Bear in mind that some of the links on this website are affiliate links. If you go through them to make a purchase we will earn a commission at no extra cost to you but helps support our website. Keep in mind that we link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases.
This post was most recently updated on November 7th, 2019
Transition lenses have come a long way since I first started wearing glasses back in the late 90s. Transition lenses are a specific brand for photochromic lenses, which are lenses that automatically adjust to sunlight. Even though Transitions is a specific brand and not the term for these lenses, over the years many eye care professionals have commonly referred to all lenses that are light sensitive as “transitions”.
Transition Lenses Pros & Cons
These lenses make it more comfortable when you are out in bright sunlight but are clear when you are indoors. You can also find these lenses under the terms, “light-adaptive lenses”, “variable tint lenses”, or “photochromic lenses”.
Back in the day whenever you got photochromic lenses in glass lenses, the molecules that darkened when exposed to UV were embed in the glass material. That meant how dark the lenses got relied on how thick the glass material was. The problem was that prescription lenses have various levels of thickness. This meant that you would have a lens where parts were darker than others. Years later, Transition Optical introduced the plastic photochromic lens in which the molecules were on the surface of the lens, which leads to a more uniform darkening of the lenses.
Over the years photochromic lenses have improved drastically, which has lead to the lenses changing quicker, and becoming darker, as well as being clearer when you are indoors. The lifetime has also increased, I remember when I had my first photochromic lenses they turned yellow after about a year. Today, I have had some backup pairs of glasses that are 3-4 years old and the lenses still work just as good as the day I purchased them.
So in this article, I am going to provide the pros and cons of using photochromic lenses. This isn’t going to be a list of what people generally think about photochromic lenses, but just a first-hand experience from someone who has used these lenses for over 20 years. Let’s us begin.
There are many great benefits to having photochromic lenses, they do a great job at providing a comfortable viewing experience when you are outside. The automatic darkening makes it seem like the change is seamless when you are going outside, to me it just makes it seem like someone just turned the brightness down on the sun. It is a comfortable and very subtle change, so subtle that you might not even realize that your lenses got dark. So what are the many benefits, let’s dive in:
- Reduces Glare – This has to be the most obvious benefit of having lenses that turn dark. The glare reduction makes it much more comfortable outside when the sun is out, less glare = less eyestrain.
- UV Protection – Photochromic lenses provided constant protection against harmful UV rays from the sun by absorbing 100% of UV-A as well as UV-B.
- Not Carrying Multiple Pairs – This one was a big one for me, it might not be as much of a problem to other people. I hated carrying extra pairs of glasses around. I do have glasses where I do not have photochromic lenses, I do have a reason for it, more on that later. But having to carry a pair of clear glasses and a pair of sunglasses can be a hassle in some situations. For example, if I were to go to a major league sports event such as a football game, or a baseball game. Carrying two pairs of glasses was a hassle, then there’s the chance that you could lose, or damage them when you aren’t wearing them.
- Blue Light Protection – I was thrilled when I learned from a representative from Transition Optical told me that their photochromic lenses block out some harmful blue light indoors as well as outdoors. I personally spend most of my day in front of the computer, outside working out, or on my smartphone. I get exposed to blue light everywhere I turn, so knowing that my glasses filtered out some of the blue light is great.
This is where you will learn why I always have to keep a backup pair of glasses that do not have transition lenses on them, Don’t get me wrong, I still love my transition lenses but they do have some minor… let’s just call them inconveniences. Alright, where do I start,
- Not Dark Enough – Let’s just start with the number one complained about the issue, they are not dark enough. I felt like they weren’t dark enough when I first started wearing them back in the late 90s. But as technology has developed over the years the lenses are definitely darker. I currently wear the Transitions XTRActive lenses, and they feel dark enough for outdoor use and could almost replace a pair of sunglasses.
