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If you wear prescription glasses, you’ve probably already experienced the annoyance of being caught in the sun without proper protection.

Wearing your everyday glasses in sunlight can cause you to squint and may expose you to harmful UV rays – but carrying around a second pair of prescription sunglasses isn’t always convenient. So why not think about photochromic lenses – commonly known as ‘transition’ lenses due to the popular Transitions® brand?

Transitions® lenses can be the perfect middle ground between classic eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses – and they also mean you don’t need to continually swap between the two. Yet, even though Transitions® lenses have been on the market since the early 1990s, many people aren’t familiar with how they work, or why they might be a good idea.

So, we’ve partnered up with Boots Opticians to take a closer look at Transitions® lenses, shine a light on their benefits, and help you decide whether they may be right for you.

What are Transitions® lenses?

What are Transitions® lenses?

First things first, what are Transitions® lenses, and how do they work?

Transitions® lenses are lenses that can adapt to changes in light. The lenses contain trillions of light-sensitive photochromic molecules that change structure when they’re exposed to UV light. This allows them to absorb more light and gives the lenses a darkened appearance – and, when the UV light goes away, the process reverses.

So, when you’re at home or not in direct sunlight, the lenses will be in their normal, non-activated state and look transparent and clear. But, when you go outside or are exposed to bright UV light, the lenses darken automatically, turning into sunglasses.

When you’re first exposed to sunlight, transition lenses usually take around 30 seconds to darken – and once you’re back indoors, they take a couple of minutes to return to an almost clear state. However, it can take up to five minutes to return to the original, fully transparent lens. The lens clearing time depends on temperature. Colder temperatures will make them take longer to clear, while warmer temperatures will make them clear faster but darken less.

Free NHS eye tests plus 10% off glasses for over 60s

Booking an appointment online has never been easier, and with a range of offers from 10% off if you’re over 60, 2nd pairs half price & a free NHS eye test if eligible, our expert optometrists are here to help you on your journey to clearer vision.

Book your eye test now

What are the benefits of Transitions® lenses?

There are several big benefits of wearing Transitions® lenses – and while some of them are obvious, others are less apparent.

We’ll cover these below.

1. UV protection

The most powerful benefit of switching to Transitions® lenses is the positive impact they can have on eye health. Because Transitions® lenses adapt to sunlight the minute they’re exposed to it, they automatically protect your eyes from harmful UV rays – often darkening before you’ve even had time to process the fact that you should be wearing shades.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of protecting your eyes from UV rays. Just as direct sunshine can burn your skin, it can also harm your eyes – and, over time, exposure to UV rays can lead to an increased risk of various problems. Cataracts and macular degeneration can both be caused by chronic UV exposure and ultimately lead to significantly decreased vision.

On an aesthetic level, UV rays can play havoc with the skin of your eyelids, which is the thinnest skin on the body. UV exposure can cause dry skin, wrinkles, sagging, loss of elasticity, mottled pigmentation, and skin furrows. Plus, UV light is linked to different skin cancers, including squamous cell carcinoma, which can occur on the eyelids.

Thankfully, Transitions® lenses help to reduce the risks associated with UV exposure. And you don’t have to worry about bringing a pair of sunglasses with you everywhere, as Transitions® lenses automatically adapt, protecting your eyes wherever you are.

2. Reduced squinting

Most of us have experienced being out and about on a sunny day without our sunglasses – and, inevitably, most end up squinting in the bright light.

While squinting won’t actively harm your eyes or your vision, it can lead to eye strain, which can cause headaches and tiredness. Plus, it can speed up wrinkling of the skin around your eyes and on your forehead.

Because transition lenses reduce the amount of light that reaches your eyes, they also minimise squinting, preventing eye strain and helping to keep your eyes comfortable.

3. Cost-effectiveness

While Transitions® lenses are usually more expensive than normal prescription glasses, they can be quite cost-effective when you look at the bigger picture.

The cost of adding Transitions® lenses to a normal prescription eyeglass lens rarely costs more than £80, which – depending on your usual choice of lens and frame – can be significantly less than having to buy both normal glasses and prescription sunglasses.

Plus, once you find a glasses frame that suits you, you don’t then have to find a sunglasses frame that’s equally flattering. You get the best of both worlds, in one simple solution.

4. Convenience

Another perk of Transitions® lenses is that having just one pair of glasses is much more convenient and versatile than constantly switching between normal glasses and prescription sunglasses.

Your lenses will naturally adapt, not just based on whether you’re indoors or outdoors, but on how much UV light there is in your environment. So, when it’s overcast, your glasses won’t be as dark as they would be in bright sunlight, but they’ll have a more tinted look, which can make dealing with variable weather much easier.

And, if you’re prone to losing or misplacing your glasses, having only one pair just makes sense. You won’t have to worry about misplacing your everyday glasses when the sun comes out – nor leaving your sunglasses behind when the clouds appear.

5. Choice

Not everyone may be looking to get the same things from Transitions® lenses, which is why it’s handy that there are a range of different options available. At Boots Opticians, you can choose between the following types of photochromic lenses, each of which comes in a choice of different colours…

  • Transitions® Signature® Gen 8™ lenses are ideal for people who want to transition from light to dark in seconds. Clear and fast; these are perfect for everyday life.
  • Transitions® XTRActive® new generation lenses provide extra darkness and are best for wearers with eyes that are very sensitive to light, and who are frequently exposed to bright light.
  • Transitions® XTRActive® Style Mirrors lenses can give a stylish look to your frames. The full mirror effect is visible outdoors, while, indoors, the lenses will have a light flash effect (meaning they’re still more reflective than a standard set of glasses but people can still see your eyes).

If you’d like to try on different-coloured transition lenses, why not try Boots’ free virtual try-on tool? Or, to browse the full range of transition lenses available at Boots, head over to the Transitions® page on their website.

Free NHS eye tests plus 10% off glasses for over 60s

Booking an appointment online has never been easier, and with a range of offers from 10% off if you’re over 60, 2nd pairs half price & a free NHS eye test if eligible, our expert optometrists are here to help you on your journey to clearer vision.

Book your eye test now

Final thoughts…

If you wear glasses, whether for reading, working, driving, or everyday life, then investing in a pair of Transitions® lenses can make a lot of sense.

Not only is having a single, adaptable pair of glasses more convenient, but it can be more cost-effective too. Plus, the fact that you won’t get caught in bright sunlight without protection means you’re taking an important step towards safeguarding your eye health. And, Transitions® lenses protect your eyes from unnecessary squinting too and come in lots of different styles and colours, so there’s something for everyone.

It’s important to get your eyes tested at least every two years – or sooner, if you notice changes in your vision. At Boots, a standard eye test costs £29.50, unless you’re eligible for a free NHS eye test – although in Scotland eye tests are free for everyone. If you’re unsure whether you meet the criteria to have an NHS-funded eye test, you can find out here.

During an eye test with Boots Opticians, your eyes will be examined by trained opticians who can determine whether you need to change your prescription, recognise any eye conditions, identify changes in your vision, and detect potential underlying health issues. You can book an eye test at your nearest Boots Opticians using the button below.

Have you tried Transitions® lenses? Or are you thinking about trying them? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.