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The best polarized sunglasses are game-changers. Anyone who’s owned a pair of polarized shades knows how downright comfortable they make your eyes feel — especially when near the water, driving or in any other high-glare situation. If your current sunglasses aren’t cutting it (or your last pair was left in an Uber), we suggest upgrading to polarized lenses. Here’s everything you need to know.
How Do Polarized Sunglasses Work?
Most of us have heard of or seen polarized sunglasses, but they actually have some real science behind their efficacy (in other words, they’re not a branding gimmick).
Without getting too technical, here’s how polarized lenses work: They’re chemically treated to absorb horizontally reflected light while only allowing in vertically reflected light. That horizontal light is more present in glare (think bodies of water, the road or from snow) than direct sunlight — and it happens to be harsher than direct sunlight. Polarized sunglasses reduce that glare and strain while helping to improve your vision and eye comfort during activities like beach days and road trips.
Normal sunglasses, on the other hand, let in both horizontal and vertically reflected light. They merely turn down the brightness of both kinds of light with a dark tint. Polarized lenses also have that tint, plus their special treatment for blocking glare.
The real takeaway is this: Polarized lenses can help make outdoor activities more comfortable, and they significantly increase visibility for things like fishing or checking the surf.
Polarized Sunglasses Buying Guide
Not all polarized sunglasses are created equal. Some also have UVA/UVB sunlight protection (which is not the same as polarization), and they come in the same range of styles as regular sunglasses. To help find the best polarized sunglasses, we’ve created the below buying guide and rounded up some of our favorite picks.
Size: You’ll see that some sunglass frame sizes are listed as three numbers, such as “50–22–150,” for example. These millimeter measurements refer to the lens, bridge and temple width, respectively. The lens width is probably the most important. Lens widths under 50 millimeters are usually considered small, 51 to 55 millimeters is medium and over 55 millimeters starts to get large.
Style: The best polarized sunglasses are stylistically versatile for wearing at the beach, to a wedding and in any other bright environment. Also, if you plan on wearing your sunnies for outdoor exercise and sports, go with something more athletic.
UVA/UVB Protection: As mentioned, polarization does not mean complete UV protection. UVA or UVB protection means that the shades will block harmful UV rays, protecting eyes from sun damage.
Prescription: Some sunglasses come with the option for prescription lenses. If you’re near-sighted, this is a major plus. Skip to the Ray-Ban Wayfarers or the Warby Parker Haskells below for prescription options.
What Are the Best Polarized Sunglasses?
From Ray-Ban to Warby Parker, here are the best shades worth buying right now.
1. Ray-Ban 4340 Wayfarer
Over 70 years since they came out, you still can’t go wrong with the Ray-Ban Wayfarers. The unique shape is somewhere between round and rectangular, making the sunnies flattering on almost any face shape. The Wayfarer’s classic style also makes them easy to wear just about anywhere — be it the backyard or into the office after your commute. This pair comes with green-tinted polarized lenses that can also be outfitted with your prescription through GlassesUSA.com.
2. Persol Steve McQueen
Persol, a luxury brand out of Italy, is among the oldest eyewear companies in the world. The brand has been a favorite among stylish celebrities — most notably, the King of Cool, Steve McQueen. These homage sunglasses boast a Terra di Siena tortoise shell frame and blue polarized lenses that certainly do justice to McQueen’s timeless style. Persol’s style also strikes a good balance between dressy and casual, letting you wear these with board shorts or a full suit.
3. Warby Parker Haskell
Classic sunnies are great, but, if you’re looking for something more modern, check out these Warby Parker Haskells. With a hand-polished cellulose acetate frame, the glasses are comfortable and versatile. But the lenses are where the Haskells really shine, boasting polarization, 100-percent UV-blocking protection and scratch-resistance. Plus, they can be upgraded with prescription lenses through the Warby Parker website.
4. Oakley Holbrook Polarized
Polarized athletic sunglasses make a great choice for outdoor exercise, fishing, hiking and water sports like standup paddleboarding. We like these Oakley Holbrooks because they deliver everything you’d expect from sporty sunglasses as well as a versatile style that can be worn with everyday clothes.
A Grilamid polycarbonate frame and Plutonite lenses make the Holbrooks extremely durable. Thanks to polarization and 100-percent UV protection in the lenses, your eyes will be protected while focusing on your game, working out or just relaxing by the pool. Add two size options and a range of colors and you have plenty of choices for fit and style.
5. Ray-Ban Aviator Polarized Sunglasses
Like the Wayfarers, Ray-Ban’s Aviator sunglasses refuse to go out of style. This pair upgrades the iconic metal frame with polarized lenses for less glare and better visibility. They are on the large side with a lens width of 62 millimeters, but they still work on a surprising range of face sizes. The nose pads are adjustable for a better fit, and the large lenses make the shades great for total coverage while lounging or driving.
6. Carrera Polarized Aviator Sunglasses
Another classic pair of aviators are these retro Carrerra sunglasses. The frame is a bit more square, making them a good pick for anyone with a slightly more round face. With polarized lenses and 100 percent UV protection, they’re fit to protect against harmful sun rays and glare. Their real draw, however, is probably the trendy Eighties-inspired style. The frames are slightly oversized with a tortoise shell-looking polyamide construction.
7. Oliver Peoples Finley Vintage Sunglasses
For an upgraded pick, check out these Finley sunglasses from Oliver Peoples. Designed and crafted in Los Angeles, the brand’s sunglasses deliver top-notch quality and a look that’s both casual and sophisticated. These Finleys feature an acetate tortoise color frame that houses brown, polarized lenses. The size can be considered a medium but may look better on slightly smaller round or oval-shaped faces.