Photochromic Lenses for High-Performance Sports

Photochromic glasses offer the best combination of protection and performance in eyewear. That’s due to their innate ability to switch from a clear lens indoors or in low-light environments to dark sunglasses in bright light within seconds. In essence, photochromic lenses eliminate the need to take your glasses off — or swap between clear glasses and sunglasses — from the minute you wake up to the time you go to sleep. Photochromic lenses ensure you have the right tint for any conditions at any time. They’re perfect for flat winter light or bright sunny days on the snow; a dark thunderstorm blowing through on a hot summer day; or biking between dark forests and brilliant sunny meadows. No matter the setting, these specs adapt quickly to filter out the right amount of glare and light and leave you with clear vision.

What Are Photochromic Lenses?

Photochromic lenses are created by layering a sheet of photochromic dye onto the lens or embedding it into the lens itself. The latter is usually found in higher-performance sports glasses since these are made from shatter-resistant, lightweight polycarbonate. The photochromic dye contains molecules that react to UV light by absorbing those rays and, to a lesser degree, visible light. 

The molecules’ ability to block UVA and UVB rays means that even when the lenses are clear, they protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. So don’t sweat that transition from walking out the door into direct sunlight; photochromic lenses will still work their magic. Interestingly, because these glasses react primarily to UV rays, not visible light, their efficacy as sunglasses can be reduced when driving in a car with a UV-coated windshield and windows. That’s why you want to seek out photochromic glasses that also work in visible light, such as those from Rudy Project.

Polarized or Photochromic?

There was a time when you had to choose between the flexibility of photochromic lenses and the superior optics of polarized lenses, especially for water and snow sports. Photochromic lenses’ traditional shortcoming was their failure to reduce the glare that polarized lenses remove so well. However, technology has evolved to the point where lenses with both properties are now viable.

However, a more impactful technological advance is the advent of tints in photochromic lenses. Classic photochromic lenses came in one color scheme: black. This meant the wearer couldn’t enjoy the heightened contrast, improved clarity, and enhanced depth perception available to those wearing brown, copper, or red-tinted lenses. Thankfully, lens tech has evolved to provide the best of both. If you’re looking for an example of lenses with this technology baked in, look no further than Rudy Project’s photochromic lenses with High Dynamic Range (HDR)

The Case for Photochromic Glasses — The Only Glasses You’ll Ever Need

Whether you’re a recreational athlete or a pro, photochromic glasses ensure you’re ready for any environment. Starting your workout in the predawn dark? No problem. Your photochromic glasses will be clear, letting you see your surroundings without any problem. And when you’re heading straight into the sunrise, they’ll quickly turn into dark sunglasses. The same goes for starting a long session in the late afternoon and finishing after dark. Traveling through bright sun and dark, shaded forests? You’re covered. Even competing or practicing under field lights or in a bright arena, these glasses will transition to cut just the right amount of glare to let you see clearly without leaving you in the dark. With photochromic lenses, there’s no need to carry multiple glasses with multiple lenses for various conditions, terrain, and needs.

To see just how fast photochromic lenses go from clear to dark, check out the short video below.

How To Get the Most From Your Photochromic Lenses

While these lenses are technological marvels, they do have some limits, one being the aforementioned issue with wearing them while driving a vehicle with a UV-coated windshield. Another, the molecules behind them can lose their efficacy over time. You may notice the lenses become less effective after a few years. The last point to consider is that temperature can significantly affect how well the lens transitions and how dark it can become. The colder the lens, the better. In fact, if you live in a hot climate, here’s a pro tip: You may want to prime your photochromatic glasses by keeping them in the refrigerator. Pull them out right before you head out for a workout and see for yourself.