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Gradient vs. Polarized Sunglasses

Gradient vs. Polarized Sunglasses

When it comes to buying sunglasses, you have a lot of options, from frame color and style to lens color and material. You can also select special lens features like polarization or gradient tint so your shades can help you see more clearly in different conditions. 


Polarized sunglasses have a filter in the lenses that reduces glare. They are especially helpful around light-reflective surfaces like water, snow, and roads.  


Gradient sunglasses have tinted lenses that are darkest at the top of the lens. They gradually get lighter, with the lightest tint at the bottom of the lens.  


Read on to learn more about the differences between gradient and polarized sunglasses.


Polarized vs. Gradient Sunglasses 

Here are some factors to think about when you’re considering purchasing gradient or polarized sunglasses:  

Visual Clarity  

Polarized sunglasses reduce glare from sunlight that is reflected off of certain surfaces. They help improve clarity to keep your vision sharp and comfortable in bright light.  


If glare reduction isn’t a priority, go for gradient lenses. The darkest tint at the top of the lenses shades your eyes when the sun is overhead. The lighter tint allows you to see clearly when you’re looking down or straight ahead.  


Polarized sunglasses are a good choice for outdoors enthusiasts, especially if you spend a lot of time on the water or near other reflective surfaces. They’re helpful when driving, golfing, or just relaxing in bright light because the glare-reducing filter covers the whole lens.  


Gradient lenses are better for mixed indoor and outdoor use because you can look through the darker parts when you’re outside and the lighter parts when you’re inside.  


Gradient lenses may be considered more versatile because polarized lenses may seem too dark in some situations. You also may not be able to see certain digital displays while wearing polarized lenses because some screens have a polarized filter. 

What Makes Sunglasses Polarized? 

Glare from the sun travels in horizontal waves. With polarization, a special filter is applied to the lenses to absorb the horizontal light. The lenses then let the vertical light through while reducing the horizontal light. 


You can think of it this way: The filter is applied to the lens like vertical blinds on a window. When the blinds are open, only vertical light gets through, making it easier for you to see comfortably in bright sunlight.  

What Makes Sunglasses Gradient? 

Gradient sunglasses get their name from the way the darkness of their tint fades across the lenses. In most cases, the tint is darkest at the top of the lens and lightest (or not tinted at all) at the bottom.  


Other types of gradient lenses include: 


  • Double-gradient – The lenses are darker at the top and bottom, with the lightest tint in the middle.  

  • Triple-gradient – These lenses appear to have three colors that flow together: one shade at the top, a light or clear tint in the middle, and a third color at the bottom. 


Gradient lenses are a good option for outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and biking. They help dim bright overhead sunlight while allowing you to see clearly straight ahead and while looking down.   

Can You Get Polarized Gradient Sunglasses? 

If gradient and polarized lenses sound good to you, it's actually possible to get both options in a single pair of sunglasses. This combination may be a bit harder to find, but if you want polarized glare reduction along with gradient-provided overhead shade, polarized gradient shades may be the best fit for you. 

Don’t Forget UV Protection 

The most important reason to wear sunglasses is to protect your eyes from the sun. Not all polarized and gradient lenses provide protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays.  


Sunglasses should have a sticker or tag that indicates how much UV light they block. Look for a label with “100% UV protection”, “100% UVA-UVB protection” or “UV 400,” either of which means the lenses provide 100% UVA-UVB lens protection.  


We have a wide selection of sunglasses for women, men, and kids. You can feel confident shopping with Foster Grant because all of our sunglasses, including polarized sunglasses, have 100% UVA-UVB lens protection and are scratch-resistant.  




  1. Which is better: Polarized or gradient sunglasses? All About Vision. March 2020.* 
  2. Gradient lens tints for sunglasses. FramesDirect. Accessed February 2024.* 
  3. Polarized sunglasses and LCD screens. All About Vision. March 2020.* 
  4. The best polarized sunglasses for men and women. FramesDirect. Accessed February 2024.* 

The sources listed here have been provided for informational purposes only. The citation of a particular source does not constitute an endorsement or approval of EssilorLuxottica products, services, or opinions by such source.  


*Like Foster Grant, All About Vision, AAV Media, LLC, and FramesDirect are affiliates of EssilorLuxottica.