Can Polarized Sunglasses Give You A Headache?

Reviewed by:
Samuel Wallace

You’ve slipped on a pair of polarized sunglasses, expecting nothing but comfort and glare-free vision. But wait, Can Polarized Sunglasses Give You A Headache?

Yes, polarized sunglasses can indeed cause headaches, but the reasons are complex and vary from person to person. These factors include pupil dilation, lens material or tint sensitivity, and visual distortions. Moreover, the environment in which sunglasses are worn and the quality of the sunglasses can be important factors.

This article aims to dissect the polarizing debate, pun intended, and offer you the clarity you’ve been searching for. So, let’s dive in, shall we?

6 Factors Contributing To Headaches From Polarized Sunglasses

1. Eye Strain

Polarized sunglasses are designed to reduce glare and eye strain. However, they can also darken your surroundings, causing your pupils to dilate. This dilation can increase eye strain in specific scenarios, which may result in headaches.

2. Tint Lenses

The tint and material of the lenses can significantly affect how your eyes perceive light. For instance, gray tints might be more neutral, while brown or amber tints can offer enhanced contrast. However, some individuals may be sensitive to certain tints or lens materials, causing discomfort and headaches.

3. Visual Distortions

Polarized lenses can alter the perception of horizontal and vertical lines, causing slight visual distortions. This can be disorienting for some people, especially those not accustomed to wearing polarized sunglasses, leading to headaches.

If you’re wondering about the differences, you might want to explore the comparison between polarized vs. non-polarized sunglasses to understand better.

4. Binocular Vision Misalignment

Polarized lenses can exacerbate the issue for those with a slight misalignment in binocular vision. This misalignment can strain the eyes, leading to headaches over time.

5. Role of Brand and Quality

Not all polarized sunglasses are created equal. Lower-quality lenses may have uneven polarization coatings, affecting vision and causing strain. Moreover, counterfeit or low-quality sunglasses may not offer efficient UV protection, adding to the risk of headaches.

6. Environmental Factors

Wearing polarized lenses indoors and outdoors can quickly affect the eyes’ ability to adjust to different lighting conditions. 

This rapid adjustment can strain the eyes, leading to headaches. Long-term exposure to harmful UV light, especially during outdoor activities, can also contribute to headaches.

Preventing Headaches When Using Polarized Sunglasses

Importance of Proper Fit

A snug but not overly tight fit is crucial when selecting polarized sunglasses. Ill-fitting sunglasses can exert pressure on your temples, leading to headaches. Always opt for frames that sit comfortably on your nose and ears without pinching. 

Some brands offer adjustable nose pads and temple tips for a customized fit. A proper fit enhances comfort and ensures that the sunglasses perform their primary function of reducing glare effectively.

Choosing the Right Tint: A User’s Perspective

Selecting the appropriate tint for your polarized sunglasses can make a world of difference in your comfort and visual experience. Different tints are better suited for specific environments and activities. Here’s a quick guide in tabular form to help you choose:

Tint ColorBest ForEnvironmentPotential Benefits
GrayGeneral useVaried conditionsNeutral view, true color perception
Brown/AmberOutdoor sportsOvercast, cloudyEnhanced contrast, depth perception
GreenGolf, fishingBright sunlightImproved visual sharpness, high contrast
YellowLow lightFog, hazeGreater clarity, reduced glare
BlueWater sportsOpen waterReduced glare from water, enhanced color perception

Consulting an Eye Specialist: When to Take Action

Consulting an eye specialist becomes crucial when persistent headaches accompany the use of polarized sunglasses. This section aims to guide you on when to seek professional help and what to expect during the consultation.

Symptoms That Shouldn’t Be Ignored

  • Persistent Headaches: If headaches continue despite trying different tints and proper fitting, it’s a red flag.
  • Eye Strain: Feeling increased eye fatigue or discomfort, especially in varying light conditions.
  • Nausea: Some users report feeling nauseous, which could be linked to visual distortions or eye strain.

What to Expect During an Eye Examination

  • Preliminary Tests: Expect basic vision tests and possibly a dilated eye exam.
  • Discussion of Symptoms: The specialist will ask about the frequency and conditions under which headaches occur.
  • Lens Material Testing: Sensitivity to specific lens materials or coatings may be assessed.
  • Recommendations: Based on the findings, the eye specialist may suggest alternative lens types, coatings, or even treatments for underlying conditions.

Alternatives to Polarized Sunglasses for Sensitive Users

If you find that polarized sunglasses trigger headaches or discomfort, don’t worry, you have other options. Here are some alternatives that offer both protection and comfort.

Photochromic Lenses: A Viable Option?

Photochromic lenses are unique in that they automatically adjust their tint based on the light conditions. Unlike polarized lenses, which can be too dark for some users, photochromic lenses offer a more dynamic range of protection. 

This adaptability can reduce eye strain, making them a comfortable option for those sensitive to polarized lenses. The key advantage here is the lens’s ability to adapt, reducing the need for your eyes to continually adjust to varying light conditions, thereby minimizing headaches.

Standard UV-Protection Sunglasses: A Safe Bet

If you need a simple and direct answer, standard sunglasses with full UV protection can be a reliable choice. These lenses may not have the glare-reducing capabilities of polarized sunglasses, but they do shield your eyes from harmful UV rays.

The absence of polarization means less potential for visual distortions, which can be a relief for those who experience headaches with polarized lenses. The comfort factor comes from the simplicity—no special coatings or filters, just straightforward UV protection.

For a broader perspective on the types of sunglasses available, our detailed article on Polarized Sunglasses vs. UV Protection might be enlightening.

Combining Non-Polarized Sunglasses and Hats

Another alternative is to pair non-polarized sunglasses with a wide-brimmed hat. This combination can offer a dual layer of protection: the sunglasses shield your eyes from direct UV exposure, while the hat reduces glare from above and on the sides. 

This approach eliminates the polarized element that might contribute to headaches, offering a balanced solution for sun protection and comfort.

Can Polarized Sunglasses Give You A Headache?

As far as eyewear is concerned, polarized sunglasses have long been celebrated for their glare-reducing capabilities, which are especially beneficial for outdoor enthusiasts. 

Nevertheless, one aspect of these lenses seldom discussed is the potential for headaches they may cause, a question that has puzzled both users and experts. 

Our exploration delved into the why and the how—examining the science behind the lenses, the psychology of expectation, and even the role of environmental factors. 

The short answer to the question is yes; polarized sunglasses can cause headaches for some individuals. However, the reasons are multifaceted, ranging from eye strain to lens quality and even individual sensitivities. 

Thankfully, alternatives like photochromic lenses or standard UV-protection sunglasses offer viable solutions. Choose wisely and consult an eye specialist if symptoms persist.


Can polarized sunglasses make you dizzy?

Yes, polarized sunglasses can make some individuals feel dizzy. In addition to reducing glare, specialized coatings can also affect how light interacts with your eyes, potentially causing visual distortions or discomfort. People who aren’t used to wearing polarized lenses may find these effects disorienting.

Who Should Not Wear Polarized Sunglasses?

Individuals who experience headaches, eye strain, or visual distortions while wearing polarized sunglasses should consider alternatives. 

Additionally, pilots and those who operate heavy machinery should avoid them, as polarized lenses can make it difficult to read digital screens and may alter the appearance of certain important visual cues. 

People who frequently transition between different lighting conditions may also find polarized lenses inconvenient due to their dark tint. Always consult an eye specialist if you experience discomfort or have specific vision needs.