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Polarized Vs Mirrored Sunglass Lenses: Benefits & How They Are Made


Article Categories: Gear

Polarized lenses are absolutely crucial for just about every outdoor activity. In this article, we will explain polarized lenses, mirrored lenses, the differences, benefits of each, and also help you understand how they each work.

Before we dive in, one of the most common questions we get:


Can You Get a Lens That is Both Polarized and Mirrored?

Yes, a lens can be polarized, mirrored, both, or neither. Therefore, polarization and mirrored lenses are independant features. Polarized and mirrored sunglasses each offer different benefits.


Polarized Vs Mirrored Sunglasses

Polarized and mirrored sunglasses are two popular types of eyewear that offer unique advantages. Polarized lenses reduce glare from the sun (including harmful rays), which can help make activities safe, comfortable and more enjoyable.

Mirrored lenses not only reduce glare but also provide a layer of privacy, as they make it difficult for other people to see what your eyes are doing.


Both Mirrored & Polarized Lenses Have Benefits:

  • Reduced glare
  • Reduce harmful UV rays reaching the eyes (protect eyes)


For outdoor activities such as driving, fishing or skiing, polarized sunglasses are an ideal option due to their anti-glare capabilities. Adding a mirror on top of a polarized lens has the following benefits:

  • Further reduces glare
  • Adds a layer of privacy by making it difficult to see through the lens


For this reason – you’ll find that most high quality sunglasses have both polarization, and a mirror. This gives wearers maximum protection and privacy. In addition, many love the look of mirrored lenses.

Both types of sunglasses can provide UV protection for the eyes, making them a smart choice anytime you’re spending time outdoors. Whether choosing polarized, mirrored lenses, or both you’ll benefit from knowing how these styles of eyewear can enhance your recreational activities without compromising on safety and comfort.


Polarized and Mirrored Lens Colors

The colors of your lenses and the color of your mirror have different benefits and best use cases. We won’t cover this in great detail here as we have a full article on sunglass lens colors here.


What is Polarization?

How Polarized Lenses Work

Polarization is achieved by special lenses with a filter that blocks light that is being horizontally polarized by a surface, which reduces glare from reflection on surfaces such as water or pavement. Polarization also helps with color perception (increased vibrance of blues and greens), and can provide crisp visuals in hazy weather conditions like fog or overcast skies.

Eye protection is an important part of any outdoor pursuit and polarized lenses provide superior coverage against all kinds of harsh conditions.

Polarized sunglasses should be an essential part of your outdoor adventure wardrobe, whether you are spending a day fishing on the lake, hiking through illuminated woods or climbing up a snow-covered mountain peak.


How Is Polarization Added To Lenses?

To filter polarized light, manufacturers lay a long chain of hydrocarbon molecules on top of a thin PVA film. The film is then heated and stretched, so the molecules align with each other end-to-end, or become polarized.

Then, the film is dipped into a solution that contains a conducting molecule, such as iodine. These molecules are then aligned along a pole (polarized), which creates microscopic grid lines of darkness that block light waves travelling in the same direction they are aligned. Lenses will have these hydrocarbon molecules lined horizontally in rows along the lens in order to block the horizontal light waves coming from glare. This creates protection from glare of horizontal surfaces, like the water or ground in front of you.


How Polarization Works

This is a great explanation by SunRX on how it works with some visualization as well: https://www.visionease.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/SunRxTechnicalEducation511.pdf


How Are Mirrored Lenses Made?

Mirrored lenses are made by applying a reflective optical coating on the outside of the lenses to make them appear like small mirrors.

The most basic type of mirror coating is a thin film of metal that is deposited onto the surface. This can be done using an ion beam, sputter deposition, or vapor deposition. However, this method is very weak and can easily scratch or degrade, especially in salt water.

High end glasses will also apply an anti scratch layer on top of this to add to the durability of the mirroring.


Costs Of Polarized And Mirrored Sunglasses

Both mirrored, and polarized glasses range from very cheap, to very expensive. The more expensive options have better warranties, higher quality frames, ultra clear lenses, and lenses that have protective coatings to prevent scratching and increase durability.

Cheap glasses likely won’t be as clear, and often will have the polarization, or the mirroring wear off quickly.


Choosing Sunglasses

Generally speaking, every sunglass you purchase should have polarization, and if you want additional glare protection along with the look of mirroring, you would get both a mirrored and polarized pair of glasses.

Read our guide on choosing sunglasses here.

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, backcountry skier, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued climbed all of the Colorado 14ers, is always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about