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Debunking Myths About Transitions Lenses

This is a sponsored post by Essilor of America, a supporter of NewGradOptometry & new graduate optometrists! 😎

“Do you want your glasses to turn into sunglasses outside?”

If you read that sentence and thought, yes, that is the best way to explain Transitions® lenses, then let me take a moment to burst your bubble. You are definitely doing it wrong, and so was I.

Transitions lenses are a lot more than just sun protection; they are highly innovative auto-adjusting lenses that protect the eyes from exposure to light associated with photophobia, migraines, and squinting. Transition lenses also help block UV light and Harmful Blue Light[1] from screens and devices.

Understanding how they work and the best ways to prescribe them adds an important tool in your arsenal to enhance the patient experience and increase the perceived value of the glasses you provide at an in-office eye exam.

Prescribing Transitions lenses in your practice is not only good for the health of your patients, but also for the health of your business. By offering superior products that are recognized by consumers and driving them to your practice more often, you can facilitate growth.

Patient education is an effective way to start the discussion about Transitions lenses and their role in ocular health. To understand how to prescribe these lenses to their full advantage, you first have to understand what they do.

[1] Harmful Blue Light is the blue-violet wavelengths (415-455 nm) on the light spectrum believed most toxic to retinal cells.

Download The Transitions Lenses Infographic

The Science of Transitions Lenses

Transitions lenses darken and change color because they are made of unique layered dyes composed of carbon-based molecules that are constantly changing and recalibrating in response to surrounding changes in light. When the lenses are exposed to UV light, the bonds between molecules adjust and change to darken the lens.

When light exposure decreases, the molecule bonds change back to their previous form, clearing the lens. Since we are talking about bonds breaking and reforming, there are a few consequences as a result of simple chemistry:

1) Transitions lenses darken faster than they turn back to clear.

Darkening happens within a matter of seconds but for the color-changing molecules to change back to the inert clear form, the chemical change happens more slowly. That’s why it can take longer for your lenses to fully clear. It’s similar in concept to water and ice. At a certain temperature, water freezes very quickly as bonds are being made, but melting back to liquid is a bit slower as those bonds are breaking.

Doctors Tip: If changing back to clear quickly is important to your patient, Transitions® Signature® VII in brown or graphite green is likely the best option.

2) Transitions lenses darken faster in colder temperatures.

The molecules responsible for color change within the lens are influenced by their environment, which includes both UV light and temperature.

In colder temperatures, molecules are vibrating more closely together which increases the speed it takes for changing their chemical bonds to darken quickly. In warmer temperatures, the molecules are less kinetically active and the process to fully darken can be slower.

Think of your body shivering in the cold – that’s a great comparison to what the molecules in Transitions lenses are doing in cooler temperatures; moving and actively getting closer to each other, which makes them faster to change.

This is worth explaining to patients if they plan to leave their glasses in hot cars or are wearing them in warmer climates. The lenses won’t have the same darkening speed as when they go from cold air or air conditioning directly into the sun.

transitions infographic

Types of Transitions lenses

Transitions® Signature® VII Lenses

  • Clear indoors and darkens outside
  • Returns the fastest to clear after activated
  • Block at least 20% of Harmful Blue Light indoors and over 85% outdoors1
  • Block 100% of transmitted UV light
  • Available in graphite green, grey, and brown

Transitions® XTRActive® Lenses

  • Hint of tint indoors and darkens outside and behind the windshield
  • Block at least 34% of Harmful Blue Light indoors and over 88% outdoors1
  • Block 100% of transmitted UV light
  • Available in graphite green, grey, and brown

Transitions® Vantage® Lenses

  • Hint of tint indoors and darkens outside
  • Variable polarization outside for increased glare protection
  • Block at least 34% of Harmful Blue Light indoors and over 85% outdoors1
  • Block 100% of transmitted UV light
  • Available in grey
[1] *Transitions® lenses block 20% to 36% of Harmful Blue Light indoors excluding CR607 Transitions® Signature™ VII products which block 14% to 19%.
[1] *Transitions® XTRActive® lenses block 34% to 36% of Harmful Blue Light indoors excluding CR607 Transitions® XTRActive® products which block 27% to 31%.
[1] *Transitions® XTRActive® lenses and Transitions® Vantage™ lenses block 34% to 36% of Harmful Blue Light indoors excluding CR607 Transitions® XTRActive® products which block 27% to 31%.

