minus Rxs) that occur when grinding a prescription calling for a flatter base on an eight-base.
• A useful addition to any polarized sunglass is a backside anti-reflective coating, especially if there are base curve deviations. Applying a backside AR coating will eliminate any reflections resulting from the curves on the inside surface of the dark lenses, causing distracting glare.
• Probably the most beneficial improvement in polarized product is the continual addition of task-enhancing and fashion colors. Performance eyewear and lens treatment manufacturers have researched the visual requirements of each activity in order to develop effective, ophthamically correct lenses. Each color can answer specific performance needs.
• Grays are general purpose colors, because they are the most color-neutral. The darker shades are often recommended for deep water fishing. The lighter shades can be tinted over to create custom colors. Tinting polarized lenses does not change the amount of polarization. If you start out with a lens that provides 50 percent polarization, that number will stay the same if the lens is tinted to 80 percent density.
• Another benefit of the lighter tints is they can be worn indoors. Computer users often suffer discomfort from glare reflected off the monitor screen. A lightly tinted polarized lens can minimize this problem.
• Brown polarized lenses provide high contrast for activities such as driving, fishing, winter sports and golf. Polarized melanin lenses not only provide high contrast for many outdoor activities but also provide protection against the damage done by exposure of the eye to the solar radiation that can affect cataract development and macular degeneration.
• Yellow lenses transmit the most light and are favored by hunters. Yellow is most helpful on overcast days and for night driving.
• Other polarized color options are red, blue, violet, orange and green. There is even photochromic polarized product and mirrored front surfaces.
Demonstration is the key to success with polarized lenses. Experienced dispensers recommend scattering plano suns throughout the Rx frame display. Be sure the polarized products are at eye level, to “plant the seed.”
• Clip-ons are another polarized alternative. Custom clip-ons can be made for any frame, allowing patients to take advantage of all of the performance colors. Patients can get a variety of sunclips, each specific to a different need.
• Keep samples of colored polarized lenses at hand to demonstrate how different contrasts and absorptions work or just to show how much fun the colors can be. Several suppliers offer attractive lens sample kits with an array of desirable colors. Wholesale labs can assist in getting both polarized lens demonstrators and sample lens kits.
• Creative merchandising is also critical for effectively presenting polarized lenses. A dozen plano suns tucked in a corner will not sell sunglasses. Display a large variety of polarized products in different price ranges. If space allows, develop a special sunglass area. Take advantage of displays offered by many of the major sunglass makers. Use shop windows to exhibit performance and fashion sunwear. Attractive window displays should draw in the plano customer that hadn't considered patronizing an optical office for their sunglasses.
Here are some tips for dispensing polarized lenses:
... take patients outside the shop to demonstrate how these products work in different lighting conditions.
... recommend them to all patients, not just outdoor sports enthusiasts. Remember, polarized lenses can block glare off white pavement and black asphalt as well as the hoods and windshields of cars in addition to snow and water. This makes them an excellent option for patients who need more sun protection when driving.
... don't let price be a deterrent. Lenses with polarized filters can cost as much as $300 more than standard lenses. But patients should expect to pay more for performance. ... tell patients polarized lenses are fine for skiers, in most instances. Wearing polarized lenses makes ice patches on the slopes appear gray—but they're still visible. The advent of tinted polarized lenses (in red, violet, orange and blue) makes the category even more appealing to sports patients—even skiers, who find red-type tints to be helpful on the slopes.
... remember the LCD issue. Readouts on LCD (liquid crystal displays) may be rendered invisible through polarized lenses; therefore, these lenses are not recommended for use by highway patrol officers and pilots. Additionally, pilots may need to see the reflections off the surface of water in order to properly judge depth during take-off or landing.
...No matter what type of polarized lens you're looking for, it's always best to check with your wholesale laboratories to learn more about the best products available and discern which ones will work best for your patient base.
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology