Polycarbonate lenses explained: pros, cons and more

Lensmart 2022-03-15 15:59:40

Eye safety is one of the priorities when choosing suitable eyeglasses, and polycarbonate lenses are at the top of an expert's recommendations. It is lightweight, impact-resistant, and offers UV protection—a combination that makes this lens worth purchasing.

The lens material does not affect the eyeglasses' corrective ability, but it can impact the way you perform your daily activities. Here are some examples other than polycarbonate:

1. High-index plastic. Strong prescription can benefit from the high-index lenses, which is thinner and lighter than the traditional glass.

2. Trivex. A newer material, Trivex is a type of plastic comparable to polycarbonate with its lightweight and impact-resistant quality.

3. Aspheric. The curvature of aspheric lenses makes it flatter with a broad surface, allowing a wide field of view.

4. CR-39 plastic. This lens material is thicker than other plastic options but weighs half as heavy as glass.

5. Crown glass lens. In terms of efficient light refraction, glasses lenses are still considered the best option. However, they are much thicker and heavier, making them the less suitable choice for people on the go.

Lensmart's glasses with polycarbonate lenses

What are polycarbonate lenses made of?

A polycarbonate lens is made of a flexible plastic initially designed as a material for aerospace gear in the Apollo Space Shuttle expedition. Also known as poly, this lens is highly impact-resistant. It is famous for withstanding forces that typically chip or shatter other materials.

Polycarbonate is a super-strong material despite its lightweight quality. It is a thermoplastic that starts as a small and solid pellet, which undergoes injection molding. Poly is heated until it melts and is quickly poured into the lens mold. Then, it is compacted under high pressure and cooled off into the final lens form.

Safety glasses use polycarbonate as the standard material and in children’s eyewear and sports goggles. If you are buying a rimless frame, poly is the most recommended lens for it, too.

Plastic vs. polycarbonate lenses

Plastic lenses are highly transparent and grant better optical clarity. In terms of tinting, a plastic material accepts tints more quickly than poly and other lens types. However, plastics don't have the UV protection inherent in polycarbonate specs.

On the other hand, polycarbonate lenses are considerably more expensive than plastic ones, but they offer more excellent impact resistance and durability. Poly material is also more lightweight and less cumbersome to wear.

High index vs. polycarbonate lenses

In general, high index lens is the standard lens for severe prescriptions (anything above +3 and -5) because it is denser, which means they are thinner even if used by people with high nearsightedness or farsightedness. If you opt for poly even with a strong prescription, the lens might be too thick for your liking.

Polycarbonate is still the most used material for prescription eyeglasses that don’t require a thick lens to refract light effectively. It has ten times more impact resistance than a high-index lens, making it ideal for athletes and children.

However, both high-index and poly lenses score low in optical clarity, meaning wearers can experience image distortion when donning these specs.

Trivex vs. polycarbonate lenses

Trivex lenses and poly lenses might have many similarities, but one has better qualities that stand out from the other. A polycarbonate lens has a higher index of refraction, which means that it is 10% thinner than Trivex. However, poly is 10% heavier despite its thinness because the Trivex material is composed of much lighter elements.

Both lenses offer excellent UV protection and impact resistance. Yet, polycarbonate glasses may contain more distortions that make your vision less clear than Trivex.

Pros and cons of polycarbonate lenses

Is polycarbonate the suitable lens material for your glasses? Let these pros and cons help you evaluate whether poly lenses are compatible with your style and preference.


1. Durability

Polycarbonate-made lenses do not disappoint in terms of durability. Since it was initially manufactured as material for space gear, you can be sure that it holds up well to various elements, including low air pressure.

2. Thickness

People often assume that anything thick is durable, but that's not true for polycarbonate glasses. The manufacturing process of these lenses creates a solid yet thin product. It's a winner among other materials in terms of thickness.

3. Impact resistance

Did you know that bulletproof glass is made of polycarbonate? That alone demonstrates the level of impact resistance poly can provide for your eyeglasses. This material will not shatter despite taking a significant impact, such as when a pebble flies to your face and hits the lens.

4. UV protection

Polycarbonate protects you from hazardous UV light rays that potentially damage the eyes over time. It can block 100% of UV that passes through it, allowing you to work efficiently near bright light sources.

5. Flexibility

When you need safety eyewear, poly lenses are a great option due to their flexible nature. Eyeglasses made of polycarbonate can withstand stress, especially in situations that could damage your eyes.


1. Expense

The excellent quality provided by polycarbonate lenses can be significantly more expensive than other lens materials. It can cost twice as much as regular ones, but many eyeglass wearers agree that it's worth the price.

2. Low scratch resistance

Polycarbonate may be flexible and impact-resistant, but it scratches easily. You can opt for poly lenses with an anti-scratch coating to combat this disadvantage, but that's another expense for you to pay.

3. Optical clarity

Although polycarbonate lenses offer a crisp field of view, they have lower clarity than some materials like Trivex. That means your central or peripheral vision will not be as clear as the other options.

4. Weight

Poly lenses are thinner and lighter than other plastic glasses, but they lag a bit compared with other advanced materials like Trivex.

Are polycarbonate lenses suitable for you?

Eye doctors often suggest getting a polycarbonate-made lens for children and adults who live an active lifestyle. It is also recommended for people with reduced or no vision in one of their eyes because of the ultimate protection it grants to the wearer.

If you are doing fieldwork and are constantly exposed to hazards, you can benefit greatly from wearing a polycarbonate lens. It's one of the best materials for safety eyewear because of its durability and impact resistance.

Polycarbonate lenses are a great steal since they offer a significant upgrade from traditional eyewear!

Best glasses frames for polycarbonate lenses

1. Debra Cat-eye Glasses

Debra: Cat-eye Orange/Green/Tortoiseshell Glasses

Complemented by a green-and-orange tortohereshell pattern that catches the eye, the Debra glasses is made of TR90 material, providing a lightweight and comfortable fit, while the pattern adds a playful and trendy touch.

2. Lata Cat-eye Glasses

Lata: Cat-eye Celadon/Colour Glasses

The Lata cat-eye glasses sports a distinctively stylish cat eye frame that stands out from the rest. This frame is made of metal, ensuring durability and stability, while also providing a lightweight and comfortable fit. The unique celadon colored rims also add a touch of personality and style to the glasses

3. Auberon Cat-eye Glasses

Auberon: Cat-eye Wine Glasses

This Auberon glasses features a chic and classic cat-eye frame that can transform the appearance of any individual wearing them. The frame is designed with a vintage style, boasting timeless curves and angles that complement a range of face shapes.

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