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How do Transitions Lenses Work & Should You Get Them?

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Dr. Marc Weinstein

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Transitions are a popular lens option — but what are they, exactly? And would they be the right lens time for you? Here’s everything you need to know about transition lenses.

Put simply, transitions are specialized lenses that switch from clear to shaded when you go outside. The seamless transition is super convenient — no more swapping between sunglasses and prescription glasses. Transitions are an all-in-one solution.

Transition lenses work thanks to some incredible science and engineering. Each lens is made of countless microscopic molecules that react to ultraviolet light (UV), a type of light the sun produces. UV is most intense outdoors, so those tiny molecules activate and change when you step outside. These changes allow each molecule to absorb more light, making the lenses darken and turn into sunglasses after about 30 seconds of UV exposure. Back inside, the molecules return to their original form, making the lenses clear again.

A lot of people love their transition lenses, but there are some pros and cons to consider. Here’s what you need to know before buying a pair.


  • Convenient. Switching between prescription glasses and sunglasses can be a bit annoying. Transition lenses are more convenient – just go outside and you’re instantly wearing sunglasses.
  • Cost-effective. Without transitions, you’ll need a separate pair of sunglasses. Transition lenses can be a more cost-effective solution, giving you sunglasses and regular glasses all in one pair.
  • Good for eye health. Sunlight can cause vision problems like cataracts, but transition lenses protect your eyes by blocking UV.


  • Ineffective while driving. If you need sunglasses while driving, transition lenses may not work. Windshields typically block UV, making transitions stay clear in cars.
  • Impacted by your environment. Indoor spaces with a lot of windows and sunlight might make transition lenses darken slightly, even if you don’t want them to. Very cold weather can also make the lenses darker than expected while outdoors.

Anyone who wears glasses can benefit from transition lenses. You won’t need to buy a separate pair of prescription sunglasses, and you’ll always be protected from the damaging effects of UV. That’s a big deal if you’re outside a lot, but it’s also useful for occasional trips outdoors. Ultimately, transitions adapt to your lifestyle so you have sunglasses right when you need them.

Plus, transitions are more versatile than standard sunglasses. Regular sunglasses have the same tint shade no matter what, which might be too light or dark depending on the situation. On the other hand, transition lenses automatically adapt to the ambient lighting, giving you the perfect tint for any environment.

Transition lenses may also help if you experience photophobia (also called light sensitivity). Sunlight may trigger or worsen migraines and headaches in some people, but transition lenses can filter irritating light waves to prevent pain.

Transition lenses are a convenient way to improve your glasses and protect your vision from damaging UV. If you’re ready to upgrade, check out the latest styles at 39DollarGlasses. As a doctor-owned company, we focus on building affordable frames and lenses for everyone. Shop our transition lenses and get doctor-approved glasses today!