How to Tell If Sunglasses Are Polarized

Updated on December 12, 2016
How to tell if your sunglasses are polarized
How to tell if your sunglasses are polarized | Source

Polarization does not automatically equate to blocking UV, but many of today's polarized lenses do include UV protection. Polarization reduces glare from bounced sunlight, like light off water or glass. This makes them particularly helpful if you're driving, boating, fishing, or doing other things on the beach/water.

Checking for UV-blocking capability at home is possible, but requires some special equipment. Checking for polarization, on the other hand, is incredibly easy at home or in the store while you're browsing for a new pair of shades.

Check for Polarization With Two Pairs of Sunglasses

The age-old way to check polarization is by using two pairs of sunglasses. My dad showed me this trick when I was a kid, and I've used it for years! You need a pair of sunglasses you know are polarized and a pair you're curious about. Hold one pair of sunglasses in front of yourself, as shown below.

Step 1

A pair of polarized sungalsses
A pair of polarized sungalsses | Source

Turn the second pair of sunglasses 90 degrees, compared to the first pair, and hold them, lenses together, as shown. If you cannot see through the two lenses, they are polarized.

Step 2

Both pairs of sunglasses are polarized.
Both pairs of sunglasses are polarized. | Source

If, when held at a 90 degree angle across one another, you can see through the pair of lenses, the second pair is not polarized. The glasses are out of focus in the picture below because I focused the camera on the table's wood grain to show you how clearly you can see through the sunglasses when one of the pairs isn't polarized.

The second pair is not polarized.
The second pair is not polarized. | Source

Check for Polarization With an Electronic Display

The first method of checking for polarization is fun, but it only works if you have access to a pair of sunglasses that is polarized. The second method works as long as you have an electronic display. Your computer, cell phone, iPad, camera, or even a touchscreen dash console in your car will work. If you want to test sunglasses at the store, simply pull out your phone. If you're checking a pair at home, you can go put them on and test it out right now while you read this article.

Because of how most electronic displays work, polarized lenses block them from view when turned 90 degrees from the screen. I discovered this by accident while using my iPad and wearing sunglasses at the same time. If you wear your sunglasses and lean your head slowly to the side, you should see the picture darken and then disappear. If this happens, your lenses are polarized. If the image remains the same, they are not polarized. Just check out my video below to see this in action.

I have watched the display disappear on a variety of electronics, but some cell phones seem to have considered this 'problem' in their design. I have not seen the display on my iPhone disappear, for example, but it does look slightly wavy and different when I move it around while wearing polarized lenses. If you watch the display with and without the polarized lenses, you should see what I mean.


Contact lenses block UV from entering your irises, but they cannot protect your skin.

Are Your Lenses Polarized?

Unfortunately, lenses that offer neither UV protection nor polarization are just a fashion accessory, no matter how much they cost. Some inexpensive lenses are polarized and some very expensive ones are not, so the price tag is never a good measure of protective ability.


  • The apparent darkness of a pair of lenses tells you nothing about their ability to block UV or bounced light.
  • Information from the manufacturer or testing lenses for yourself is the only way to know if that pair of dark shades is really doing you any good.

Because there are many stylish sunglasses that do offer UV protection and are polarized, all it takes is a little bit of shopping around to find the perfect pair that look good and keep you healthy.

Why Wear Sunglasses?

I wear sunglasses almost every time I set foot outdoors. As someone who has worked outside for years and who enjoys outdoor activities, I like being able to see without squinting! I also enjoy the added protection sunglasses offer my eyes and surrounding skin.

Sunglasses that aren't purely decorative help you in two different ways: they can block UV and/or reduce glare. UV-blocking sunglasses not only help protect your eyes from sunburn (yes, it can happen!), macular degeneration, and cataracts, but they also defend your delicate eyelids and the other skin around your eyes. According to research, up to 10% of all skin cancers form on the eyelids. Luckily, UV blocking sunglasses are a quick, easy way to protect your eyes and delicate eye-area skin.

How do you Pick Shades?

What factors influence which sunglasses you buy?

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Questions & Answers


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      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Great tips Natasha. I would have to take a closer look on mine and see if they're polarized or not. Voted up!

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        Sure thing! Glad you found it interesting. =)

      • toptendeals profile image

        Jason Benedict 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida

        Interesting trick. You learn something new everyday, thanks for the information Natashalh.

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        Ah, well, polarization isn't the end all be all of sunglasses! You can still get UV protection without the polarization. I hope you like your new glasses, whether or not they're polarized.

      • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

        Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

        I recently bought sunglasses. I should have read this earlier. But anyway next time I'm buying sunglasses I will remember your tips.

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        Cool! If you don't want to look like a silly bird tilting your head side to side, you can turn your phone, instead. Have fun!

      • Scribenet profile image

        Scribenet 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Hey...this is great. My expensive sunglasses alas are not polarized, neither are the cheaper ones. WalMart, here I come with my smartphone! Great Hub, who woulda thought to check their sunglasses!

        Thank You!

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        It makes me feel kind of powerful to detect something unseen like polarization! I hope you have fun and find exactly the pair you want.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

        Great tips. I need a new pair so I´ll be checking this soon. Thanks for sharing.

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        They're really fun and easy! I hope you find them useful and thanks for stopping by.

      • janetwrites profile image

        Janet Giessl 4 years ago from Georgia country

        Interesting methods. I have never heard of them before. I should try them out soon.

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        I remember my dad showing me the first one when I was in elementary school. I thought it was pretty neat!

      • randomcreative profile image

        Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

        What neat tricks! I had never heard of either one before, but I'll have to check them out now. Thanks for the tips!

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        It's pretty fun! Thanks for stopping by. =)

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

        Very, very cool little trick Natashalh! Now I'm going to go try both methods.

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        That's really cool! Congrats on getting great deals on polarized lenses! And my $150 pair of Ray Bans isn't. =p

      • Sharkye11 profile image

        Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

        Neat trick! Just discovered that all of my cheap, $1 shades are polarized. Too cool! Thanks for sharing!

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        I hope WM has some polarized ones so you can check it out! It's pretty cool, though it really worried me at first. I turned my iPad to be in portrait mode instead of landscape and all of a sudden the picture disappeared! I thought it had broken or something before I realized what had happened.

      • hawaiianodysseus profile image

        Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

        Natasha, now I'm like a little kid who can't wait to go to Walmart and test this out with the use of my iphone. What a neat pair of tricks I've learned from reading your hub today. I hope this one goes evergreen! Aloha and mahalo!

        (And he's out the door headed for the nearest sunglasses stand!)

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        Yep, the most expensive pair I own isn't polarized! At least it is 100% UV blocking. Thanks for stopping in!

      • rose-the planner profile image

        rose-the planner 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

        Great information and tips on polarized sunglasses. I definitely agree that price does not determine whether a pair of sunglasses are polarized. I have purchased expensive sunglasses in the past that were not polarized. Thanks for sharing. Take care. -Rose

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

        Really? 85 days of sun? Wow and eek! Thanks for stopping by and being supportive, anyway.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Well, I wear prescription lenses and I've never been able to afford prescription sunglasses too....and when I did have money I guess I just didn't care enough. Plus, I live in western Washington, and we only get sun 85 days per year. LOL

        Having said all that, good job on this article. :)