Polycarbonate Prescription Lenses: Advantages, Disadvantages

Last Updated on September 26, 2023 by Ash Salleh

When you’re in the market for prescription glasses or sunglasses, the frame is often the first thing you think about. But the lenses you choose play an equally critical role in your comfort, vision, and protection. One of the popular materials used for lenses today is polycarbonate. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of polycarbonate prescription lenses, exploring their history, advantages, and disadvantages. This is a lens material that’s often dismissed as the budget option for glasses, allowing retailers to upsell to more expensive material-types. But is the reputation as the lesser material deserved? Read on to find out.

A Brief History of Polycarbonate Lenses

Polycarbonate is not a new material. It was first developed in the 1950s by Dr. Daniel Fox at the General Electric Company. Originally, it wasn’t intended for eyewear. Its durability and lightweight nature made it perfect for “bulletproof” windows and astronaut helmet visors. By the 1980s, the eyewear industry recognized its potential and started to use polycarbonate for both prescription and non-prescription glasses.

Advantages of Polycarbonate Prescription Lenses

  1. Durability: Polycarbonate lenses are resistant to impact, making them less likely to crack or shatter. This makes them ideal for children’s eyewear, sports glasses, and safety glasses.
  2. UV Protection: These lenses naturally block 100% of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays without the need for additional coatings, which is crucial for eye health.
  3. Lightweight: Polycarbonate lenses are up to 30% lighter than regular plastic lenses, which adds to the comfort factor, especially for those who wear glasses for extended periods.
  4. Thin: For those with high prescription strengths, polycarbonate lenses are a boon. They can be made thinner than standard plastic lenses, giving a more attractive look and reducing the “bug-eye” effect.

Disadvantages of Polycarbonate Prescription Lenses

  1. Optical Clarity: While the difference is minimal, polycarbonate lenses may not offer the same level of optical clarity as high-index or glass lenses. Some individuals might notice slight distortions at the lens edge.
  2. Scratch Resistance: Polycarbonate lenses are more susceptible to scratches. However, most are coated with a scratch-resistant layer to mitigate this issue.
  3. Cost: Due to their many benefits, polycarbonate lenses can be more expensive than standard plastic lenses. Still, considering their longevity and safety, many find them worth the investment.

Enhanced Safety with Polycarbonate

A significant advantage of polycarbonate lenses is their enhanced safety. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, polycarbonate lenses were found to be ten times more impact-resistant than plastic or glass lenses. This heightened level of protection is invaluable, especially for those in active professions, sports enthusiasts, or children who are naturally more prone to accidents.

Beneficial for Specific Vision Needs

Polycarbonate lenses cater to specific vision requirements with great proficiency. Research indicates that almost 50% of individuals with high prescription needs prefer polycarbonate due to its ability to be crafted thinner than traditional lenses, offering aesthetic appeal and reduced weight. Moreover, a Consumer Reports study found that polycarbonate lenses provide the least distortion and chromatic aberration, which is especially beneficial for those with astigmatism or high levels of myopia.

Environmentally Friendly

In the current age of environmental awareness, the production of polycarbonate lenses carries a distinct advantage. Polycarbonate requires less material and energy to produce compared to traditional glass or plastic lenses. A 2019 report from the International Council of Ophthalmology pointed out that polycarbonate production emits approximately 20% less CO2 than standard plastic lenses. This makes it a more sustainable choice for the eco-conscious consumer.

Further Considerations

  • Anti-Reflective Coating: To enhance the performance of polycarbonate lenses, consider adding an anti-reflective coating. It helps reduce glare, particularly for night driving and computer use.
  • Tinting and Transitions: Polycarbonate lenses can be easily tinted or made into transition lenses that darken in the sun and lighten indoors, giving you versatile eyewear options.


Q: Are polycarbonate lenses right for me? A: If you’re seeking lightweight, durable lenses that provide UV protection, they might be a perfect choice. They’re especially recommended for children, athletes, or those in active professions.

Q: Can all frames accommodate polycarbonate lenses? A: Most frames can, especially those designed for high prescriptions or those made for children and sports.

Q: How do I care for my polycarbonate lenses? A: Use a microfiber cloth and lens cleaning solution. Avoid abrasive materials, and always store your glasses in a protective case.


Polycarbonate prescription lenses offer a blend of comfort, protection, and style. While they have a few disadvantages, their benefits often outweigh the downsides for many eyeglass wearers. As always, consult with your optometrist to determine the best lens material for your individual needs.

Why Classic Specs?

Eyewear shouldn’t be complicated. That’s why at Classic Specs, we take the guesswork out of tracking trends by providing a wide variety of vintage and retro-inspired frames that stand the test of time, both in design and durability. All our prescription lenses include polycarbonate lenses as a default.