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This post was most recently updated on June 2nd, 2020
If you are a longtime eyeglass wearer, there is a good chance that you may have been offered polycarbonate lenses once or twice in your life. Even if you are a new eyeglass wearer, you might have heard the word polycarbonate come up once or twice during your time at your local eyecare practice.
But what are polycarbonate lenses? and how are they different from the other lens options that are available to you?
Benefits of Polycarbonate Lenses
For me, I didn’t find out about polycarbonate lenses until 10 years ago when I started studying optics. I had worn eyeglasses all my life, but my eye doctor never offered me polycarbonate lenses for whatever the reason. But polycarbonate lenses have many benefits including being more impact-resistance, built-in UV protection, thinner & lighter, and always has a scratch-resistant coating included.
Polycarbonate is not only used by the optical industry however, but the material is also widely used in motorcycle windshields, bulletproof glass, police riot shields, and much more. Here’s how it all started.
History of Polycarbonate
The technology of polycarbonate lenses has the movie and music industry to thank for the polycarbonate we have today. It was the need for polycarbonate on CDs that the technology for the polycarbonate resin was perfected.
Before polycarbonate was ever used as lenses for eyeglasses, polycarbonate was used in the windows of NASA’s space shuttles as well as the face shields for the astronaut suits.
When polycarbonate was first used in eyeglasses, it was mainly used for safety glasses. In the early days’ labs that wanted to cut polycarbonate lenses ran into problems due to polycarbonate’s unique softness. Which required special equipment to process and not many labs were able to process it in the beginning.
Polycarbonate later became popular due to how thin and light the lenses are but are very impact resistant. Even to this day polycarbonate lense are a very popular choice.
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Who Should Wear Polycarbonate Lenses
Today polycarbonate is widely available at every optical retailer in the United States. You can even find over the counter reading and sunglasses that come with polycarbonate lenses. Who should wear polycarbonate lenses? Although there are some exceptions to this, I believe everyone should be wearing polycarbonate lenses.
There are some people that polycarbonate lenses are highly recommended for, these people include but isn’t limited to:
- Children up to 18 – At the optical office, I work at, it is a requirement for us to put children under 18 into polycarbonate. For good reason though, children are more active, and having lenses that are impact-resistant is safer for them. WIth standard CR-39 plastic lens and glass, there is a chance that the lens could break or shatter if they were to fall or if anything hits their glasses.
- Someone With Little or No Vision in One Eye – Polycarbonate is highly recommended for anyone that has little or no vision in one eye. The reason being is that if you only have one good eye, you’re going to want to have the lenses that you are wearing to protect that eye if something were to fly towards it not shatter.
- Anyone WIth An Active Lifestyle or Plays Sports– It is recommended that anyone that has an active lifestyle has polycarbonate lenses. The extra impact resistance of the polycarbonate lens offers extra protection for those with active lifestyles. The idea is to maximize the protection of the person while they are participating in these activities.
- Hazardous Work – Anyone that is in an employment field where there could be work hazards should definitely wear polycarbonate lens, their jobs include but isn’t limited to construction workers, police officers, firefighters, warehouse workers, and much more.
- Everyone Else – Everyone else should be wearing polycarbonate as well, the benefits over standard plastic and glass are just too good to pass up. There are rare cases where someone can’t wear a polycarbonate lens and it causes a weird distortion for the person wearing it but this isn’t very common. Our eyes are an important asset, we should be doing anything and everything we can to protect them so I believe everyone should have some sort of impact-resistant lenses.
4 Benefits of Polycarbonate Lenses.
When polycarbonate lenses were first introduced into the optical field the demand for a thinner and lighter weight lens was in demand, but polycarbonate’s unique softness caused many problems for labs.
Today polycarbonate can be found at pretty much every retailer and is often the material recommended by many opticians as a superior option to standard plastic or glass. Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of polycarbonate lenses:
- Highly Impact-resistance – While polycarbonate isn’t the only impact-resistant lens option when you get your glasses, being impact resistant is what sets it apart from standard plastic and glass lenses. The reason why polycarbonate lenses are impact resistant is due to it being uniquely soft and absorbing the impact instead of shattering like standard plastic or glass.
- Thinner & Lightweight – Whenever something gets thinner you imagine it getting lighter in weight as well. Polycarbonate lens is about 20% thinner than standard plastic lenses, which makes them lighter than plastic as well.
- Built-in UV Protection – Unlike standard plastic or glass lenses where you have to add the UV protection coating, polycarbonate has UV protection built-in blocking 100% without the need for any extra added coatings.
- Scratch Resistant Coating – There is nothing that is “scratch-proof” even glass the most scratch-resistant material still scratches. Polycarbonate has a unique softness to it, therefore, it must have the scratch-resistant coating applied to it. When the coating is applied polycarbonate lens is nearly as hard as glass.
Pros and Cons of Polycarbonate Lenses
- More Impact-resistance
- 20-35% thinner than plastic and glass
- Lightweight – 20% lighter than plastic, substantially lighter than glass
- Built-in 100% UV Protection
- The material is soft and always requires a hard coating
- Distortion on lens edge for higher prescriptions
- Is more reflective than plastic or glass (Anti-reflective coating is recommended)
What Are Polycarbonate Lenses?
Check out this short video for a quick explanation of polycarbonate lenses and how they would be beneficial to you.
The price difference between standard plastic lenses isn’t that much, and you should always try to get polycarbonate lenses whenever you are buying eyeglasses. Whether you are just buying some sunglasses without a prescription or you are purchasing eyeglasses with a prescription you should always try to get polycarbonate.
The added protection that it gives due to it being impact resistant is more than worth the extra money to upgrade from standard plastic.
One last note before I leave you here if you are ordering polycarbonate lenses and it is intended to be used for sports or safety, it is not recommended to order the super-thin polycarbonate and conventional thickness polycarbonate lenses should be used. Even though the super-thin lenses still pass the FDA Drop Ball tests for impact resistance you should still stick with the thicker polycarbonate lenses for safety concerns.
Do you have polycarbonate lenses? How do you like them? Let me know below! If you have any further questions feel free to leave a comment below and I will try to get back to you as soon as I can.
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