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What is a Photochromic Lens?

Sometimes, we get tired of changing and swapping our glasses...

Sometimes, we get tired of changing and swapping our glasses every time we enter or leave a place. However, thanks to photochromic lenses, it is now possible to wear just one pair of glasses all the time. 

These lenses have the ability to change their color and opacity intelligently with surround lighting, protecting your eyes without the need to change to another pair of glasses. 

Maat Optical explores what you need to know about these lenses, their benefits, how they work, and the qualities of the different colors that different types of photochromic lenses have.


What Are Photochromic Lenses?

A photochromic lens is a corrective lens that has the capacity to tint depending on the amount of ultraviolet (UV) to which it is subjected.

They look just like regular clear lenses when worn indoors but they automatically darken (up to a sunglasses feel)  when you move to a brighter environment. This is because Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun affect the molecules in these lenses causing them to change color.

Thus, these lenses darken even on cloudy days, since although the sun is not really seen, UV rays can still penetrate the clouds.

Photochromic lenses always give you the best possible vision in all types of lighting. They are also called Transition lenses, adaptive lenses, self-tinting lenses, or variable tint lenses. 

Their special characteristics make them ideal for people with sensitive eyes.

Photochromic glasses should not be confused with polarized sunglasses. The latter have a set tint that protects your vision from glare, but they do not change color; They do not adapt to light in the same way that photochromics lenses do.


What Are The Benefits Of Using A Photochromic Lens?

Photochromic lenses are of very great importance to every individual irrespective of where you stay. Here are a few benefits of having a photochromic lens:

●They help reduce eye strain and the risk of developing cataracts, as they block up to of UV rays.  

●Photochromic lenses prevent glare and reduce eye fatigue for more comfortable vision.  

●With photochromic lenses, it will not be necessary to change glasses every time you enter or leave closed spaces. The lenses adapt to the environment depending on the amount of natural light they receive.  

●  They save costs since you will only have to invest in a single pair of glasses as opposed to two.  

●  They are available in many shapes, colors, and brands to cater to different lifestyles.  

●  They provide continuous protection against UV rays regardless of whether you are exposed directly to the sun or remain indoors.


Why Our Eyes Shouldn’t Be Exposed to Ultraviolet Rays?

Ultraviolet rays are dangerous to the eyes. They attack our eyes directly, by diffusion, or by reflection. While the direct entry of UV rays into the eyes over time is not healthy, reflected UV rays are just as harmful. 

Our eyes can also be affected by rays reflected from water, sand, or snow. Water reflects about 10% of UV rays, sand at 20%, and snow at 85%. To ensure that your eyes are protected against aggressive rays, it is strongly recommended to wear glasses with photochromic lenses.

Research has reported that light pollution caused by the sun's rays  (and blue light) increases age-related macular degeneration or AMD. AMD is characterized by the aging of the central area of ​​the retina or macula. 

Research shows that nearly 20 million adults in the U.S. have some form of age-related macular degeneration and this emphasizes the increasing need to protect our eyes from constant exposure to UV rays.


How Do Photochromic Lenses Work?

The lenses in photochromic glasses are often made from carbon or SilverChloride and these molecules react to UV rays; They change shape and absorb light, resulting in color change.

The more UV rays absorbed by these lenses, the darker the lenses will become. They can easily adapt from light tones to darker tones. Thus, they help protect your eyes from dangerous or harmful levels of Ultraviolet rays.

To know more about how photochromic lenses work, read our article; How do photochromic lenses work?  


How Dark Do Photochromic Lenses Get?

The extent of dark shade achieved by photochromic glasses depends on the amount of solar radiation that falls directly on the lenses. However, these levels of darkness are predefined and can’t be changed. Broadly, photochromic lenses can go up to 75% dark.

In rooms or indoor spaces illuminated by natural light, photochromic lenses may only darken slightly as UV rays continue to penetrate. However, the darkest shade is seen when they are fully exposed outdoors, where the lenses will rapidly change from clear to intense dark shade.


How Long Does It Take For Photochromic Lenses To Change From Light Shade To Dark Shade?

Thanks to the evolution of technology, opticians are now able to manufacture photochromic lenses that change color quickly in just a few seconds. The dark color change is often fast but can take up to 30 seconds depending on the manufacturer. Returning to its light tone may take up to 5 minutes.

Upon detecting the presence of ultraviolet rays, the photochromic molecules quickly change their structure simultaneously and become dark. Once the presence of natural light decreases, the lenses regain their transparency and turn to a clear shade.


Are Photochromic Lens Different From Transition Lens?

Most people use the term photochromic lens and transition lenses interchangeably. However, there are slight differences between a photochromic lens and a transition lens.  

Transition lenses are known to be a specific type of photochromic lens and this is why most people don’t see the difference. Here are a few differences between a photochromic and a transition lens:

●Transition lenses have a lesser transition time when compared to a photochromic lens.  
●Transition lenses can get darker than a photochromic lens.   
●Most transition lenses would cost more than a regular photochromic lens. However, this still depends on the design and additional coating.  
●Transition lenses are only available in specific designs and are not as flexible and largely produced like a photochromic lens.


