Explained: Sunglasses Lens Tint and Coating

Founder, Mr. Mamil

Having spent countless hours spent on the saddle, I’ve learned that choosing the right lens tints and coatings for your cycling sunglasses can make a world of difference in both comfort and performance. 

In this article, I’ll delve into the various lens tints and coatings available, drawing upon my first-hand experience, thorough research, and knowledge to help you make the best choice for your cycling needs.

Types of lens tint

Lens tints are crucial in enhancing vision, reducing glare, and improving the cycling experience across various environments. Each lens tint has unique characteristics, making them suitable for specific conditions and personal preferences.

The table below compares the advantages, limitations, and best use cases for various lens tints

Lens tintBest use casesProsConsExamples
GreyVarious lighting conditions, maintaining true colorReduces overall brightness, maintains true colorsMay reduce contrast in low-light conditionsOakley Black Iridium, Smith Optics Platinum
Brown/AmberEnhancing contrast, filtering blue lightImproves contrast, helps with depth perceptionCan distort color perception, not ideal for low lightOakley Bronze, Tifosi Brown
Yellow/OrangeLow-light conditions, improving depth perceptionEnhances contrast, brightens low-light environmentsNot suitable for bright sunlight, can distort colorOakley HI Yellow, Rudy Project Racing Red
GreenVersatile for different lighting conditions, reducing glareEnhances contrast, reduces glare, versatileMay not be as effective in low-light conditionsOakley Jade Iridium, Smith Optics Green Sol-X
Rose/RedEnhancing visibility, improving contrast in mixed lightingImproves contrast, enhances road visibilityNot as versatile for various lighting conditions, can distort colorOakley Prizm Road, Smith Optics Ignitor
Types of lens tint

Factors to consider when choosing lens tints

There are several factors to consider when choosing lens tints, including lighting conditions, personal preferences, color perception and contrast, eye strain, and fatigue.

Lens tintLighting conditionsColor perception and contrastEye strain and fatigue reduction
GreyBright and sunnyMaintains true colors, provides a natural color balance without altering the hues of objects or the environmentModerate – Reduces glare, allowing for comfortable vision
Brown and AmberPartly cloudy, overcastEnhances contrast by filtering out blue light, increasing depth perception and sharpness in visionGood – Reduces overall brightness and glare
Yellow and OrangeLow-light, dawn, dusk, foggySignificantly enhances contrast by brightening the environment, improving visibility in low-light conditionsHigh – Provides greater clarity, reducing eye strain
GreenVarious lighting conditions (sunlight to overcast)Slightly enhances contrast by reducing glare and increasing brightness, providing a soothing effect on the eyesGood – Balances color and contrast, reducing eye strain
Rose and RedOvercast, cloudy, foggy, low-lightSignificantly enhances contrast by filtering out blue light, making objects appear sharper and more defined against the backgroundHigh – Improves visibility and reduces strain on the eyes
Factors to consider when choosing lens tints

Lens coating

Lens coating can greatly enhance the performance and longevity of your cycling sunglasses by providing additional features and benefits. 

The table below compares the three common lens coatings used in cycling sunglasses;

  • Anti-reflective coating
  • Hydrophobic coating
  • Scratch-resistant coating

Each coating offers unique benefits and potential trade-offs, making them suitable for different use cases. 

BenefitsReduces glare and reflections, improves visual comfort and clarityRepels water, oil, and dust, maintains clearer vision in wet conditionsProtects lenses from minor scratches, prolongs lens life
Potential Trade-offsCan be prone to smudging, may require frequent cleaningMay not prevent all smudges, can wear off over timeDoes not make lenses completely scratch-proof, may add cost
Ideal Use CasesCyclists who ride in various light conditions, especially sunnyCyclists who ride in wet or dusty environmentsCyclists who want to extend the lifespan of their sunglasses
Comparison between types of lens coating

Understanding the various lens coatings available will help you make an informed decision when selecting your ideal pair of sunglasses. Here are more detailed explanations about each type of lens coating.

Anti-reflective coating

Anti-reflective coating, commonly referred to as AR coating or anti-glare coating, plays a vital role in enhancing the performance of sunglasses by reducing reflections and glare. 

These coatings consist of a very thin layer carefully applied to the lens surfaces, designed to allow maximum light transmission and improve overall vision.

AR coating works by reducing the amount of light reflected off the lens surfaces, which can otherwise interfere with your vision and cause discomfort.

By minimizing reflections, anti-reflective coating ensures that more light passes through the lenses and reaches your eyes, resulting in better visual clarity and contrast.

Pros of anti-reflective coating

  • Enhanced visual experience. The improved light transmission AR coating provides allows you to see more clearly, making it easier to spot potential hazards and navigate while cycling.
  • Reduced glare. Anti-reflective coating effectively cut down glare caused by sunlight or other bright light sources, ensuring more comfortable and enjoyable rides in various lighting conditions.
  • Less eye strain. By minimizing glare and reflections, AR coating can help alleviate eye strain and fatigue, particularly during long rides or in bright environments.

