Polycarbonate is a category of eyeglass lenses that are durable yet lightweight. Polycarbonate lenses can correct high vision prescriptions while keeping the lenses thin and comfortable.
The lenses are made from a thin plastic that is stronger than glass and impact resistant. These features make polycarbonate lenses a popular choice for children, athletes, and those looking for protective eyewear, such as prescription safety goggles.
In addition to their durability, polycarbonate lenses have a slim design that effectively corrects high vision prescriptions. Lenses also have built-in UV protection to shield your eyes from harmful sun exposure.
While polycarbonate wasn’t utilized for eyewear until the 1980s, the material was introduced in 1958. In the 1970s, polycarbonate was used to create helmet visors for astronauts due to its durability and impact resistance. The material has also been used to create other types of helmets, CDs, and auto headlights.
Polycarbonate lenses are made of a thermoplastic polymer. Thermoplastic polymer is a plastic that liquifies or becomes malleable when heated up. Then, once the plastic cools, it will solidify or harden into whatever shape it’s molded.
The process of creating polycarbonate lenses involves melting a bunch of polycarbonate pellets. Once melted, the polycarbonate liquid is injected into lens molds. The liquid cools and hardens in the molds. This results in a much stronger lens than what’s produced using other methods.
Because of their strength, polycarbonate lenses are commonly used in safety glasses or goggles. A prescription can also be added to the lens and put into standard eyeglass frames.
Polycarbonate lenses have many advantages that may help the right user. But, they aren’t for everyone. Before deciding whether they are right for you, consider the pros and cons.
Built-in UV protection
The material used to create polycarbonate lenses works as a natural UV blocker. So, every pair will block harmful UVA and UVB rays. There is no need to pay for a protective UV lens coating on polycarbonate lenses.
Polycarbonate lenses are likely the most impact-resistant lenses on the market. This reinforced safety makes the lenses ideal for children, athletes, and people who work in professions in which eye injury is a risk.
Thin, lightweight design
Polycarbonate lenses are 30% thinner than glass or standard plastic lenses. Though thin, the lenses can accommodate strong prescriptions. This allows for a more comfortable fit. It also eliminates the “coke bottle” appearance that often occurs with high-prescription lenses.
You can apply special lens coatings, like anti-reflective, blue-light-filtering, and scratch-resistant coatings to polycarbonate lenses. This allows you to customize your lens features to meet your specific needs. These lenses can also be used as progressive lenses. This means multiple distances can be corrected within a single lens.
This durability and protection comes at a price — around twice the cost of standard lenses. But if you often break your lenses and pay to have them repaired, the extra expense of polycarbonate lenses may be worth it. If you have the flexibility to do so, shop around for the best polycarbonate lens price.
Not scratch resistant
While polycarbonate lenses are known for their durability, they are not immune to scratches. A scratch-resistant coating must be applied to the lenses to experience those benefits. The coating is an extra expense to the already-high cost of the lenses, which may deter some users.
Low Abbe value
Abbe value is a measurement of how lenses disperse light. The lower the Abbe value, the higher the dispersion. High dispersion can lead to chromatic aberration, which occurs when the lens cannot focus colors onto the same focal point. This results in color halos or fringes around objects. Because polycarbonate lenses are so thin, they often have low Abbe value and high dispersion levels.
Not right for all prescriptions
Polycarbonate lenses can accommodate prescription strengths up to +/-4.00. People with especially high prescriptions (+/-4.25 and higher) may have visual distortions with the lenses. If you have an especially high prescription, your optician may suggest high-index lenses for the best visual results.
When deciding whether these lenses are the best choice for your vision needs, it’s wise to compare them with other available lens options. Below are some key comparisons between polycarbonate and other lens types.
Some things to consider when comparing polycarbonate and plastic lenses are that polycarbonate lenses:
A few advantages that plastic lenses have over polycarbonate include that they:
While it’s still possible to find glass lenses, they aren’t commonly used for eyewear anymore. Some of the advantages polycarbonate has over glass lenses are that polycarbonate lenses:
When it comes to impact resistance and UV protection, polycarbonate and Trivex lenses are equal. However, when researching the two, you’ll find that polycarbonate lenses:
A few ways in which Trivex lenses outshine polycarbonate include that they:
Polycarbonate lenses are a type of high-index lens, but there are some key characteristics that distinguish them. For example, polycarbonate lenses:
A few advantages high-index lenses have over polycarbonate include that they:
It may be important to note that the optical clarity of polycarbonate and high-index lenses is not as clear as what you would expect with Trivex lenses.
There are many things to consider when choosing a lens for your glasses. Be sure to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your eye doctor or optician. They will be able to recommend options that fit your budget and vision needs.