a photo of sunglasses on a beach features blue traingles in the top left and bottom right corner and text that says: Transition Lenses: Are they dark enough? The AUC logo is in the bottom left.
Albinism,  Blindness & Visual Impairment,  Low Vision Products

Transition Lenses: Are They Dark Enough?

I finally decided to spend the money on some Transition lenses for myself. I have previously had my daily glasses tinted, and I have purchased prescription sunglasses. While I love and recommend both of those options, I wanted to see which of my eyewear needs Transitions would meet.

This article was written a couple years ago when I made this YouTube video. My opinion here is still true of these glasses, though.

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If you would like to consume this content in an audiovisual medium, check out my video review of Transitions that includes information about my trip to the optometrist as well.

What Are Transitions?

Transitions is a popular brand name of photochromic lenses. Photochromic lenses were invented in the 60’s by two men named William H. Armistead and Standley Donald Stookey of Corning Glass Works. They originally used technology similar to that found in old film which involved silver crystals that darkened when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Today, they utilize special dyes that change their molecular shape and darken when exposed to the UV light. As UV light diminishes, they shift back to clear. Varying levels of UV light also allow the lenses to reach varying levels of tint.

Why Buy Transitions?

For me, Transition lenses fit a few specific needs. I was looking for a lens to use when getting out of the car and going into a store or building, on overcast days, on rainy days, and other similar situations.

For people without photophobia and for those with only a small amount of light sensitivity, these lenses could save you time and money in the end. For someone in one of these categories, they can absolutely work as both your glasses and sunglasses everywhere but in the car. Because car windows have UV protection built-in, Transition lenses do not darken in that environment.

The cars I usually ride in have window tint on all the windows, and that tint allows me to feel comfortable inside a car even with my severe light sensitivity. I cannot recommend window tint enough. It makes a world of difference, and if you tint the front windows to match the factory tint that comes on back windows, it can be very affordable. A windshield can also be tinted, but that isn’t legal everywhere. Window tint laws vary by state and country, so be sure to check your own regulations. You can often get a waiver for reasonable window tint with a note from a doctor. For more information on window tint and other ways to help someone with photophobia, check out “Photophobia: Recognizing It, Challenging Situations, & What You Can Do About It.”

Transition Tint & Cost

The type of Transition lens I ordered is called XTRActive Transitions. These lenses start out with a light tint, and because they have that tint, they get darker than the normal range of Transition lenses that begin as clear lenses. The beginning tint is very light on these. It’s lighter than tint I have previously had on my indoor lenses.

The tint color I chose was gray, because the optometrist assured me that gray is the color that appears the darkest. Having used them and compared them to my brown tinted prescription sunglasses, I have to say that I prefer brown. The brown tint seems easier on my eyes, but I do wonder if that’s because my prescription lenses are darker than the photochromic lenses. I’m certainly no expert on the topic.

When I usually get a new pair of glasses with insurance, I generally still end up paying $200-250 USD. Insurance didn’t cover my prescription sunglasses, so those cost me almost $500 when I purchased them over seven years ago. Having said that, my transitions were no exception. The cost breakdown is as follows:

  • Frames: $55
  • Lenses: $35 x 2 = $70
  • XTRActive Transitions: $80
  • Anti-Glare & Blue Light Coating: $120
  • High Index Lenses 1.67: $100
  • TOTAL: $425

So, the total ended up being $425. I was prepared for the high cost, and it will certainly require preparation for most people’s budgets. I always get the anti-glare coating, especially for indoor work. Adding the blue light coating was an additional $20 over that, so I figured I’d give it a try. The effectiveness of blue light filters is still fairly uncertain despite the media push to use blue light filtering glasses and features on mobile phones and computers.

The high index lens material allows my lenses to be much thinner than they would be if they were glass alone. I was informed of a thinner index lens, but it is also much softer and more prone to scratching, so I opted to stick with what I know.

I have to use plastic frames, and they are the best option for such thick lenses in my opinion. My skin reacts weirdly with metal frames, including titanium, so plastic is my go-to, and it can be quite affordable. $55 for frames is a very good price.

Do They Get Dark Enough?

I did not expect Transition lenses to darken enough for bright sunny days. This is a realistic expectation. After all, I already own prescription sunglasses with very dark tint. The prescription sunglasses work for me on sunny days, at the beach, and near water where reflective surfaces increase the effect of the sun’s light. On most other days, I can use my transitions and feel somewhat comfortable. For longer days out though, I usually need my sunglasses.

I cannot recommend them for someone with light sensitivity that falls in the severe range like mine unless you already own prescription sunglasses. They will not get dark enough for spending hours outside. They do not darken in a vehicle, so if you often ride in a vehicle without window tint, I would still recommend prescription sunglasses over Transitions.

I hope you guys can find my experience with Transitions helpful. I have enjoyed having them as an additional option, but they will not meet everyone’s sun protection needs. I’m also happy to answer any specific questions you have about my experience.

Thanks for reading.

Stay curious.

I have Albinism and am legally blind. I have a Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I'm currently pursuing my passion of writing through this blog and for the Albinism InSight magazine.

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