Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Photochromic Lenses (transitions® Lenses)

Author: The Spectacle Shoppe | | Categories: Contact Lenses , Designer Eyeglass Frames , Eye Irritation , Eyeglasses Store , Eyewear , Eyewear Fittings , Online Eyewear Store , Optical Glasses , Optical Store , Optician , Prescription Glasses , Prescription Sunglasses , Sunglasses Store , Sunnies

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Photochromic Lenses

A lot of our Vancouver glasses customers wear eyeglasses regularly instead of contact lenses. Wearing glasses means you don’t have to worry as much about dry eye or irritation, you can shave a few minutes off your morning and bedtime routines, and you’re not in danger of losing a lens if you get poked in the eye while playing sports. But there is the sunglasses conundrum. Switching from prescription glasses to prescription sunglasses can be a pain. You always have to remember to bring your sunnies with you and it’s easy to lose them (or your glasses) when it’s time to swap.

It can be tempting to skip the sunglasses altogether when you’re a glasses devotee. However, sunglasses are a necessity year-round for protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, and while there’s no shortage of cheap sunglasses in Vancouver, BC, when you need vision correction, you do have to splurge on prescription sunglasses, which makes it all the more painful if they get misplaced. Thankfully, there is a way around this: photochromic lenses, commonly called Transitions lenses after one of the brands that make them. Transition lenses transition, hence the name, from regular, clear eyeglass lenses to tinted lenses on their own in response to light conditions. To help you understand the benefits, we’re covering everything you need to know about these underrated lenses.


  • What are Photochromic Lenses and How do They Work?
  • What are the Benefits of Transitions Lenses?
  • What are the Different Types of Transition Lenses?
  • I Don’t Wear Glasses. Do They Make Transition Contact Lenses?


Photochromic lenses, or light-adaptive lenses, are eyeglass lenses that darken, similar to sunglasses, in sunlight and then become clear again when you’re indoors. The lenses are composed of photochromic molecules and a chemical reaction occurs causing them to change the structure and darken in response to UV light. People often call them Transitions lenses because Transitions is the most popular and well-known brand of photochromic lenses. Transitions® brand of lenses are excellent and they have patented technology that ensures the lenses allow the optimal amount of light in, regardless of whether you’re inside, in bright sunlight, or outdoors on a cloudy day. They also protect the eyes from the sun’s UV rays, as well as blue light from devices and the sun.

Can Transition lenses replace sunglasses completely? Yes, for the most part, you can buy one pair of prescription glasses to cover all of your bases instead of needing a separate pair of prescription sunglasses. This is particularly true if you choose the newer Transitions lenses that darken in the car. If you want to be extra sure that Transitions are the ideal choice for replacing your sunglasses, ask your Vancouver optician at your next visit. However, for most people, it will be perfectly fine to stick with one pair of specs.


There are a number of benefits of Transition lenses that our Vancouver glasses patients love, including:

