When it comes to wearing prescription glasses, switching from sunglasses to your normal glasses, and back and forth, can be a pain.
You can ease some of this pain with transitions lenses, which are actually called photochromic lenses. (Transitions is the name of a brand of these types of lenses, but is used as a common term by many people that are not in the business of making glasses).
What are Photochromic or Transitions Lenses?
Photochromic lenses are specialty lenses made for eyeglasses, and sometimes for sunglasses, that automatically adjust their tint to changing light conditions.
When it is bright outside, they will get darker, like sunglasses. When it is overcast, they will get lighter – and when you're indoors, they will look similar to a normal pair of eyeglasses.
Not all photochromic lenses have a completely clear phase, and it's important that buyers know this about their choice in lenses. You might not even want them to get completely clear – depending on light sensitivity and preference. This is something your eyeglass professional will help you with when you're choosing the right transitions lenses for your needs.
Because photochromic lenses are actually activated by the UVB rays from the sun, there may be times when they don't darken up. In cars, depending on the coatings on your windshield, they will often not work. Plus, when it is cold out, they can take much longer to activate and darken.
Why Do People Refer to Photochromic Lenses as Transitions Lenses?
Like all things, photochromic lenses go by many different names. They are sometimes called variable tint lenses or light-adaptive lenses. They may even be referred to simply as adaptive lenses.
The reason why so many people refer to these changing-tint glasses simply as “transitions” is because the Transitions brand of lenses are the most popular brand in the U.S. Transitions lenses aren't the only brand of photochromic lenses on the market though.
Picking the Right Photochromic Lenses for Your Needs
Before getting into the best lenses for the various transitions lenses brands out there, it's important to take a good look at the “smaller” details – like what designs are available, which coatings are available, and other pertinent information.
It doesn't matter what type of lenses you need, you can get them in transitions. They come in high-index lenses, progressive lenses, trifocals, and bifocals, as well as your normal single vision glasses.
It's actually very beneficial to add the anti-reflective coating to your photochromic lenses, as it helps to enhance their performance. It'll give you a sharper image and less reflective glare.
The Top Photochromic Lens Brands
From Transitions Lenses brand and beyond, there are numerous options when picking which photochromic lenses will work best for you (or will be at the right cost). Not all brands or types are created equally – some photochromic lenses get darker than others, some darken much slower than others, and some never get clear.
Here is a list of the various options and which brand puts them out – including color availability, materials, and other important information to help you find the right lenses:
1. Transitions Signature
Transitions Optical is the best-known brand out there when it comes to adjusting-tint eyeglasses. The Transitions Signature lenses have Chromea7 technology. They come in brown, gray, and graphite green shades.
This particular choice in Transitions lenses offers you a lens that gets completely clear when you're indoors. They are also extremely responsive to light, so they work fast to get dark – and they also clear back up faster than many of the other options.
2. Transitions Vantage
These lenses from Transitions keep a slight tint when they are worn indoors, and then they polarize when they darken in the sunlight – this offer extra protection from glare. If you're looking for photochromic lenses that help you see things clearer, with a more high-definition view, this is the lens choice to go with.
An excellent option for people that like water sports, including fishing – the Transitions Vantage come in gray tint only.
3. Transitions XTRActive
When it comes to light sensitivity, the sun isn't the only problem. If you have issues with bright lights at work or at home, Transitions lenses have the XTRActive lens that will help you fight those bright lights.
The XTRActive lenses keep a slight tint even when you're indoors, which allows you protection from the harsh lights of your digital devices and the fluorescent lights in most businesses. These lenses are also made to activate in the vehicle, no matter your windshield coatings. The tint options include brown, gray, and graphite green.
4. Transitions Driveware
Transitions Optical, along with Younger Optics, have created a pair of transitions lenses that are made just for driving. The Transitions Drivewear lenses are polarized lenses that adapt to the changing light conditions you experience while you're behind the wheel.
4. 5 Stars
Rodenstock, a company out of Germany, makes the ColorMatic lenses. These come in the same triple variety of colors offered by many of the Transitions options, but they also have ColorMatic IQ Contrast. These photochromic lenses have contrast-enhancing shades in green and orange.
4. 5 Stars
From Vision-Ease Lens, the LifeRx lenses take just a moment to darken up when you go outside. They lighten up even quicker when you come back indoors. These lenses are made of polycarbonate, and they are available in gray and brown tints.
