I wear bifocal, multi-focus prescription eye glasses. The top is for long range, and the bottoms allow me to tilt my head a bit to bring nearby objects into focus.

Finding sunglasses that clip-on, or fit over my prescription glasses is difficult, there are usually no or only a limited selection. There are also many trade offs with clip-on or fit over sunglasses.

I am considering getting prescription sunglasses, but have no idea what to look for. I know there are some that change automatically from sunglasses to plain vision, but that is about all I know.

My outdoor life is fairly active, often with many hours spent on the water and driving in all conditions. I drive through a tunnel almost everyday (it is well lighted, with an average transit time of about 1 minute)

My indoor life, involves looking at a computer screen for 8 hours a weekday, a bit of TV watching and operating power tools indoors and outdoors.

We have an existing question Things to consider when buying sunglasses that has some good information but it is specific to non-prescription.

I like the idea of glasses that change from sunglasses to indoor. Cost is not a significant consideration, performance and ease of use are the driving factors in my choice.

  • I went through the same decision a few years ago and decided that the easiest option for me was contact lenses. Might it be worth you considering them?
    – Phil
    Jun 30, 2016 at 15:12
  • I am not a big fan of contact lenses. Jun 30, 2016 at 15:14
  • Transition lenses arent a problem in the car, the ones that react to UV wont even darken in the car as the windshield already blocks the UV. My father used to complain (30plus years ago technology) his glasses wouldnt clear up for tunnels, I complain they dont darken when driving ;). Been in a situation similar to yours and wanted polarized lenses for my sunglasses, the store couldnt find any good solution. Contacts and a couple pairs of good sunglasses is the easiest for me (dailies are easy to carry and use as the glasses take a beating and cant use broken prescription sunglasses) Jul 4, 2016 at 13:19
  • @ErikvanDoren it looks like the transitions xtractive "darken even in the car" Jul 15, 2016 at 16:18
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    @JamesJenkins, yes, the Xtractive use a wider spectrum that goes above UV so they darken also in the car, although not as dark as if they were outside, just tint a bit. They are also influenced by the kind of windshield inclination etc. When I tried them they still werent enough for me in the car when the sun was strong. But, driving aside, my eyes are a lot less tired at the end of the day with transitions on everyday prescription glasses even if they arent a substitute for good sunglasses in some situations. Now I hate if I have to use one of my spare pairs that arent transitions Jul 17, 2016 at 20:36

4 Answers 4


I like the idea of glasses that change from sunglasses to indoor

Photochromic lenses are a lot less useful than most people think when they hear about the concept. The main problem is that the change takes time - about a minute to darken and nearly five minutes to un-darken. That makes them basically useless for things like tunnels. Another problem is that they don't darken as much in higher temperatures, and the range between the darkest and lightest state is limited anyway.

There are some high-tech variants that solve these problems by using LCD technology, but I don't think they're available with prescription lenses, except as clip-on.

Simply get regular prescription sunglasses. If they're from a reputable manufacturer they'll have UV protection. You'll also want antireflection coating.

  • I wear transition glasses and, while a bit slower clearing up when they are extremely cold they take nowhere close to that long to change: darkening outdoors is almost instant and clearing up is very fast depending on the UV in the room (in a room with big open windows in full sun they might remain slightly tinted, just barely, and my eyes appreciate it) Jul 4, 2016 at 13:30

I'm an extremely nearsighted person who has trouble with contacts and spends a whole lot of time being active outdoors. As a result, I've done a lot of investigating into prescription sunglasses, and tested several pairs.

The biggest difference between sunglasses and regular glasses is that sunglasses need to block out a larger area than a regular glasses to be effective. Otherwise too much sun comes around the edges and you are worse off than with no sunglasses.

The most basic prescription sunglasses are a regular glasses frame with tinted lenses, and if you only need a low prescription, these are probably sufficient. The benefit to these is that you can get them at any optics shop. But if you have a high prescription and need a thick lens, these don't work well because the larger frame with really thick lenses is uncomfortable heavy. I had to return a pair of Ray Bans because of this: it felt like I couldn't even breath with them on my nose. I found that metal frames with an adjustable nose piece were most comfortable because I could adjust them to stay in place on my relatively narrow nose.

Another option is wrap around lenses. These are what I'd get if money wasn't an object. If you have a high prescription, www.RudyProject.com and probably others have an option for a prescription insert that fits behind a pair of wrap around sunglasses so that you can have the prescription lens without needing the whole curved lens to be prescription, which would be a serious challenge to create and would drive the price up significantly if it were even possible.

