Updated April 12, 2020.
For those of us who need prescription glasses or contact lenses, correcting our vision is only part of the challenge of taking care of our eyes.
For many of us, our eyeglasses lenses represent a sizable investment in our overall well being and quality of life, so it only makes sense to take steps to safeguard that investment. Thankfully, there are some great lens coating options to help protect your eyes and your lenses. Some have been around for a while, and some are cutting-edge, but each has its own strengths.
Manufacturers are always developing and testing a variety of coatings for eyeglass lenses, so you might be wondering which lens coating is best suited to your needs. At Shady Grove Vision Care, there are a few that have stood the test of time and a couple of new ones that we are excited about!
Ultraviolet (UV) Protective Coatings
Experts report that as much as 80% of UV damage to our eyes occurs before the age of 18, making it even more important for all of us to start protecting our eyes at an early age.
If the sunglasses you or your child wears don’t have greater than 99% UVA/UVB filtration, then your eyes are at risk for damage from ultraviolet light and are more likely to develop cataracts or macular degeneration later in life.
Some oral and topical (i.e., applied to the skin) medicines, including birth control, benzoyl peroxide products, and even some cosmetics can increase the sensitivity of your eyes and skin to UV rays. Before using any product or medication, you should read the label carefully for FDA warnings and consult your family doctor.
Types of UV Light
- UV-C has a very short wavelength, so it packs the most punch. But UV-C from the Sun is absorbed by Earth’s ozone layer, so this type can be avoided in most places.
- UV-B has a short wavelength and is the most dangerous type of ultraviolet light to come through the atmosphere.
- UV-A has the longest wavelength of the ultraviolet spectrum, making it less harmful than UV-C or UV-B light. However, prolonged exposure can still damage our eyes.
UV Coated Lenses
Ultraviolet protective coatings can be quickly applied to most plastic lenses, and don’t change the appearance of the lens. UV protection coatings can be applied to both clear and sunglass lenses.
Sunglass and fashion eyewear standards for ultraviolet coatings are not mandated, so UV protection can vary widely among manufacturers. To help ensure your eyes are getting the protection they need, make sure you choose sunglasses that clearly state they are made using a coating that provides 100% protection from UV-A and UV-B light. Ask your vision care provider what level of UVA/UVB protection is available with the lenses they offer.
Anti-Reflective Coating (AR Coating)
Driving at night can be a harrowing experience because the glare from both headlights and streetlights can make seeing clearly difficult. Anti-reflective coatings can help reduce glare, mitigating eye strain, and providing you with clear vision for nighttime driving.
Anti-reflective or anti-glare coatings work to enhance the appearance of your lenses and improve the clarity of your vision. AR coatings are similar to the coatings found on microscopes and camera lenses and include several layers of mineral oxides on the front and back of the lens so that reflected light can be effectively blocked. This can reduce glare and eliminate reflections and halos around lights.
AR coatings also work to reduce both internal and external reflections on the lenses themselves, creating the appearance of a thinner, almost non-existent lens.
To keep your AR coated lenses looking their best, always store your glasses in a cushioned case. It is also important to only clean them with a microfiber cloth and cleaning solution recommended by your optician.
No matter what your lenses are made of, they are susceptible to scratches and other blemishes. Since plastic lenses scratch more easily than glass, it’s important to apply a coating that makes the lens capable of withstanding normal wear and tear.
Plastic lenses are more resistant to scratching when they are treated on both the front and back surfaces with a clear, hard coating scratch-resistant. While most types of plastic lenses are manufactured with built-in scratch resistance, a scratch-resistant coating can add an extra layer of protection.
To keep your lenses scratch-free, always store your glasses in a cushioned case. As with UV coated lenses, you should only clean them with a special microfiber cloth, and a cleaning solution recommended by your optician.
Mirrored lenses may not protect your eyes, but they can make for a flashy fashion statement! A flash of color on your lenses, which doesn’t interfere with your vision, can have a proven psychological benefit.
Metallic mirror lenses like gold, silver, and bronze have high saturation and high brightness, both of which are widely considered more attractive than low saturation or low brightness finishes. However, contrasting high saturation and low brightness can make for an interesting aesthetic as well.
People are often drawn to warm colors, usually finding them energizing and exciting. A gold or copper tint might subtly highlight your personality and give your look a luxurious edge.
Blue Light Filtration Coatings
Because of the widespread use of digital devices in our lives (including smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, and TVs), patients are now more likely than ever to experience eye strain.
Though most experts agree that prolonged close focusing is the main culprit, excessive blue light exposure may increase your chances of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a serious eye disease.
If you are concerned about excessive blue light exposure, please speak to your optician about blue light filtration coatings.
Which Lens Coating is Right for You?
UV protective, scratch-resistant, and anti-reflective coatings, and potentially blue light filtration coatings, can all help safeguard both your vision and your lenses. To find out which coatings are most beneficial for you, please speak to your optometrist.