While shopping for sunglasses you may get a little overwhelmed at the countless options and configurations of tint, coating, color, polarization, gradient and material. Hopefully this rundown will be able to offer you a little insight and clarity into what material is right for you.

What is Polycarbonate?

As the debate about what material reigns supreme for sunglass lenses rages on, one thing is clear, Polycarbonate is here to stay. Created over 60 years ago by two different men, Alfred Einhorn working for Bayer and Daniel Fox working for General Electric, within a week of each other. Polycarbonate is a group of thermoplastic polymers which is easily molded with heat. In very simple terms, it’s a plastic, but not just any plastic. Polycarbonates are used in a wide variety of things from police riot gear to automotive headlights

Polycarbonate Pros:

1.They are extremely impact resistant, unlike glass which would shatter if dropped or hit with an object. In fact, polycarbonate lenses are 10x as shatter resistant as their glass counterparts. Poly sunglasses can be dropped multiple times without breaking a lens. This is very important if you are wearing your shades to do rigorous outdoor activities or working.They are very popular for cyclists, hikers, climbers, and especially children for this reason.

2.The type of polycarbonate used sunglasses is very optically sound and highly transparent to light, even more so than many forms of glass.

3.Polycarbonate lenses offer 100% UV protection by nature with no special coating needed.

4.Poly lenses are a fraction of the weight of glass lenses, making them a more comfortable option for all day wear and easier to handle.

5.Poly lenses are easier and safer to replace as they are inherently more flexible than glass. They can also be molded into many more shapes and frame styles due to their ability to be thermoformed.

Polycarbonate Cons:

1. Some people would argue that their vision is not as crisp and visually pleasing through polycarbonate lenses as it is through traditional glass lenses, which offer the best clarity.

2. Though polycarbonates have an extremely high shatter resistance, they scratch much more easily than glass lenses. This requires additional coating of scratch resistant materials to keep them in top shape. Even then, poly lenses do scratch over time at a much higher rate.

Glass Lenses:

The traditional gold standard of sunglasses has always been glass. If you ask the diehards, it still is. Glass is the more optically sound material of the two as far as pure clarity goes. You know what you are getting when you go with glass, heavy feeling, solid, clear, high quality. Generally if you get a pair of sunglasses with actual glass lenses, they are going to be manufactured with high quality construction.

Glass Pros:

1. Glass is so very optically clear and is still known worldwide as the best material for pure optics that is available for consumer manufacturing. It is used in very high tech spaces that require precision, where a polycarbonate simply would not do the job as well. Things such as telescopes, surgical scopes, magnification glass, microscopes, thermometers, and the list goes on. So if glass is good enough for the guys checking out galaxies far far away, they are surely good enough for your sunnies.

2. The are very resistant to scratching. Glass is a very hard material, unlike polycarbonate so it would take an even harder material to scratch it. Now glass can still be scratched but most likely not just from thrown your shades in your bag or setting them down wrong. This means that you don't need to add additional protection to the lenses to prevent scratching, this keeping the vision more clear.

3. Some people like the heavier, sturdy feeling of glass lenses. They certainly feel like they have some substance to them and you definitely won’t forget they are on your face.

Glass Cons:

1. Glass lenses are heavier on the face. Some people complain that the heavy glass lenses hurt their nose or even give them headaches from all day wear. This is an inherent part of glass lenses and there isn’t much you can do to avoid it. If you are one of those people who gets uncomfortable wearing heavier glasses, glass lenses may not be for you.

2. Shattering them is not hard to do! Glass lenses, unlike poly, cannot take a dropping or a smack from a tree branch while in the trail. They are not a good choice for children for this very reason and most people doing physical activity shy away from them as well.

3. Plain untreated glass offers zero UV protection from the sun’s harsh rays. For this you need to add one or more of the many coatings, tints, or polarizations that are available. This generally isn’t an issue as sunglasses come with all varieties of UV protective coatings. Just be aware of your needs and what you should be looking for to meet them.

We carry both types of lenses so whatever you feel meets your needs, we've got you covered! Now you can go into your all important sunglass hunt with an arsenal of knowledge to aid in your quest for the perfect sunnies!