When it comes to lenses, you’ve got options: tinting, mirror coating, gradient, transition, polarized or non-polarized, and, of course — lens material.
For some clarity on which lens material is best for you, let’s have a little face-off between the generations-old glass and the (relatively) young upstart polycarbonate.
What Are Glass Lenses?
The veteran of optic materials, glass has been in the game for 1,000 or so years. Although an increasingly less popular option, the glass lens still has merits that justify its staying power.
- Its resistance to scratches is off the chart. Like most objects, glass is still susceptible to scratching, but its inherent qualities make it hard to scratch and therefore doesn’t require an additional scratch-resistant coating for protection.
- Glass is considered to be the most optically clear material available, which is why it’s still used in other tools that require precision clarity such as camera lenses, microscopes, and binoculars.
- Glass is heavy and can be uncomfortable to wear for sustained periods of time, especially if you’ve got a strong prescription. To achieve a thinner lens in your prescription glasses, you’re going to need high-index lenses. A high-index lens is a type of eyeglass lens that has a higher refractive index than conventional glasses lenses, which means that high-index lenses have a greater ability to bend light rays and provide optical clarity.
- While it may be resistant to scratches, it has no such claims to cracks and shattering. Glass has very little impact resistance and could prove to be very dangerous if hit.
- Glass offers very little protection against harmful UV rays, which can destroy your eyes. An additional UV coating needs to be applied in order to make glass acceptable for sunglass use.
What Are Polycarbonate Lenses?
In 1953, two scientists working independently on opposite sides of the world developed polycarbonate within 1 week of each other. Initially used for electrical and electronic applications such as distributor and fuse boxes, polycarbonate became a popular lens option in the 1980s.
You may be wondering, “What are polycarbonate lenses?” Polycarbonate lenses are a type of eyeglass lens made out of a thin, lightweight plastic. This lens material is stronger than glass, making them more impact resistant. Not to mention, they offer a ton of other advantages.
Since then, polycarbonate lenses have become the standard for safety glasses, sports goggles and children's eyewear, and its popularity shows no signs of diminishing.
- The polycarbonate lens is highly resistant to impact, won't shatter, and is 10 times stronger than a glass or a regular plastic lens, making them ideal for children, safety lenses, and physical activity.
- Lightweight and thinner than glass lenses, polycarbonate is more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
- Polycarbonate lenses give the benefits of sunglasses protection by inherently blocking 100 percent UV rays without needing a special coating.
- Due to the lightweight and flexibility of polycarbonate, these lenses are easier to remove and install than glass lenses and are available in more styles of sunglasses that cannot accommodate heavy glass lenses.
- Polycarbonate is susceptible to scratches and requires a scratch-resistant coating for durability.
- Although a great option for most people, a small percentage of the population complains that they do not see as clearly through polycarbonate lenses.
Other Types of Eyeglass Lens Material
- Plastic lenses: First developed in the 1940s, this glass lens alternative was called CR-39 plastic lenses. They are good for relatively mild prescriptions and are revered for being lightweight and impact-resistant.
- Trivex lenses: Introduced in 2001, trivex lenses are an alternative to polycarbonate lenses. These lenses offer 100% UV protection and are clearer and stronger than standard polycarbonate lenses. With these types of lenses, you won’t have to worry about how to get scratches out of glasses.
- High-index plastic lenses: As mentioned above, high-index plastic lenses have a higher refractive index than regular plastic lenses allowing them to be lighter and thinner. They are good for those with a stronger prescription.
Depending on the individual and their use of sunglasses, one eyeglass lens type may be more preferable than others. While some diehards swear by glass lens eyeglasses, the greater majority opt for more impact resistant polycarbonate lens eyeglasses. Whatever you choose, as long as you’re sunglassing it up, we’ll call it good.
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