Analysis of Sunglass Lens Color and Tint Leads to Better Performance in Outdoor Eyewear


Posted on January 30, 2018

Whether skiing on a mountain or boating on the lake, protective eyewear is more than just a fashion statement. For many years I had relied on dime-store glasses to dull the glaring effects of the sun. While they seemed to do the job at a fraction of the price, I really hadn’t experienced the difference in quality protective eyewear. My husband, on the other hand, is somewhat of a sunglass snob. Always wearing the designer brand and latest fashion, I assumed he was more interest in appearance than performance…that is until I tried his on. Only one word can describe it, WOW! The quality lenses and polarized coating changed my view of the word, literally. No more cheap glasses for me. When it comes to protective eyewear, quality is worth every penny.

Not only does my husband enjoy top brand sunglasses, he also seems to have a pair for every type of activity we enjoy outside. The golden yellow lenses for the water, the reflective lenses for the mountain, and standard gray for the golf course. I thought this was merely another of fashion statement he was going for, but after some research, I found that color really does play a significant role in the performance of sunglasses.

Color and Performance in Sunglasses

The human eye perceives color by the amount of light that is reflected or absorbed by an object. “Of all the light waves interacting with our eyes, those at the blue end of the light spectrum are most powerful. Cones in the eye’s retina read color, and it’s the blue light that dominates our vision, washing out our perception of other colors. Minimizing this blue light and enhancing other colors, such as red and green, is said to improve visual acuity.” Andy McSorley of Oakley Sunglasses and Apparel explains how “color perception varies from person to person [and] is solely opinion-based”. However, “specific colored lenses do perform better in certain conditions.”1

Light transmission and color shifting both play an important role in visual perception when various lighting conditions exist. Neutral or gray lenses block out the most light, creating a darker effect than colored lenses. Although transmission values remain the same, consumers tend to prefer these lenses based on visual effect. Amber or bronze lenses create a color shift by blocking more blue light. This increases contrast, which can improve the visibility of water surfaces, where one color dominates the majority of the viewing area. Yellow lenses are also used to block blue light and improve brightness in low-light conditions. These lenses display a higher transmission rate to create a brighter viewing experience. Anti-reflective lenses typically use a reflective blue-mirrored coating to reduce glare, creating more clarity in brighter blue conditions. By using a spectrophotometer to monitor lens color and transmission values together, protective eyewear lenses can be formulated to meet consumer needs based on specific environmental factors.

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