4. 5 Stars
Sensity by Hoya Vision Care has only been in the U.S. Since 2016. Though they are a newer company, they still offer excellent technology when it comes to adaptive lenses. In fact, they have a trademarked technology that they use.
The Sensity lenses are made to work consistently in varying temperatures and climates. They come in brown and gray lenses, and they have anti-reflective coatings.
4. 25 Stars
While polycarbonate is one of the best options when it comes to eyeglass lens materials, not everyone likes it. The PhotoViews lenses from Signet Armorlite offer you a choice between polycarbonate and lightweight plastic. These adaptive lenses are available in gray and brown tints, and you can get them in progressive lenses (Kodak brand).
4. 25 Stars
Carl Zeiss Vision is a German company making the PhotoFusion lenses. This option specifically comes in a neutral gray tint, which allows for accurate color in any lighting condition. These lenses darken faster (around 20%) than previous lenses from this same company, and they lighten up twice as fast as in the past as well.
10. PhotoGray and PhotoBrown
Much like Transitions brand, Corning has a few different options to choose from when it comes to photochromic lenses. The PhotoGray and PhotoBrown lenses are made from glass, which makes them heavier – it also makes them an ideal choice for eyeglass wearers that prefer the “old school” look and feel of glass lenses.
Because these are glass, they are more scratch resistant. This company has been producing glass photochromic lenses since the 1960s.
Glass isn't your only lens option when it comes to adaptive eyewear from Corning. Their SunSensors are made using mid- and high-index plastics. They also come in brown and gray tints.
12. Thin & Dark
If you're looking for thin lenses, and want lenses from Corning, the Thin & Dark is the lens for you. These gray tinted lenses are 30% thinner than the glass lenses and much lighter.
Comparing Transitions Lenses with Regular Sunglasses
Transitions lenses aren't for everyone, and with limited tint choice, you may find yourself in need of other sunglasses. It is nice that photochromic lenses adjust themselves depending on the light, and they save you the need to change from prescription glasses to sunglasses each time you leave the house.
Some people don't feel like photochromic lenses darken or lighten enough or fast enough – making them more annoying to them than just switching between glasses. It all depends on your preference and which brands you choose (as well as how you take care of your lenses).
If you want other color options, there are benefits to each tint color – aside from fashion. While lighter tinted colors are often specifically for fashion purposes, here are some of the color tint benefits that will come in handy when you're picking the right tint for your regular sunglasses:
Yellow is used to enhance contrast. It works best when it is overcast outside. Hunters, and gun enthusiasts, often wear this color of lenses (referred to as “shooting glass”).
Green makes a great base sunglasses tint, comparable to your normal brown and gray tints. If you're shopping for Ray-Ban sunglasses, their green tint is called G-15.
Red tinted glasses don't do much for visual clarity and can make colors skewed. This “rose-colored” tint is most often used just for fashion's sake.
Brown is a basic sunglass color and is a favorite choice for people buying polarized lenses for shore fishing and river fishing.
Gray is another typical color you'll find in sunglasses. This is the optimal choice for water lovers when they buy polarized lenses, especially if they're fishing in deep waters.
When it comes to non-photochromic sunglasses, you have a few options of how you want the tint as well. Solid isn't the only choice. You can get your sunglasses partially tinted, and lightly or darkly tinted.
Another great option when it comes to sunglass tint is gradient. This is a tint that is darker at the top and fades toward the bottom.
Benefits of Photochromic Lenses
Photochromic lenses give you constant protection from the rays of the sun, both UVA and UVB rays. The sun is extremely harmful to the health your eyes (both your vision and the skin around your eyes), not just because it makes you squint to see. UV radiation has been linked to the development of cataracts.
Transitions lenses aren't just for adults either – they are a great investment when it comes to your child's eye health. Make sure to get transitions lenses in polycarbonate for children, since they are more impact resistant.
Photochromic lenses will cost you more than regular prescription lenses and definitely more than a normal pair of sunglasses. The cost is worth it when you have one pair of glasses doing the job of two though!
Benefits of Photochromic Lenses
If you're considering transitions lenses for your next eyewear purchase, talk to your eye care professional about which brands they carry. You’ll want to discuss your specific needs – extra darkening, little or no tint indoors, lightweight, specific colors, etc.
Your eye care professional will use all of this info to get you in the right photochromic lenses that will keep your eyes from sun blindness and save you money on owning multiple pairs of glasses.