Photochromic Lenses: Are They Worth It?

Kroop's Photochromic Sunglasses placed on a rock


Photochromic lenses. Variable Tint Lenses. Whatever you’d like to call them, one thing is for sure: its magic lies in being able to darken when exposed to sunlight and lighten in low-light conditions in mere seconds. 

But are photochromic lenses worth it? Are they really as effective as promised? Read on to find out. 

How do photochromic lenses work?

They sure work like magic, but as with all things amazing, there’s always a science behind it. Embedded in photochromic lenses are molecules of silver chloride and silver halide. When these molecules are activated by the sun’s UV radiation, sunglasses with photochromic lenses automatically transitions from light to dark.

On overcast or cloudy days, you’ll notice that your lenses will also darken although not as much as they do on bright and sunny days. This is because UV rays are still present and can still penetrate through the clouds. 

Photochromic lenses have been on the market for decades. Throughout the years, they have seen significant improvements. In the past, photochromic lenses were made of glass and only came in grey. Recent advancements have made it possible to offer photochromic sunglasses in different lens colors and various materials.


Photochromic Lens Demonstration

How Photochromic Sunglasses Work


Who Should Wear Photochromic Sunglasses?

Anyone can benefit from photochromic sunglasses. If you find yourself regularly going back and forth between indoors and outdoors, photochromic sunglasses will be the most appropriate and convenient choice. 

How Long Do Photochromic Lenses Darken?

In general, photochromic lenses take approximately 30 seconds to darken. Depending on the weather condition, you’ll see that your lenses gradually turn darker for the first 10 minutes outdoors. They turn clear at approximately five minutes or sometimes less once indoors.

It’s important to remember that these numbers are just estimates. Factors such as the amount of UV ray exposure, temperature, chemical composition, and age may affect the amount of time that your photochromic lenses will adjust. 

How Long Do Photochromic Lenses Last?

Photochromic lenses can, unfortunately, wear out. On average, they have a span of three years before you need a new pair. There will also be a noticeable reduction in its darkening ability when you’re outdoors.

Photochromic Lenses: Pros and Cons

Still thinking whether sunglasses with photochromic lenses are right for you? Here’s a list of pros and cons to help you decide further: 


  • Cost-effective: When you’re wearing sunglasses with photochromic lenses, you’re basically wearing two types of glasses into one. This feature is particularly handy if you’re required to wear prescription glasses but you need a second pair to shield your eyes from the sun and the elements. Because of this, sunglasses with photochromic lenses are not only convenient to have but are also cost-effective.

  • Wide range of availability: With a myriad of styles and colors to choose from, you will always have a pair of sunglasses with photochromic lenses that will be a perfect match for your personal taste and requirements.  

  • Decreased light sensitivity: If you’re suffering from light sensitivity, your eyes will be able to adapt to different lighting conditions. 


  • Not ideal in vehicles: When you’re driving or inside a vehicle, you might notice that your photochromic sunglasses will not darken. They might, but only a little. Does it mean that your brand new pair is defective? Absolutely not. To put it simply, our cars’ windshields are primarily designed to have built-in UV protection. Compared to the side and rear windows, windshields have the highest percentage of UV-blocking properties. An ideal - although not economical - solution would be to purchase a separate pair for driving. 

  • Takes time to adjust in cold weather: Temperature can play a big factor in how well your photochromic lenses work. When it’s winter, transition sunglasses will not be as dark and can take a long time to react. But this should not be a cause for worry, as this is just a normal reaction for photochromic lenses. 

  • Non-polarized: If you’re looking to spend more time outdoors than indoors, you might want to look at polarized sunglasses instead. Most photochromic lenses are not polarized, making them not effective in cutting out harsh glare on reflective surfaces. 

    Final Thoughts

    So, are photochromic lenses worth it? When you’re going back and forth indoors and outdoors, photochromic lenses are a practical choice. Instead of having to reach for a second pair or having to rely on clip-on visors when you’re heading out, you’ll only be needing one pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes. And that’s one less weight to carry.

    Photochromic lenses can darken in as quickly as 30 seconds depending on the temperature and conditions. Sometimes, it could even take more when you take these factors into play. But we can all agree that the convenience of having one is invaluable. 

    But when you’re in a vehicle or you’re looking for sunglasses that reduce glare, photochromic sunglasses may not be for you. A good option would be to look for polarized sunglasses, which can do a great job in filtering out harsh lighting and glare.

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