Photochromic Lens Colors And Their Properties.



The lenses of photochromic glasses can come in different shades and colors. Some color types are recommended for specific use depending on your daily activities and lifestyle. Below are the most common color shades and their individual properties.


1. Brown

●It is a pleasant color that does not excessively alter the perception of colors.  
●Reduces visual fatigue.  
●It is recommended for outdoor sports.  
●Suitable for people who have undergone cataract surgery. 

2. Grey

●It is the most neutral color and the shade that least alters the perception of colors.  
●Suitable for constant use.  
●They are the preferred shade if you want to drive your car with glasses on.

3. Verde (grass green)

●This color alters colors more than gray and brown lenses although this is not really noticeable and it is easy to adapt to this change.  
●Recommended for water and winter sports  
●Suitable for people with long-sightedness.

4. Yellow



●They provide great luminosity and greater contrast than other lenses.  
●Highly recommended specifically in low light conditions, such as driving at dawn, dusk, or in fog.  
●They may be suitable for some retinal diseases.


Who Can Use a Photochromic Lense?

Photochromic lenses are for all types of people, of any age and there are no specific contraindications to its use.  They are ideal for people who need to use glasses all the time. 

They are also compatible with most frames and prescriptions. Your optometrist will recommend the ideal lenses for your visual needs. 

Photochromic lenses are especially great for people who travel a lot especially to places with a hot temperature. Also, it is great for people who play outdoor games like golf or skiing. This doesn’t mean it can’t be used for everyday use or other forms of activities.


The Downside to using Photochromic Glasses

Although wearing photochromic lens glasses is recommended for people who wear glasses at all times, it still has some limitations and disadvantages. First off, photochromic lenses are ineffective when worn behind the wheel. This is because modern car windshields are designed to block most oncoming Ultraviolet rays and thus photochromic lenses won't darken. 

In addition, these glasses lose their effectiveness when they are exposed to too much heat such as during summer periods. Other downsides of a photochromic lens are:

●They cost more than most regular sunglasses.  
●The extent of darkening can’t be controlled and so can get uncomfortable indoors if triggered by some indoor lighting.  
●Transition time can be affected by temperature (colder temperature can make it slower).  
●Non-polarized photochromic lenses can lead to unwanted glare of sunlight.


Choosing Glasses With Photochromic Lenses

Purchasing a Photochromic lens doesn't change the usual decision-making process you go through when you want to get your regular pair of glasses. One would usually watch out for frame type,  color, and type of material used to make the glasses.

Furthermore, it is possible to strengthen your photochromic lenses by treating them with extra characteristics the way you would do your regular pair of glasses to improve visual comfort.

Possible treatments to choose from  amongst others include;

Scratch Resistant-  to harden the glass and make it more resistant to scratching;  
Slimming -  to make your glasses more aesthetically pleasing;  
Anti-reflective -  to improve vision and reduce glare from oncoming vehicles when driving;  
Anti-fog - to limit condensation on lenses;  
Anti-dirt -  to prevent any deposit of dust and other microorganisms on your lens.

Note that you don't need an “anti-blue light” treatment as photochromic lenses also block harmful blue rays emitted by laptop and phone screens. Blue lights from digital screens can cause headaches, insomnia, or even macular degeneration. With photochromic lenses, these can be easily avoided all with one pair of glasses.


Do Photochromic Lenses Need Any Special Care?

They require the same care as any other type of lens. They can be cleaned with lens cleaner, mild soap, or a microfiber cloth.

There are convenient lens-cleaning sprays that can help keep your photochromic lens clean all the time. Also, it is best to keep them in a clean case to prevent exposure to environmental hazards. The benefits of regular maintenance and cleaning of your photochromic lens include:

●Prevent your lens from micro scratches  
●Prolong the life-span of your photochromic lens  
●Prevent irritation of your eyes when you use them.


The One Pair of Glasses You Need

Everyone who wears glasses knows that changes in light are sometimes difficult to bear. When the clouds dissipate or when you go from an overcast environment to an outdoor place, do you have to squint your eyes to avoid being dazzled? 

Do you have to wait a while before you adapt to the change in environment?


Do you sometimes forget to take your sunglasses with you when the sun glare is blinding? Almost all of us suffer from these.

All you need are photochromic lenses.  Frames with photochromic lenses allow you to go from UV protection category 0 or 1 to category 4 in a few seconds without any physical effort. There is therefore no need to carry several pairs of glasses with you. 

Photochromic glasses are the perfect money saver for you and save you the discomfort of keeping multiple glasses in your bag. Order your photochromic lens today to enjoy freedom and comfort at all times.   

Jay Zhang

Jay Zhang, with over 5 years of experience, currently serves as the Sales Manager at JIANGSU MAAT OPTICAL TECHNOLOGY CO LTD. He specializes in research and development, as well as manufacturing, of photochromic lenses with a wide range of optional colors. In his role, Jay excels in marketing, customer-focused service, ensuring service quality, and enhancing the overall customer experience. His expertise lies in the commerce sector, contributing to the success of the company in the dynamic Chinese market since January 2023.

Learn More About Jay Zhang

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