Antireflective Lens Coatings: Waste Of Money or Must-Have for Happy Eyes?

If you look through the back catalog of articles, you’ll find a fair bit has been written about lenses.  And from me in particular, how to save money on lenses. You end up buying a […]

Jake Steiner

Jun 11,2015 · 2 min read

If you look through the back catalog of articles, you’ll find a fair bit has been written about lenses.  And from me in particular, how to save money on lenses.

You end up buying a lot of lenses, as you’re heading back down the ladder of prescriptions.

When you do, you ideally don’t want to spend too much money on them.

It’s a difficult balance, though.  High myopia in particular is already really challenging for your brain to deal with (the image is notably distorted).  So you want a good quality lens and the options in the high diopter range really do get pricey.

High Myopia Means Buying Expensive Lenses.

If you have low myopia, you’re lucky.  You can buy a cheap CR-39 type lens, and get the best optical quality at the lowest cost.  One of those rare things where cheap is also good.

We do talk a fair amount about this elsewhere on the blog.  For today, I just want to cover the subject of antireflective coatings.  On your quest for the right kind of lens, do you want to be skipping the coatings?

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

“Opticians dispense “anti-reflection lenses” because the decreased reflection makes them look better, and they produce less glare, which is particularly noticeable when driving at night or working in front of a computer monitor. The decreased glare means that wearers often find their eyes are less tired, particularly at the end of the day.

[citation needed] Allowing more light to pass through the lens also increases contrast and therefore increases visual acuity.

Antireflective ophthalmic lenses should not be confused with polarized lenses, which decrease (by absorption) the visible glare of sun reflected off surfaces such as sand, water, and roads. The term “antireflective” relates to the reflection from the surface of the lens itself, not the origin of the light that reaches the lens.

Many anti-reflection lenses include an additional coating that repels water and grease, making them easier to keep clean. Anti-reflection coatings are particularly suited to high-index lenses, as these reflect more light without the coating than a lower-index lens (a consequence of the Fresnel equations). It is also generally easier and cheaper to coat high index glasses.”

And that is correct.

antireflective

Ugh.  Lots of poor quality light!

You get less stray light, therefore better contrast.  And less light is reflected, so less light is lost as it passes through the lens.  

A lot of optical industry marketing is questionable.  

Never buy lenses without anti-reflective coating.

Lens coating however, is one area where you can take their word for it.  Good anti reflective coating is completely essential on any lens you wear.  Never go without it, especially not for your computer and close-up use.  (though indeed you really should have it on all lenses)

Even if you only wear the glasses for a month before changing again, get anti-reflective.  It changes your experience with the lens notably, and an AR coated lens will quite possibly make you see quite a bit better and with less eye strain, than one without.

It’s one of those fields nobody ever talks about, but there’ serious science going into making better lens coating.  Lots of research going on there, like this lengthy review in Energy & Environmental Science.

Do you need the fanciest AR coating?

You don’t.  If you’re using hundred dollar bills to light your cigars, then by all means.  Fancy it up.  But if you’re on a budget, most any AR will do in a pinch.

What’s the fanciest, you ask?

You’re always in the right place, asking me what the fanciest is of anything.  

crizal-anti-reflective

Essilor owns the brand Crizal, which makes my favorite coatings.  

They do AR (anti-reflective), they do hydrophobic, and they have a hardened layer to prevent scratches.  The hydrophobic layer is great since you can just use some soap without added ingredients, rinse the glasses with water after, and they end up dry without any need to rub them with a cloth.

Btw, if you use that trick, you can go for a very long time without any scratches on your how-to-clean-eyeglasseslenses.  I almost never touch my lenses with any fabric, as a general rule.

Essilor also owns Transitions Optical who makes the best photochromic coatings.  If you go out in the sun and want the best instant sunglasses, you’d want a Transitions VII coating as well.  Specifically VII, which came out just last year is miles better than their previous coatings, so ask for VII if you are going photochromic.  If you’re buying those in a shop, ask for the lens packaging.  I don’t trust shops not to sell you the VI because they don’t have the VII in stock, and just not tell you.

If you add up all these coatings on a high index Zeiss polycarbonate, the price tag can be eye watering.  It’s not hard to get well over $700 just in lenses.

But let’s not get carried away.

If you’re just starting out, your first lowered prescriptions will probably only take you to 4-6 weeks before you want to go lower again.  For those, just a basic AR coating will do nicely.  I often used to buy uncut lenses on eBay and just find an optometrist who’ll cut them for me for a reasonable fee.  That way you save a lot on the huge markups that a lot of shops will charge for lenses.  

Likewise, anti-scratch, and oleophobic coatings won’t matter to you for the first few prescriptions.  

What’d I’d do when I was working on my own myopia, is learn to gauge my rate of improvement first.  Then when I really knew about when to expect the next reduction and how much, sometimes I’d set up a special treat for myself.  

It goes something like this:

Let’s say for example, you started out at a -7.00.  Right now you’re making good progress, and you’re already down to a -4.00.  You also know that you are pretty reliably improving by 0.25 diopters every three months.  

transitions-vii-tint

Transitions VII – my favorite lens “treat”

So you buy yourself a -3.50 with all the goodies.  Photochromic, a nice frame, and all the coatings.  You shopped online or are buying the raw lenses on eBay to save money.  Or maybe you worked out a special deal with your favorite local optometrist (highly recommended, if you feel amenable).  

You might just have gone there for your first two reductions, no special concessions.  Now he knows you, and your strange routine of weaning off the prescriptions.  He knows you’re a frequent customer.  So yo tell him that you’ll be buying three or more new sets of lenses a year, but you can only afford to buy local if he’ll hook you up a bit.

I used to do it, I’ve had quite a few clients do it, and it’s quite pleasant to have a local guy who knows what you want, and has all the equipment he’ll let you play with to check your eyes.  If you like to treat yourself vs. shopping online, it’s a nice add-on experience to the whole eyesight improvement project.

Either way, you pick up a 0.50 reduction, a really nice pair.  Keep in mind, you’re still at -4.00 right now.

But guess what!  Now you have incentive to use that -3.50.  Whenever it’s nice outside, sunny, you’re out for the weekend, you’ll be wanting to take that 0.50 reduction, if just for the automatic built-in sunglasses.

You’ll end up wearing those more, and staying ahead of any potential plateaus.  Before you know it, that 0.50 reduction will almost “fit” for most of your daily use.

Tricky bits, yea?

And that’s why you come to me, rather than the commodity type vision improvement talk elsewhere.  So much about the process is in the psychology, not just about prescriptions and boring eyesight activities.  I’ve read quite a few of the books and while there are various tidbits of usable information, it’s all so dreary and “yet one more thing to do”.

That’s not how we roll here.  Let’s have some fun with getting your eyes healthy!

Notes

We read, we forget.  The best way to get the most from this article, is to write yourself a quick note:

  • Do you want to look around for local optometrists?
  • Maybe browse eBay for raw lenses?
  • Google Transitions VII?
  • Check whether you’ve got anti-reflective coating on your current lenses?
  • Stop procrastinating and find out about my vision improvement programs?

Take some action.  Get your brain used to thinking about your eyesight as (fun) project.

Cheers!

– Jake

WRITTEN BY

Jake Steiner

Investor, adventure hunter. BJJ, kite surf, wing foil, paraglide. Off-grid living survivor. Also former myope.

Topic:  Glasses

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