Are Transition Lenses Worth It?

Everyone who wears glasses understands all the pains of dealing with the bright sunlight. While most glasses come equipped with 100% UV protection, there is a difference between your eyes being protected from the sunlight and the bright glare that you get when the sun is shining.

Transition Lenses on Eyeglasses

If you wear prescription glasses and you want protection from the glare of the sun you have to carry around two pairs of glasses. If you have done this before you understand the pain of having to carry around two pairs of glasses and switching back and forth everytime you go inside and out.

One way to overcome the switching back and forth is to get Transition lenses. Transition lenses are photochromic lenses which are lenses that darken when they are exposed to UV.

Transition lenses are clear while you are indoors, and they darken when you are exposed to sunlight. Although this sounds like the perfect solution to the two pairs of glasses problem, throughout my years as an optician I have gotten very mixed feedback when it came to photochromic lenses.

They Aren’t Dark Enough

The number one complaint about Transition lenses is that they aren’t dark enough. While Transition lenses darken and help ease the glare for the sun, if you are looking for a replacement for sunglasses then this is not for you.

Even today in 2018 even the best Transition lenses are still not dark enough to be able to replace your sunglasses.

Transition lenses come in various levels of darkness depending on the manufacture of the lenses. I have some personal experience with the Transitions XTRActive lenses and I absolutely love them. They are as close to a sunglass lens as you could get in the market at the moment.

Even with the XTRActive lenses they still wouldn’t be able to replace a good quality pair of prescription sunglasses.

They Don’t Turn Dark in The Car

Next biggest complaint about Transition lenses. While there are some Transition lenses in the market today that claim to be able to turn dark behind the steering wheel, I have yet to see one that fully turns dark behind the windshield of your car.

As an optician whenever a patient inquires about and wants to purchase Transition lenses, I always made it absolutely clear that the lenses will not change in the car, and even if they purchased one of the Transition lenses that do claim to change in the car I still tell them to keep their expectations for inside the car down. 

The reason behind this is every car’s front windshield is designed to block out UV rays. Therefore no UV rays mean the dye in the Transition lenses that are normally activated by UV rays don’t turn dark.

Even with the Transition lenses that are designed to change in the car factors like how your windows are designed and window tint could affect how dark the lenses get.

They Take Too Long To Change

This is another common complaint about Transition lenses. Although this never truly bothered me with my Transition lenses, some people just can’t stand that Transition lenses take so long to switch back from dark to clear when they go indoors.

This is especially true for those Transitions XTRActive lenses I mentioned above. While these lenses were a lot darker while you are outside in the sunlight, they take quite a while to turn back to clear. Even then the “clear” from that lens isn’t truly clear and there is a slight gray tint to the lenses (That bothers some people as well).

I personally never felt like the Transition lenses are dark enough to really bother me while I am indoors anyways, but for some people, this was just too much.

You Can’t Take A Photo Outside Without Them Being Dark

I have never gotten this issue as a bad feedback for Transition lenses, but this is more a personal issue that I have with Transition lenses. This is my one and only complaint about Transition lenses. If you are trying to take a photo outside and the sun is out shining, there is absolutely no way you can take a photo without your glasses being dark.

Having half shaded glasses on where you can see your eyes still but not really is not very photogenic.

So What Are They Good For?

With the way that this article started, you might be second-guessing your thought about getting Transition lenses, but Transition lenses do provide some great benefits.

I personally have purchased Transition lenses most of my glasses. I have a couple of pairs that I have that don’t have Transitions on them just for the problem with the photos that I mentioned above. Other than that, every pair has them.

If you are someone that does a lot of outdoor activities Transitions are amazing. Especially if you just don’t want to carry an extra pair of glasses with you. They help my reducing the glare from the sun and enhance your vision.

Even though they do not get as dark as sunglasses, having them on your glasses does make it a lot more comfortable on your eyes when you are outdoors and the sun is bright.

Even though the transition lenses are not as dark as a pair of sunglasses, they do offer adequate protection against the glare from the sun. Most people think that the lenses are not dark or dark enough due to the gradual change when it is exposed to UV. Your lenses don’t instantly darken immediately when exposed to UV, the change starts immediately but the darkening is gradual.

Most people that wear Transition lenses report that they don’t even notice the change and going from indoors to outdoors the change is seamless. That is pretty much how it seems to me as well. I never really truly notice the lenses darkening. I do notice that they are still dark whenever I walk indoors.