  • Transitions lenses block 100% of the sun’s UV rays, protecting the eyes from the harmful effects just as sunglasses do. Exposure to UV rays is tied to a host of vision issues, including an increased risk for developing cataracts or macular degeneration later in life.
  • They’re convenient. You can get by with one pair of glasses and will no longer have to switch between prescription glasses and sunglasses. You will never have to keep track of both pairs of glasses again, worry about losing them, or have to spend time digging around for your shades. This is probably the biggest benefit we hear from our Vancouver glasses customers.
  • Transitions lenses are great for children. It’s crucial to protect kids’ developing eyes from UV rays. Yet, while adults can have a tough time keeping track of multiple pairs of glasses, it is even harder for little ones. Not needing separate sunglasses for kids can eliminate some stress.
  • Transition lenses are designed to filter out harmful blue light both indoors and outdoors. This will help you prevent digital eye strain when working at a computer or looking at devices and could help improve your sleep since blue light can disrupt circadian rhythms. This also means you won’t need any other blue light blocking glasses or special filters on your device screens.
  • You’ll have a more comfortable, clear vision at all times. Photochromic lenses allow you to see clearly in any light conditions and recalibrate as needed, which reduces eye strain and fatigue when you’re inside, as well as the need to squint or strain on sunny days. Colors appear crisper and more vivid when you’re in the sunlight. Additionally, the lenses reduce some glare by controlling the amount of natural light the eye is exposed to.
  • The lenses can lessen light sensitivity and your eyes will adapt more quickly to changing light because your lenses are adapting with you.
  • You’ll be able to see more clearly and experience less glare while driving even without putting on sunglasses. A problem in the past with Transition lenses was that they didn’t work in the car because the windshield prevented enough of the UV rays from reaching the lenses to cause the darkening reaction. Thankfully, that’s not an issue anymore. Transitions® XTRActive® actually respond to UV light and natural light (visible, white, or clear), so they do darken in the car.
  • Transition lenses adapt quickly and seamlessly when you go from indoors to outdoors, or vice versa. They won’t accidentally darken inside or take forever to change when you go outside.
  • The process of adding a photochromic layer to lenses will work for most lens materials, regardless of the lens thickness, and on all types, including single, bifocal or progressive lenses.
  • You’ll look great! Every time you shop for eyewear you probably ask, what sunglasses fit my face? Which shape of eyeglasses works for my features? We know finding the perfect pair of eyeglasses AND sunglasses is tough. The experts at the Spectacle Shoppe can help but if you’re someone who gets overwhelmed, it’s nice to just choose one pair of flattering eyewear that will pull double duty. Plus, when it comes to the lenses, there’s a ton of variety, ranging from Transition mirror lenses in a number of colors to the more classic shades like green, brown, and gray. You won’t have to sacrifice style for ease.
  • Speaking of having one pair of glasses that pull double duty, you’ll also save money with photochromic lenses since you won’t have to purchase both prescription glasses and sunglasses.


There are different brands and types of photochromic lenses but in this post, we’ll be sticking with the basic lens options. Some of the choices include:

  • Conventional Transitions Lenses - These are what you likely think of when you think of Transition glasses. Indoors they’re completely crystal clear and outdoors they get very dark. They come in the classic Transition lenses colors like gray and brown. However, these days, you can also find more modern, fun colors like amber, emerald, sapphire, and amethyst. The conventional lenses aren’t polarized, however, and they do not darken in the car.
  • Transitions XTRActive Lenses -These lenses get even darker than conventional Transition glasses in the sunlight and they’re currently the only photochromic lenses that work in the car. While not polarized, they do offer 100% UV protection. The XTRActive line also has Transition mirror lenses. You’ll find an on-trend mirror finish in gold, silver, pink, red, green, and blue. Or, if you’re not into the idea of Transition mirror lenses, they come in the standard green, gray, and brown without the mirror finish too. Indoors, they have a tiny hint of tint for better protection, but they still look like regular eyeglasses.
  • Photochromic Lenses With Polarization - There are also photochromic lenses like Transitions® Vantage that are ideal if you spend a lot of time outside. They reduce the glare outdoors from when light reflects off of flat surfaces like water, metal, and glass thanks to variable polarization. These lenses often have a slight tint when you’re inside, but it’s not very noticeable and people will think you’re wearing standard eyeglasses.


Actually, Transition contact lenses are a new product that was recently approved and will probably become more widespread over the next few years. As of now, the only Transition contact lenses available are ACUVUE® OASYS with Transitions™ Light Intelligent Technology™. These Transition contact lenses adapt to changing light. They block 100% of UVB rays and 99% of UVA rays, filter some blue light, improve night vision, especially when driving, boost color contrast and improve visual comfort in bright light. You would probably still want to wear sunglasses that offer full-spectrum UV protection on sunny days even if you switched to Transitions contact lenses but they’re an interesting development with some excellent benefits for contact lens wearers.

There you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about Transitions lenses. If you’re in need of a new pair of eyeglasses or you’re interested in finding out whether Transitions lenses are the best option for your needs, visit with a Vancouver optician at the Spectacle Shoppe. Since we are limiting the number of customers in our store at one time to keep our customers and team members safe, we do recommend calling us at (604) 263-2628 before you pop in.