Myths About Transitions Lenses

Myth 1: Transitions lenses aren’t fully clear indoors.

Transitions Signature VII lenses are fully clear indoors in all colors: grey, brown, and graphite green.

Myth 2: Transitions lenses cannot turn dark in the car.

Transitions XTRActive lenses darken behind the car windshield. For the darkest tint, I’d recommend Transitions XTRActive in gray.

Myth 3: Transitions lenses can replace sunglasses.

All Transitions lenses are 100% UVA and UVB blocking which make them a great solution for UV protection when sunglasses cannot be worn. Transitions lenses are an enhancement over clear lenses, helping to protect from harmful light indoors and especially outdoors.

Sunglasses have a constant non-light and non-temperature dependent dark tint, making them more ideal for prolonged outdoor activities. Transitions lenses are ideal to use as a replacement for clear lenses in conjunction with sunglass wear.

Polarized sunglasses are a great option for water activities or in full sun for maximum glare and light sensitivity protection. Sunglasses are also more likely to have more wrap and face form than the ophthalmic frames you would use with Transitions lenses, which offers better protection from reflected or off-axis UV light coming from the sides, above, and below your eyes.

Myth 4: Transitions lenses are ideal only for the older population.

Who in your experience is light sensitive when stepping outside on a bright day or first entering a room with harsh fluorescent lighting? Everyone, right? Transitions lenses are ideal for auto-adjusting to changing ambient light levels indoors and out. Let’s examine the situations that are ideal for a Transitions lenses recommendation that you see every day in your office:

1) Kids: Transitions lenses are ideal for children who can’t keep up with multiple pairs of glasses. Studies show 80% of the ocular sun damage people acquire in their lifetime comes before age 18.2

With screen exposure at all-time highs for today’s children (97% of US kids under age 4 are using a digital device daily3), a lens with inherent blue light blocking technology that also gives 100% UV protection is a no-brainer. The evidence on blue light damage isn’t yet decisive, but we know there is at least a possible link between prolonged exposure[2] and retinal disease, and children growing up with cell phones in their hands will have a longer life of exposure to blue light damage than any generation before.

  • Transitions Signature VII lenses block at least 20% of all indoor sources of Harmful Blue Light and over 85% of outdoor sources.1
  • Transitions XTRActive lenses provide even more protection; they block at least 34% of indoor sources of Harmful Blue Light and over 88% of outdoor sources.1
  • Transitions Vantage lenses block at least 34% of all indoor sources of Harmful Blue Light and over 85% of outdoor sources.1
[2] Dillon, James, et al., Transmission of light to the aging human retina: possible implications for age related macular degeneration, Experimental Eye Research Volume 79, Issue 6, December 2004, Pages 753-75. doi:10.1016/j.exer.2004.06.025

2) Computer Users: We are still just beginning to understand the true impact of prolonged blue light exposure on our eyes.

Some studies suggest blue light exposure may have significant retinal health risks. Essilor and the Paris Vision Institute conducted a study that exposed porcine retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells* to blue-violet Light (415nm – 455nm), reproducing the physiological exposure to sunlight of the 40-year-old eye. The study found that the retinal cell death rate decreased by 25% when there was a 20% cut out of blue-violet light.4

Blue light exposure from our computers, tablets, phones, and LED and fluorescent lighting has several negative impacts on the comfort and performance of our eyes:

  1. Blue light disrupts the sleep cycle by interfering with melatonin.
  2. Blue light affects pupillary constriction (which is the method through which researchers believe it increases light sensitivity).
  3. Blue light exposure can increase the appearance of under eye circles (by increasing eye fatigue).

While blue light is commonly associated with the devices that have defined our digital age, the sun is by far the largest source of blue light, giving off 100-500 times more than digital devices.5 When protecting patients’ eyes from blue light, I find it important to give them protection that works indoors and outdoors.

Prescribing Tip: My go-to lens for computer light sensitivity is Transitions XTRActive in brown. It has several key advantages:

  • Transitions XTRActive lenses have the strongest blue blocking effect at 34% indoors.
  • It has a faint brown tint full time indoors that helps diminish light sensitivity complaints.

3) Migraine Sufferers: 12% of all Americans (including men, women, and children) suffer from migraines.6

Light sensitivity? 80% of all migraine sufferers complain of it.7

Patients with chronic migraines are well aware that harsh lighting not only can trigger an acute headache, but while they are experiencing a migraine, lighting levels that would otherwise appear normal can be extremely uncomfortable.

