If you wear glasses, chances are you’ve dealt with the annoyance of glasses in sunlight. Regular eyeglass lenses are often too light and cause you to squint, but carrying a pair of prescription sunglasses around can be inconvenient and add unwanted weight to your bag or pocket. Transitions are that middle ground: lenses that are clear indoors and at night while darkening outside to be worn as both glasses and sunglasses. They also have UV and blue light protection regardless of their tint—all Transitions lenses have 100% UV protection, while the amount of blue light protection varies.
Did you know? Transitions is actually the brand name! Many people say “transition lenses” when they actually mean the umbrella term for lenses that change tints in sunlight, photochromic. Transitions are a type of photochromic lens, while different brands have their own types of photochromic lenses. For today’s purposes, we will be discussing the brand Transitions.
So how do they work? The technology behind Transitions lenses involves a carbon-based dye in the lens itself, which darkens in color based on the amount of UV light present. Since the dye is part of the actual lens, it can’t be scratched or peeled off and lasts two years, the duration of most prescriptions. The time it takes for the lens to fully darken varies based on the lighting conditions (and it takes longer to turn clear), but the dye begins reacting as soon as it makes contact with UV light.
The four main types of Transitions lenses:
The standard Transitions lens meets the needs of most glasses-wearers, changing from clear indoors to a medium tint outdoors—because the darkness of the tint depends on the amount of UV light present, the lens will be darker in bright sunlight compared to a cloudy day. Indoors or at night, Transitions Signature lenses are as clear as standard glasses. They feature Transitions’ Chromea7 technology for the fastest and most responsive lens yet, and are best suited for everyday wear.
One important thing to note is since the lens dye works in contact with UV light, Transitions Signature lenses do not tint while driving, though other varieties do.
→Fun Fact: The reason this chart notes “even in high temperatures” is because the chemical reaction that causes photochromic lenses to tint is somewhat affected by temperaure as well as UV light. They tend to get much darker in cold weather (and take longer to turn clear). However, the XTRActive will be at its darkest even in warm weather.
The Transitions XTRActive lens is quickly becoming a popular option because it goes from almost clear while indoors or at night to completely dark in the sun. And we’ll be honest, the indoor tint is hardly noticeable—these work perfectly fine as regular glasses.
The main concern glasses-wearers have with the Transitions Signature lens is that it doesn’t get dark enough in the sun; the XTRActive lens solves that. It’s also activated by both UV light and available light, so though it becomes slightly tinted in the car, this tint is generally not enough if you’re looking for good driving sunglasses. But if you do an outdoor sport or spend a lot of time in the sun, the XTRActive lens is for you.
The Transitions Vantage lens goes from almost clear when indoors to a medium tint outdoors like the standard Transitions. It also becomes polarized when it tints, a unique feature made possible by aligning the dye molecules to create a polarized filter that blocks glare. This lens has more of an indoor tint and does not get as dark as the XTRActive, but if you’re involved in a water-based sport such as fishing, polarization makes a difference.
Transitions Drivewear are sunglasses optimized for driving that change from a lighter, olive-green tint to a darker brown one depending on the light conditions. They are also polarized to reduce glare while driving. Since they start off with a tint, they are not recommended for indoor use. But if you do a lot of driving and expect frequent changes in weather conditions, these might be the sunglasses for you.
Bonus: Transitions Contact Lenses
In an invention that TIME Magazine named as one of the best of 2018, Transitions partnered with ACUVUE to create ACUVUE OASYS with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology, the first ever photochromic contact lenses. These are designed to tint the wearer’s vision in sunlight while not also affecting how their eyes appear to others. However, it’s important to note that these contacts are not intended to be a substitute for sunglasses as they only block UV light for the portion of the eye they cover, while sunglasses block UV light from your whole eye. It’s recommended to wear these with non-prescription sunglasses, but if you play a sport where eyewear hinders you, these are worth checking out.
Why should I get Transitions over a generic photochromic lens?
Though the cost of Transitions is higher, they have better quality than other photochromic lenses on the market. Oftentimes, the photochromic capability is applied as a thin laminated film on the lens; thus, it can start to peel away over time. Since the dye in Transitions is part of the lens, it’s far more durable. There are also other variations between brands such as response time and how dark the tint gets. Overall, it’s best to go with Transitions.
Which Transitions lenses are best for my sport?
To quickly recap, the Signature and Drivewear are best for daily use, the XTRActive is best for most athletes, and the Vantage is best for water-related activities. When in doubt, ask us!
Which eyeglass frames support Transitions lenses?
Most of them. When placing your order with us, you’ll see the option to include Transitions lenses under “Features.” You can then choose which type of Transitions will suit you best.
→Tip: Add an anti-reflective coating! This will make the lens look even clearer at night and indoors, because it blocks out reflections from the lenses themselves and thus lets more light enter your eyes. This is especially handy with the XTRActive and Vantage lenses.
Are Transitions lenses good for kids?
Yes! It’s never too early to start protecting your eyes from the sun, and since childrens’ crystalline lens (the structure behind the iris that focuses light onto your retina) isn’t fully developed yet, it’s even more important to have good sun protection. Check out our list of some great glasses and sunglasses for kids here, and read more about the importance of eye exams for children here.
Get Prescription Sunglasses and Glasses with Transitions Online at SportRx
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