A comprehensive guide to sunglasses with photochromic lenses

Photochromic technology is well known in prescription lenses for coming and going freely from indoors to outdoors. However, did you know that this technology is also available for non-prescription sun lenses? From medium to dark tints, sunglasses with photochromic lenses provide the wearer with 100% UV protection and visual comfort all day long. Experts in the design of photochromic lenses, we tell you all about the photochromic technology for sunglasses: features, benefits and products available on the market.

What are photochromic lenses and how do they work?

A photochromic sun lens is a light sensitive lens which reacts to UV exposure and visible light to adapt its transparency according to the ambient light. With an initial medium tint (cat 0) in shadow, the photochromic sun lens reacts to light on a bright sunny day and darkens (to cat 4). This large photochromic shift makes it a sun lens for all seasons or weathers. On a cloudy day, in a tunnel or shadow, a pair of sunglasses with photochromic lenses stays clear and always gives the wearer the right light intensity for clear vision all day long.

how photochromic sun lenses work

The transitions between the different states of the lens, from medium tint to dark tint or from dark tint to medium tint, are gradual so as not to disturb the eyes and provide comfort to the wearer. As for tinted photochromic lenses, there is a wide palette of colors: from grey, green to brown and orange or pink!

The colors between medium and dark tint can also differ to answer specific needs such as driving. For example, when you're driving in fog, you'll favor a yellow luminous lens to see the road, limit eye fatigue and contribute to your comfort. On a sunny road, a brown photochromic sun lens- will increase color contrast on the road for detail vision and less eye strain.

Remember what a photochromic sun lens offers the wearer: less eye fatigue, 100% UV protection, comfort and a stress-free life at all times.

Who should wear sunglasses with photochromic lenses?

Children, fashion followers or athletes can wear sunglasses with photochromic lenses.

Parents are reassured knowing that their child is protected from UV rays during their outdoor activities. While children don't have to worry about their vision: they can wear their sunglasses in shadow. The lenses adapt to the ambient light and don't stay dark in the shade. Children get a perfect view of their environment. It's a real comfort for a child's outdoor life: from a stroller in the shade, a sandbox under the trees or a pool in the sun.

Wearers following the fashion will be delighted to have a choice of trendy colors. Light colored sunglasses are trending this year. Photochromic lenses fit this trend and more. They offer fresh, acidic colors in low light and a dark tint in sunny weather. No need to take out two pairs of glasses. Enjoy top styling all day long with photochromic lenses sunglasses!

And for athletes, a sunglasses with photochromic lenses are the perfect sports eyewear to feel free to practice their favorite sport at any time and season. We recommend them for any sport with a changing environment such as cycling or mountain biking, for endurance sports like running, or sports when you can't be hands-free, such as canoeing.

In any case, anyone with sensitive eyes- who squints as soon as they go outside- should think of photochromic sunglasses, they are the best sunglasses for you!

who should wear photochromic sunglasses

Sunglasses with photochromic lenses : pros and cons

For sure, photochromic sunglasses are more expensive than standard sunglasses. However, the advantages they offer, such as durability, may make you change your mind.

The benefits of photochromic lenses

  1. 100% UV protection. Did you know that 40% of UV rays occur in cloudy weather? Photochromic sun eyewear provides the protection that your eyes and eye contour need whatever the weather and the season.
  2. Designed in trendy colors, photochromic sun lenses also fit with fashion trends. Photochromic sunglasses are a fashion accessory. No more outdated notions about yellowish photochromic lenses, reminding you of ageing grandparents! For non-prescription or prescription eyewear, there's a wide palette of trendy colors.
  3. Durability. Essilor Sun solution photochromic sun lenses have been designed with photochromic molecules directly embedded in the polymer increasing the product's lifetime.​ 
  4. In shield or lens shapes and compatible with mirror coatings, they offer wearers a wide choice of combinations to suit their style and eyeglass frames.
  5. Last but not least, comfort: visual comfort and feeling free is priceless! Nine out of ten people say they are sensitive to light. For sensitive people, children, athletes, road users, photochromic lenses sunglasses are for you. To get out at any time of day, or in any season, with only one pair of sunglasses and be free to move or act, comfortably, that's a bonus.