Many of my patients with migraines have already been wearing full-time lightly tinted lenses indoors to take the edge off of lighting from overhead fluorescents and computer screens.

Transitions XTRActive lenses are an ideal lens upgrade for this patient.

I tell my patients that the tinted lenses they’ve been wearing are the same low level of tint all the time, no matter if they are looking at one screen in a dimly lit room or a wall of screens with fluorescent overhead lighting.

Transitions XTRActive lenses automatically adjust their level of tint to the intensity of the light around you, so they’ll adapt with you as you enter areas with changing light levels. It’s a more advanced technology that adjusts with you in your workday instead of just staying stationary like your current glasses.

Prescribing Tip: If you have a migraine sufferer and/or someone with extreme light sensitivity, consider coupling Crizal® Prevencia® with Transitions XTRActive lenses.

4) Ocular Aesthetics: Early onset wrinkles around the eye are predominantly caused by two things: sun damage to the skin and chronic muscle furrowing like that caused by squinting.

If you have a patient who asks you about their eyelid wrinkles; reports getting Botox or skin-rejuvenating laser procedures around the eye; asks you about blepharoplasty; or is investing or asking about ocular aesthetic procedures and treatments (tattooed eyeliner, false lashes, lash growing serum users), then talk to them about wrinkle prevention.

Every time you step outside or into a brighter room and you don’t have on sunglasses or tinted lenses, you squint. Think about how many times a day you step outside to get to your car, walk between buildings, check the mail, or take the dog out.

Did you put on sunglasses every time?

And now add that up over an entire lifetime.

What if I told you I have a lens that adjusts for you automatically in brighter light, before you have time to squint? It’s the best money you can spend compared to all of those creams and treatments!

5) For Fashion: Have you looked in a fashion magazine in the past six months? Check out the street style pictures from this spring’s New York Fashion Week and I can predict one major trend: sunglass frames repurposed as ophthalmics.

The sunwear as clear glasses trend is in full force right now, and it’s a match made in eyewear heaven with Transitions lenses. Designers like Coco and Breezy helped popularize the street style look with their oversized frames paired with tinted lenses (they are now Transitions Brand Ambassadors after their signature look captured the attention of the brand).

Fashion’s elite are loving photochromic lenses for the depth of color Transitions lenses bring to the frame. Think about a gradient tinted lens. That middle zone between fully clear and fully dark brings a dimension of color that a traditional sunglass lens can’t achieve, but is still clear enough to be comfortably worn indoors.

Need to prove this trend to yourself?

Put a pair of graphite green Transitions Signature VII lenses in gold aviators and watch how many head turns and questions you get from people who want to know where you got your glasses. I’d encourage you to get a pair made up in your optical to demonstrate to patients.

Millennial and Generation Z patients are very tuned into this look from social media, and will relate much more positively to Transitions lenses if you demonstrate them in a fashion-forward frame style that connects the lens technology with the looks they are seeing online.


  1. Transitions® Lenses and Blue Light: TECHNICAL NOTES FOR EYECARE PROFESSIONALS. . 2016. Accessed March 10, 2017.
  2. Schramm FNAO, ABOC, Katheryn. “CHILDREN NEED SUNGLASSES.” 20/20 Magazine, May 2007. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
  3. “97% of Small Children Have Used Mobile Device, Most Have Their Own – Study.” RT International. N.p., Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
  4. Smick K, Villete T, Boulton ME, et al. Essilor of America. Blue light hazard: New knowledge, new approaches to maintaining ocular health. 2013. Accessed March 18, 2016.
  5. “HERE’S THE STORY ON BLUE LIGHT.” Transitions® Lenses. 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
  6. “Migraine Facts.” Migraine Research Foundation. Migraine Research Foundation, 2017. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
  7. “Migraine Statistics: Facts and Data about Migraine.” N.p., 2017. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.
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About Jennifer Lyerly

Jennifer Lyerly
Jennifer Lyerly is an optometrist practicing in Cary, NC with a focus on specialty contact lenses. She is the founder of Eyedolatry Blog, an eyecare website with a focus on encouraging women's leadership within optometry, and was named one of Vision Monday's Most Influential Women in Optometry in 2015. In 2016 she cofounded Defocus Media, a social media management company for private practice ODs, and is the cohost of the popular Defocus Media Podcast. She is a 2011 graduate of the Southern College of Optometry, and in 2017 they honored her as the Young Alumni of the Year.

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