- Doesn’t Change In The Car – Next biggest issue, they don’t change in the car. The windshield of your vehicle filters out most of the UV. Therefore photochromic lenses will not change well when you are driving. Transitions, however, has made a lens that also reacts to natural light. Nevertheless, they still aren’t dark enough and do not replace a nice pair of polarized sunglasses for driving during the day.
- Taking Photos Outside – Now this is one of my biggest issues with having photochromic lenses. Whenever you are outside and you want to take a photo, photochromic lenses are always dark whether it is bright and sunny outside, or overcast. Quite annoying, this is one of the reasons why I always have to order a pair of glasses without photochromic lenses.
- They Don’t Change Quick Enough – This wasn’t an issue that I dealt with often, but when the situation came up it was a bit annoying. If you are doing something where you are constantly walking indoors and outdoors, the lenses are never clear. This could be problematic if you walk indoors into a low light setting.
Would I Recommend Photochromic Lenses?
Well, this question isn’t necessarily a yes or no question. When I worked as an optician and I was helping you with your eyeglass order, whether or not I recommended you to get photochromic lenses would be largely based off of what you did for work, or enjoyed to do on your free time. If you spent a lot of time outdoors or worked outdoors you could benefit from having photochromic lenses.
You really have to be someone that spends a bit of time outdoors to benefit from having photochromic lenses. If you work an overnight shift, and the only sunlight you get is the distance from your front door to your car, then there really isn’t any point to getting photochromic lenses.
I personally love my photochromic lenses, I do keep a pair of polarized prescription sunglasses in my car that I could use for driving. There is truly nothing that could replace a polarized pair of sunglasses for driving. Even for some recreational activities such as fishing, it would be more beneficial to have polarized sunglasses to cut down the glare from the water surface.
Are they worth it? To me, I thought they are worth the extra money. Especially if you are someone that wears prescription glasses and you like to go to sporting events or spend time outdoors. They can provide a very comfortable viewing experience by cutting down the glare from the sun. There may be a few inconveniences but, they aren’t that much of an inconvenience to be a deal breaker.
If you have any further questions about transitions, feel free to drop a comment below, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
RELATED POST FROM EYE HEALTH HQ
- Best Place to Buy Glasses
- Transition Lenses on Eyeglasses
- Warby Parker Home Try-On Review
- 10 Places to Buy Kids Eyeglasses Online
18 thoughts on “Transition Lenses [Pros & Cons]”
I had a pair back in 2005 as I was outside alot for work I found them very useful except like you when I was driving. Even the newer ones on the market right now,just do not seem to do the trick for me. Would love to be able to just have one pair of transition lenses that adjusted quickly and would help with driving not hender.
Hi Cathy, yes unfortunately even with modern technology they still haven’t quite figured out the issue with the glasses not getting dark enough in the car. As of right now the best option would to have a good pair of prescription sunglasses. Thanks for stopping by!
Hey there! I’ve been using transition lens from the past 3 years. Every product you buy in this world has its own pros and cons. If you keep thinking about the cons, you won’t end up buying it so I forgot about the cons and went for it. Transition lens are really helpful because of one main feature and that is to do with the protection from UV rays. As long as my eyes are well protected, I’m good.
Hi there! Thanks for stopping by! Even so I find that the pros definitely outweigh the cons with Transitions. Otherwise I wouldn’t have worn them for as long as I did. But yes we should be focusing on the benefits of it protecting our eyes.
My father switched to transition lens several years ago and love them. I have to admit my lights are very sensitive to light. However, I wear contacts. What would you recommend to someone that wears contacts but who’s eyes are sensitive to light.
Should I just always keep a pair of sunglasses handy or consider switching contact lens.
Hi Garen, if you are a contact lens wearer that is very sensitive to light I would definitely recommend using a quality pair of sunglasses. Preferably polarized to get you protection from the harsh glare as well. Hope that answers your question!
Check out our other article on Polarized vs Non-Polarized Sunglasses – Which One Should You Go With?