The disadvantages of photochromic lenses

  1. The activation time of photochromic molecules can be a disadvantage for certain activities. When speed is combined with sudden light changes, the activation from one state to another is not immediate. It can be considered a disadvantage for some people but the pupil's adaptation to the environment is also not immediate. The transition time of the photochromic lens from light to shadow is enough to match the eye's physiological needs. Your eyes don't notice the various transitions from light to dark tint.
  2. The choice of mirror colors is limited with photochromic sunglasses. Some mirror coatings specific to this technology are high tech so as not to disturb photochromic activation and they provide the main colors requested by wearers: silver, blue, gold, red or green. Increasing transmission, limiting glare and improving wearer comfort, they also offer a Gloss to Intense effect which highlights the wearer's style from shadow to light.
  3. Some poor quality photochromic lenses may stay "blocked" in high or low temperatures. This means that at high temperature, in the sun, photochromic activation is blocked and the photochromic molecules remain clear. On the other hand, at low temperature, some photochromic sun lenses can reach higher shade activation levels and become too dark. In both cases, this impacts the effectiveness of the sunglasses. 

Can sunglasses with photochromic lenses be polarized?

Yes of course. Photochromic technology can be combined with the polarizing feature. Thanks to optimized polarization efficiency, both technologies combine perfectly to provide customers with comfort and less eye fatigue.
Polarization blocks the indirect rays reflected by surfaces such as water or snow. And Photochromics transmit the right amount of light to your eyes for a clear view whatever the light intensity.
For drivers, river fishers, in snow or urban environments, photochromic sunglasses provide real visual comfort by eliminating blinding glare from light reflected by buildings, road, ice or water.
For your information, a new generation of photochromic lenses combines photochromic technology with variable polarization. But that's another story.

What color is best for photochromic lens?

Today, all colors are possible when it comes to tinted lenses.
For trending styles: blue, violet, green, orange or even pink colors are on the market.
For a classic look: the best sellers are the grey, brown and green colors for sun lenses.
For specific activities, we recommend especially suited colors:

  • for cycling, contrast enhancer colors are recommended to provide brightness and improve visual acuity on the road. Amber and Copper colors are best for this activity.
  • for skiing, pink or orange colors are recommended to highlight color contrast on the slopes.
  • for driving, brown or grey colors combined with polarized film are the perfect combination for road safety.

Are sunglasses with photochromic lenses good for driving?

Car windshields have UV treatments to block UV light. Older generations of photochromic lenses, only reacting to UV light, did not work inside cars and remained clear. Some photochromic lenses- react to UV rays but also to visible light. So activation of a photochromic sun lens is also possible inside a car, behind the windshield. In cars, sunglasses with photochromic lenses take an intermediate tint behind the windshield to limit visual fatigue and make driving enjoyable all day long.

To conclude, outside or inside the car, on a sunny or overcast day, in a tunnel or a clearing, photochromic sunglasses adjust to the right light intensity and contribute to your road safety. Photochromic polarized sun lenses combined with color boosted and contrast enhanced technology are the best lenses contributing to your road safety.

Discover Essilor Sun Solution’s ranges of photochromic lenses for sunglasses

Essilor Sun Solution, in the E-SUN VARIA collection, offers three types of photochromic sun lenses:

  • Standard photochromic: dedicated to lifestyle. From timeless to trendy colors, this collection offers a wide photochromic range: from category 0 to category 3,
  • LTS, or Low Temperature Sensitivity, is a photochromic sun lens reacting perfectly in extreme temperatures. It provides the right activation intensity according to the ambient light and is unaffected by the outside temperature. Essilor Sun Solution recommends this kind of lens for extreme environments such as snow, ice or deserts.​​

LTS photochromic sun lens

  • BWS, specially designed for drivers, is available in grey, brown or copper colors. Whether polarized or not, Behind WindShield photochromic sun lenses are recommended for cab or bus drivers, motorcyclists, machine operators or truck drivers.

The whole photochromic Essilor Sun Solution offer is available in lens, Rx or shield shapes to meet 99% of wearer needs.

To contribute to your visual comfort, limit glare, and perfect your look, our entire photochromic range is compatible with our multi-coated lenses for sunglasses

multi-coated lenses for sunglasses

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ESSILOR® SUN SOLUTION™ is the new division of ESSILOR specially focused on advanced sun lens technologies.
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