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Tinted and Photochromic Lenses: Rose Colored Glasses? Or Yellow, Blue, Green...

Tinted and Photochromic Lenses for Glasses We all know the feeling of stepping outside on a bright, sunny day, squinting in pain as we stumble blindly down the sidewalk. Maybe you fumble for your glasses in your bag as you’re walking, or fish them out of your glove compartment after you make it to your car. Or maybe you don’t even own prescription sunglasses, because you can’t afford to buy them in addition to your regular eyeglasses.

For some, photochromic lenses may be the answer. These special lenses react when exposed to UV light, darkening in within minutes or even seconds, allowing you to see comfortably on even the brightest of days. They’re a great option for people who don’t want the expense of buying a second pair of glasses, or who simply want the convenience of not having to switch pairs. And as a bonus, many photochromic lenses offer UV protection, preventing damaging rays from reaching your eyes.

New and improved lenses vs the old standbys
The first of these types of lens treatments were reserved for only glass lenses; however you can get photochromic lenses in virtually any type of material now. The lenses of these glasses change from clear (or slightly tinted) to a darker shade, though the hue, amount of tint, and time it takes to fully darken will vary from brand to brand.

The original photochromics, called PhotoGray and PhotoBrown, were created by Corning Medical Optics around thirty five years ago and are still available today. These older lenses, grey and brown tinted respectively, do have some minor drawbacks. Because of the way they’re made, the final tint of the lenses depends on the strength of the prescription: the stronger the prescription, the darker the lens will be. So if your eyes require different amounts of vision correction, the weaker eye will end up with a darker lens. You may also notice uneven color within a lens, with the thickest areas being darker than the rest.

Corning also makes a newer photochromic lens called Thin & Dark. This glass lens is thinner and weighs less than its predecessors, and can change from clear to sunglass shade in around sixty seconds. Like the older versions, the Thin & Dark are available in both brown and gray. If you prefer plastic, Corning offers SunSensors lenses that are just as thin as their glass ones but even lighter. The Thin & Dark glass lenses still have problems with color distribution; however the uneven coloring is virtually eliminated in the plastic SunSensors, regardless of the prescription strength.

Transitions lenses, made by Transitions Optical, are one of the most versatile photochromic lenses on the market. They can be created for nearly every design and prescription, and you can choose from a variety of lens materials including plastics and polycarbonate. The response time from indoors-to-out or outdoors-to-in is very fast, and Transitions lenses provide 100% UV protection.

Transitions Optical also makes another photochromic lens, called Drivewear, which is designed to work not only outdoors but also inside vehicles. Car windshields block UV rays, which are needed to trigger the darkening reaction in most photochromic lenses, but Drivewear lenses also react to visible light, darkening when it is too bright, allowing you to drive comfortably without squinting. These lenses are also polarized to reduce glare.

A rainbow of colors
Getting tinted lenses can also be a great option. These lenses stay one color all of the time no matter where they are worn. Tints can be solid, uniform color or a gradient, fading from top to bottom and you can get tinted lenses in pretty much any shade you can imagine in all different lens materials. You can choose a color for cosmetic purposes only (to enhance your appearance or just plain look cool), or you can choose a tint that will improve the clarity of your vision.

Many lighter tints are used purely for looks. For instance, pink lenses can slightly soften your appearance and makes some wearers look younger. But colored lenses are not just for show; they can be functional too. Rose tint can reduce eyestrain, especially in fluorescent lighting, grey tinted glasses reduce glare while only minimally altering your perception of colors, and gradient tinted lenses can be helpful while driving, blocking the bright light from above while still allowing you to see your dashboard controls clearly.

Yellow tints are especially popular, because they can improve contrast and reduce glare in many sporting situations. These lenses block incoming blue light, making objects appear sharper against a blue or green background. Yellow tinted lenses are great for anyone who needs sharp vision outdoors, such as target shooters, hunters, golfers and tennis players.

Tinting can also be a money-saving option. If you have an extra pair of prescription glasses, you may be able to use them as sunglasses by having the lenses tinted brown, amber, grey or another color of your choice. This would cost considerably less than getting an all-new pair of shades. Unfortunately, this is not an option for everyone. Scratched lenses usually cannot be dyed, as the damaged areas will absorb extra color and be darker than the rest of the lens. Also, polycarbonate lenses can melt during the tinting process.

Medical tints
In some cases, glasses may fulfill roles other than UV protection and vision correction. For some people with certain eye disorders, tinted lenses in particular colors can help keep and enhance their remaining vision. Special reddish-brown glasses can help with light sensitivity and are worn both inside and outdoors to reduce the amount of light entering the eye. (Those made by Corning for this purpose are called GlareCutter). The exact color that you need will be determined by your disorder, its progression and your own vision needs. Your eye doctor can help you choose a lens that is right for you.

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