It is good to know that there is someone who shares the same sentiments with me on transition lenses, I have worn mine for 15 years now. My eyes are very sensitive to light though my eyesight is okay. It is true the photo-chromatic lens has really improved over the years and the current pair that I got last year is now dark enough compared to the previous one. One thing that never changes is the effect of not changing in the car, I wish they will soon improve on that. I always feel more comfortable driving with my sunglasses during the day and thinking of getting some driving night glasses. What would you recommend for night driving for someone who uses transition lenses.
If you are using Transition lenses, the best thing to help out with driving at night would to have a quality Anti-reflective coating to help reduce the glare you would be getting at night from cars and street lights.
I found your most article very interesting. My Father has used transition lenses since the 1980s. I haven’t given in yet even though my wife bought me some readers. My daughter has had glasses for quite a while, and she typically chooses form over functionality. I like you sharp site design as well. Thanks for the info!
I found your post about Transition lenses really fascinating. I don’t really have any experience of photochromatic lenses, apart from their use in proprietary sunglasses, and I found, as you say, that the rate of change in the glasses was on the slow side. However, I can certainly see the advantages of them for people who wear glasses all the time and spend a good deal of time outdoors. But my own personal preference would be for the use of designated sunglasses.
As a matter of interest, can you also get Transition lenses in Contact lenses?
It is really helpful for people who need to wear glasses every day to know more about the different types of lenses which are available, as I know from what other people have told me that opticians do not always tell people about al the different types which they could have.
Very many thanks for your really informative post
Hi Chrissie, thanks for stopping by! contact lenses that are self tinting are not currently available for purchase, but from talking to some representatives of a range of companies the technology is currently being developed.
Nice to read an article on eyeglasses written by an eyeglass-wearing optician! I only wear reading glasses myself, so I’m not a candidate for these lenses.
But my wife has been wearing glasses for most of her life and has recently been considering transition lenses. The last time she brought it up, she was put off by something you mention in the article – the time it takes the lenses to adapt when you walk inside. But I’ll tell her that’s only a problem if you regularly go in and out, which she doesn’t. In fact, I’ll send her a link to this article!
In reading your article there was one thing that was not clear in my small little mind. It sounds like there are different types of transition lenses. What are the different types and what is each type best suited for?
Nicely written article. I liked the 4 cons and 4 pros. The overall article is short enough to answer a lot of questions without feeling like you’ve invested a huge amount of time. I’m glad you wrote it!
Hi there Matthew, thanks for stopping by! Yes that is usually only an issue when you constantly go indoors and outdoors, but if not than that usually isn’t too much of a problem. Occasionally I find mine can be a bit dark when I walk into a store but it clears up fairly quick.
I have sunglasses on them, especially when I’m driving, they make driving more enjoyable.
I am analyzing when I go fishing to buy some photochromic lenses.
They protect me from the strong rays of the sun and the brightness of the sea.
I like that they allow me to enjoy nature more.
Any questions I will contact you before the purchase.
NEW. Available 4/2021: Transitions XTRActive POLAR. I’ve received 100% positive response from dozens of patients. This improvement offers additional darkness IN VEHICLES with, for the first time- polarization glare reduction! Outside, they become darker and filter glare better than most Transitions. Inside they are clearer than many previous Transitions, yet improved hazardous blue-violet light filtration from digital devices: LEDs, LCDs, phones and I-Pads. Additionally, the polarization benefit is now available in higher index lens materials, offering superior vision and superior scratch protection! I am a 30 year dual-licensed Ohio Optician.
Thanks for the information, but there is no solicitation allowed here to random email addresses. I have edited your comment.
Will the transitions Gen 8 glasses assist someone who maybe borderline needing cataracts? Sometimes when I go outside I see lots of glare from street lights and cars.
Also may it give you better clarity to see more clearer outside?
It wouldn’t make you see any clearer but would help with the glare outside.