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How photochromic contacts shield your eyes from ultraviolet rays

illustration of photochromic lenses transitioning from light to dark

Do photochromic (also known as transition) contacts protect your eyes from UV rays? Photochromic contact lenses have UV-protective capabilities, but they don’t offer full coverage against sunlight exposure. It’s best to pair them with UV 400 sunglasses for ultimate protection outdoors. 

Because car windshields have tints that shield against UV rays, wearing your photochromic contacts while driving should keep your eyes safe from sun exposure.

What are photochromic contacts?

Like photochromic or light-adaptive eyeglass lenses, photochromic contacts darken under UV rays. Wearing photochromic contact lenses can offer an added layer of comfort while you’re outdoors during the daytime.

Currently, the only option available on the market for photochromic contacts is ACUVUE Oasys with Transitions. These are soft-lens contacts, meant to be replaced biweekly.

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How do photochromic contacts work?

Photochromic contact lenses darken in the sunlight and offer UV protection, but they don’t provide UV 400 coverage, which is the highest level.

The contacts are made using photochromic molecules, spread across the surface of the lenses. These molecules react to UV rays and blue light, darkening the lenses and creating a subtle shade for the wearer.

The darkening process takes less than a minute, and it takes a little over a minute for photochromic contact lenses to return to their normal, clear state when indoors.

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How dark do photochromic contacts get?

Photochromic contact lenses darken in direct sunlight, but they won’t offer the same shade and comfort as dark sunglasses. For those worried that they’ll look like they’re wearing Halloween costume contact lenses, don't fret. Photochromic lenses won’t turn black. 

The manufacturers understood that shoppers wouldn’t want their contacts to cosmetically change their appearance. With photochromic contact lenses, you'll see the difference in the results more than their appearance.

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Can photochromic contacts replace sunglasses?

Despite their UV-protective and darkening capabilities, photochromic contact lenses aren’t meant to replace sunglasses. While they do protect against UV exposure, they don’t offer UV 400 coverage, which is the level of protection you need to genuinely preserve your eye health. 

However, your car windshield has some UV protection, so wearing your photochromic contacts while driving should keep your eyes healthy and make your driving safer.

That said, photochromic contact lenses are great for outdoor activities and sports, like fishing, hiking and camping.

THINK PHOTOCHROMIC CONTACT LENSES MIGHT BE RIGHT FOR YOU? Shop for photochromic contact lenses at an online eyewear retailer or an optical shop near you.

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