Cons of anti-reflective coating

  • Added cost. Sunglasses with anti-reflective coating may be more expensive than those without this feature.
  • Potential for smudges. Anti-reflective coating can be more susceptible to smudges and fingerprints, requiring more frequent cleaning.

Hydrophobic coating

Hydrophobic coating are a special lens coating that repels water, oil, and dirt, enhancing sunglasses’ overall performance and durability. 

These coatings are particularly beneficial for cyclists who ride in various weather conditions or face elements such as rain, sweat, and dust during their rides.

Pros of hydrophobic coating

  • Improved vision in wet conditions. Cyclists encountering rain or other wet conditions can benefit from the hydrophobic coating, preventing water droplets from accumulating on the lens surface and maintaining clear vision.
  • Reduced lens maintenance. By repelling dirt and oil, the hydrophobic coating helps keep your lenses cleaner for longer periods, reducing the frequency of cleaning and the risk of accidental scratches while cleaning.
  • Enhanced durability. By minimizing the build-up of dirt, grime, and water on the lens surface, hydrophobic coating can help prolong the life of your sunglasses and maintain optimal performance.

Cons of hydrophobic coating

  • Additional cost. Sunglasses with hydrophobic coating may come at a higher price than those without this feature.

Scratch-resistant coating

Scratch-resistant coating is a protective layer applied to the surface of sunglass lenses, enhancing their durability by making them more resistant to scratches and other types of damage. 

These coatings are especially valuable for cyclists who frequently use their sunglasses in various environments, potentially exposing the lenses to rough handling and various elements.

Pros of scratch-resistant coating

  • Increased durability. Sunglasses with scratch-resistant coatings are better equipped to withstand daily wear and tear, making them a more durable and long-lasting option for cyclists.
  • Maintained optical performance. Scratches can negatively impact the optical clarity of lenses. Scratch-resistant coatings help preserve the quality of vision by protecting the lenses from damage.
  • Cost-effective investment. While scratch-resistant coatings might come with a slightly higher upfront cost, they can save money in the long run by reducing the need for lens replacement or purchasing new sunglasses due to damaged lenses.

Cons of scratch-resistant coating

  • Higher cost. Sunglasses with scratch-resistant coatings may be more expensive than those without this feature.

Photochromic lenses

Photochromic lenses are an innovative technology that allows your cycling sunglasses to adjust their tint based on the amount of sunlight automatically

Photochromic lenses are perfect for cyclists who often experience varying light conditions during their rides, such as those who frequently ride during sunrise, sunset, or unpredictable weather.

Pros of photochromic lenses

  • Automatically adjust to changing light conditions, providing optimal vision and comfort; for example, lenses will darken under bright sunlight and lighten in cloudy or shaded conditions.
  • Versatile and convenient, eliminating the need for multiple pairs of sunglasses or interchangeable lenses; for instance, you won’t need to carry a separate pair of clear lenses for overcast days.
  • Reduced eye strain as your eyes don’t need to constantly adjust to different light levels, making it easier to spot obstacles or changes in road conditions.

Cons of photochromic lenses

  • Slower transition time in freezing temperatures may cause temporary vision discomfort; for example, when cycling in freezing conditions, lenses might take longer to lighten after entering a shaded area.
  • Not as effective inside vehicles, as UV rays that activate the lenses are often blocked by windshields, limiting their usefulness for driving.
  • Higher cost compared to standard non-photochromic lenses, but the convenience and versatility can be worth the investment for many cyclists.

Polarized lenses

Polarized lenses are designed to reduce glare from reflective surfaces, such as water, snow, and even wet roads. 

Polarized lenses are particularly useful for cyclists who often encounter glare during their rides, as they can help to improve visual comfort and reduce eye strain.

Pros of polarized lenses

  • Reduced glare from reflective surfaces, makes it easier to spot obstacles or road hazards; for example, a wet road reflecting sunlight can cause intense glare, but polarized lenses can significantly reduce this effect.
  • Enhanced contrast and more accurate color perception allow for improved visibility and a better overall cycling experience.
  • Reduced eye strain and fatigue, as your eyes don’t need to adjust to varying glare levels constantly.

Cons of polarized lenses.

  • Incompatibility with some devices. Polarized lenses may cause difficulty in viewing certain screens, such as LCDs on bike computers or smartphones, as they can create a blackout effect.
  • Not always ideal for low light conditions. Polarized lenses may reduce visibility in dim or overcast conditions, as they tend to darken the overall view.
  • Higher cost compared to non-polarized lenses, although the benefits can outweigh the additional expense for some cyclists.
Alex Lee at Mr.Mamil

Alex Lee is the founder and editor-at-large of Mr. Mamil. Coming from a professional engineering background, he breaks down technical cycling nuances into an easy-to-understand and digestible format here.

He has been riding road bikes actively for the past 12 years and started racing competitively in the senior category during the summer recently.