I've looked into the type that change between indoor and outdoor (transition lenses). I've known a number of people who are satisfied with them. They do take a few moments to adjust to a useful level between indoor and outdoor and longer to completely adjust. Ten years ago, the lightest indoor version was still slightly tinted, but it didn't bother any of the people I knew who wore them. The technology may have improved since.

For me the biggest problem with prescription sunglasses is my tendency to lose them. I've got one pair that ended up at the bottom of a lake, and another pair that just plain disappeared. If you tend to misplace things, this probably needs to be a consideration. I'm much less upset when my $5 wear-over sunglasses disappear than my $300 dollar prescription pair.


I won't discuss the aspects that the other two answers have covered well.

I am very near-sighted. For my non-sunglasses, I have what are called "progressives". I think this is what you are calling bi-focal, multi-focal. For my sunglasses, I skipped the progressive feature, which I don't find very useful anyway. Outdoors, I am focused on distance almost all the time and the few times it might be nice to see something that is close a bit more clearly isn't worth almost an extra $500 or so for the progressive feature. I have no problem seeing where my feet are going without the progressive feature, nor in following a tennis ball to my racquet.

For a price, even high-diopter lenses can be made of a material much thinner and lighter than the standard. This is especially useful in sunglasses, because of their larger area.

I will echo Karen's comment about blocking sun from the edges; this is particularly important at high altitude.

  • 3
    I skipped "progressive" on my sunglasses - and I regret it: If I want to read a label on a product or read a book with my sunglasses on ... I can't. It's inconvenient (or impossible) to always switch. I'm going to buy progressive sunglasses this year. Karen and you are right about blocking sun from the side, and I've found it hard to find frames like that - especially ones that are "standard" as opposed to really sporty. But I'm desperate to block out light from the sides as the bridge I cross daily has, in the winter, blinding sun coming in from 90degrees to the direction of traffic.
    – davidbak
    Jun 30, 2016 at 19:55

There are some great answers here that helped me make my decision. Making the final decision becomes personal choice. There are several options, with some more heavily weighted to certain needs.

  • Can or do you wear contacts lenses?
    • Consider using non-prescription sunglasses with your prescription contacts.
  • Is the cost of new prescription lenses is a factor?
    • Consider clip/slip on sunglass covers for your existing prescription lenses. There are multiple choices, harder to find then non-prescription sunglasses. Look at eyeglass stores and drug stores.
  • Do you wear one pair of glasses all the time?
    • If you change glasses for different tasks, consider full time prescription sunglasses they offer the most (strongest/best?) options for sun protection
    • If you put your glasses on in the morning and leave them on until bed time, consider transition lenses, they react to changing light levels to modify the amount of tint.
  • If considering transition lenses, there are currently 3 choices (not all vendors sell all 3 types)
    • Option 1: fully clear inside but does offer polarization nor do they change in the car (glass blocks the type of light that makes them change)
    • Option 2: darkens in the car, has a slight tint all of the time, has most darkening, but does not offer polarization
    • Option 3: has polarization, but does not darken in the car, has a slight tint all of the time.

Polarization: reduces glare, but can also negatively impact the views of computer screens.

Personally: It was time for new glasses (new prescription), contacts are not for me, I wear one pair of glasses (progressives) all day, I spend a lot of the day looking at display screens (including car dashboard), polarization is desired but reading computer screens is more important.

In my final decision I went with the transitions lenses that darken in the car, on my progressive prescription. I got fairly large lenses (more sun protection as well as a larger area for the progressive change), I have a set of clip on sunglass with polarization that I can use when glare is an issue. I have only had the transitions a week, I wanted to write this all down while it was fresh, so far I am very happy with my choice.

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    I'm just curious as to why there was a downvote here. I know it's private, so I'm not trying to expose anyone, but perhaps someone who understands the criteria would explain it so I can learn. Thanks! Aug 13, 2016 at 13:47
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    @Sue On English Language and Usage, we call such a person "a driveby downvoter". He does it because he feels like it and he can. It's also possible that someone doesn't think a user should get upvotes for answering his own question when there have been good answers posted, but he should have the courage to say so. I, myself, found this answer an excellent summary and useful and upvoted it.
    – ab2
    Aug 13, 2016 at 17:21

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