What Colors Are Transitions Offered In?

Transition lenses have come a longs way since they were first introduced. Transitions currently offer 3 different everyday lenses. Each lens type has a range of colors that they are available in. Colors that are offered at optical offices could vary from what Transitions themselves offer. Let’s take a look at the colors that are available:

  • Transitions Signature – Transition Signature lenses are the most common everyday Transition lenses that you see everyone wearing. Transitions say that the Signature lens is their fastest and most responsive lens in all light and temperature conditions. The Transitions Signature lenses are currently being offered in 7 different colors.
    • Iconic Colors:
      • Graphite Green
      • Gray
      • Brown
    • New Colors: 
      • Amber
      • Emerald
      • Sapphire
      • Amethyst
  • Transition Vantage – This is one of the first of its kind and I personally really want to get myself a pair with this lens to see how these are. This is one of the first of its kind, this lens is a photochromic lens that also “intelligently” polarizes the lenses as they change outdoors and matches the level of outdoor glare. This lens is currently only offered in one color.
    • Iconic Colors:
      • Gray
  • Transitions XTRActive – This is the Transition lens that I personally have gotten the best feedback from. Since this lens was introduced this is by far the lens that gets the least complaints about. The main complaint about these lenses is from the people that enjoy the lighter Transition lenses and do not like that the XTRActive lens is darker. This lens is currently being offered in 3 different colors, but Transitions has new mirror colors that can go over these lenses you want to style your lens with a color (These look awesome by the way).
    • Iconic Colors:
      • Graphite Green
      • Gray
      • Brown
    • Mirror Colors:
      • Gold
      • Silver Shadow
      • Pink
      • Red
      • Green
      • Blue

As you can see Transition lenses do come in various different colors to suit whichever style you decide to go with. Whichever lenses you decide to go with all transition lenses offer the same protection no matter which color you end up deciding to go with.

Do Transition Lenses Block 100% UV?

People often associate UV protection with the darkness of the lens. Which makes people question if Transition lense indeed filters out 100% of the UV rays. 

In standard glasses the UV protection coating is clear, you would never know the difference if it did or didn’t have the UV coating. Even though Transition lenses are not dark like sunglasses, Transition lenses do indeed block 100% of UV-A and UV-B rays.

A less known benefit of Transition lense is that Transition lenses filter out some of the harmful blue light. Transition lenses filter out anywhere between 1.4x to 2x more of the harmful blue light indoors and filters out anywhere between 6x to 8x more than standard clear lenses outdoors. The range of blue light protection depends on which Transition lenses you end up choosing.

Can You Get Anti-Reflective Coating And Transitions?

Transitions can definitely be combined with Anti-reflective coating for those of you who would like the extra glare protection. As a matter of fact, Transition lenses with anti-reflective coating would work even more effectively at reducing distracting glare and reducing the discomfort normally associated with glare.

Transition lenses are offered in a wide range of materials from CR-39 standard plastic, polycarbonate, as well as hi-index materials. Polycarbonate and hi-index materials offer lenses that are thinner and lighter with better scratch-resistance than standard plastic lenses.

Wrapping Up

Transitions can be a great addition to your glasses, but they are definitely not for everyone. I personally like them and think that it is great to have especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors and don’t want to constantly have to carry two pairs of glasses around.

Transitions is only a brand of photochromic lens and they are not all made the same so be sure to check with your optical retailer and see which brand of photochromic lenses they carry.

Do you wear Transition lenses?  Do you like them? Let me know below! As always thank you for reading and if you have any questions about this topic or any other topic feel free to leave a comment below and I will get back to you.


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About Huy Le ABOC, NCLEC 117 Articles
Huy has been working in eye care for the last 10 years as an Optician, and Optical manager. He is coming to you as an expert in the field, as well as a long time eyewear user. He is bringing his expertise and unbias opinion on optical technology, frame styling, contact lenses, and eye health. He is on a mission to educate the world about the importance of eye health, as well as provide everyone with helpful tips to save money on all your eye care needs.Huy is certified by the American Board of Opticianry as well as the National Contact Lens Examiners and is a State Licensed Optician in the state of California. Huy is the founder of EyeHealthHQ.com and is currently an Optician in Los Angeles, CA.

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