Eyeglasses That Change With Light

By on September 1, 2012
eyeglass lenses with eye

By Lauren Jones –

As you enjoy the end of the summer and hopefully early fall sun filled days, blinding glare is the fly in the ointment of seasonal fun. When stuck with prescription eyeglasses, the bright sunlight is hard on the eyes. Some relief is available in photochromic lenses. These lenses, also commonly referred to as “Transitions” lenses, were first developed in the 1960s by Corning Glass Works Inc. They darken when exposed to UV rays and turn clear when not. The earliest lenses were released under the brand names, Photogray and Photobrown. As the name suggests, these lenses were only available in brown and gray tints.

Newer photochromic products are a great solution to those too bright days. Even though people must deal with the hassle of wearing prescription glasses in the sunlight, a lot of products have been developed to make this task easier. These products do have their drawbacks. Tinted lenses remain dark, even indoors. Clip-ons for prescription eyeglasses keep getting lost and no one wants to keep track of an extra pair of prescription sunglasses.

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Photochromic lenses change into prescription sunglasses automatically for the wearer. They also reduce glare. These prescription glasses are the perfect solution for those who have to wear prescription glasses indoors and outdoors.

How Do Photochromic Lenses Work?

The photochromic lens is coated with silver chloride or silver halide molecules. The coating is applied by dipping the lenses into a chemical bath. In this bath, the molecules are evenly absorbed into plastic lenses up to a depth of 150 microns.

A protective coating and another scratch resistant layer is often applied on top the lenses to keep them from scratching.

When the wearer enters the sunlight, the silver chlorides or halide molecules experience a chemical reaction that cause them to change shape. Their new shape absorbs all light, darkening the lenses. When the wearer goes back into an area without UV light, the molecules snap back to their original shape and no longer absorb light.

The Drawbacks of Driving With Photochromic Lens

Most car windshields are coated with a protective UV blocker. Wearers will find that the lenses don’t darken very much when behind the wheel. For example, don’t have to go outside to get to the car may find that the lenses don’t darken enough for comfortable driving.

The company that sells Transitions® lenses now offers a brand with a coating to remedy this problem. Transitions® Drivewear lens coatings are specially designed to react to both UV and natural light. If wearers want to see while driving into the sunset, this brand might be worth the extra cost.

Very Dark Photochromic Lenses for Outdoors

Normal photochromic lenses aren’t dark enough for major outdoor enthusiasts. For these people, there are lenses that change from dark to darker shades. Of course, these lenses won’t ever be clear but when bright outdoor light is a regular concern these brands can’t be beat.

Outdoor photochromic lenses allow the wearer to start in the early morning with a lightly tinted shade and wear the same glasses until dusk without changing their outdoor prescription eyeglasses.

Transitions® sells XTRActive Lenses which have a slight tint indoors but become a little darker outdoors and are fairly dark in bright sunlight. Another Transitions® brand called, Performance Sunwear, have a very high level of tint at their darkest. These prescription glasses are never light enough for indoor wear but will lighten for morning or dusk outdoor activity.

Another option is ColorMatic lenses from Rodenstock, which darken more quickly outdoors than other photochromic lenses. These lenses also offer 100% UV protection and are available in high contrasting green and orange tints.

A Wide Range of Tints

The days of only having gray or brown photochromic lenses are over. Xperio®, Oakley VR50, Seiko  Sportswear™ and Nike® MAX Transitions offer a variety of tint colors. Active people who take their sports seriously can now choose from gray, green, autumn gold and brown tints.

Corning Inc. offers a special line of photochromic eyeglasses with red tint for those with medical conditions such as, macular degeneration.

Designer Brands That Sell Photochromic Lenses

Wearers won’t need to sacrifice fashionable style for their prescription eyewear. Many different designer name brand glasses are available with photochromic lenses. Below are some of the brands with frames suitable for photochromic lenses.

  • Ÿ Timex
  • Ÿ  Burberry
  • Ÿ  Rudy Project
  • Ÿ  Arnette
  • Ÿ  Cebe
  • Ÿ  Ray Ban
  • Ÿ  Persol
  • Ÿ  Lacoste
  • Ÿ  Oakley

These designer brands can also be very expensive. Just photochromic lenses by themselves add quite a lot to the price tag. Don’t be surprised if a pair of brand name glasses runs between $300 and $500 dollars. Save some money by shopping for discounts and going during sales to choose the best frame and level of transition.


This article was provided on behalf of Glasses.com – For more information about where to Photochromic lenses, visit the Glasses.com website and check the FAQs as well as different sunglasses that are available.

About Lauren Jones

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Eyeglasses That Change With Light