Transition Lenses

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Transition Lenses

Transitions is actually a brand name of a Photocromic Lens. Although transitions are probably the most advanced photochromic lens on the market there are many others out there.

People call Photochromic lenses by all different kinds of names such as Transitions, Reactolite, Reactions and I’ve even heard them called Graduations. However, they are all Photo chromic lenses.

Photochromic lenses are clear lenses that react with UV and produce a tint effect based on the amount of UV present.

When wearing Photochromic lenses even a dull day some reaction will occur producing a very pale tint and then on a very bright day where more UV is present they will turn quite dark. When wearing them indoors they will become clear.

The idea behind photochromic lenses is that they will provide the correct amount of protection for the varying light conditions you experience. However, when driving, your car windscreen will block a certain amount of UV which is required to make the lens react so they will not work as well as they would outside of the car.

The Two Most Common Photocromic Lenses

Transitions Lenses

Transitions are available in Standard Plastic, Poly Carbonate, 1.6 and 1.67 Lenses. They are the fastest reacting lens on the market and will react into sunglasses within 30 seconds. However, they will take longer than that to go clear again when you go inside.

Reactolite Lenses

Reactolite is a brand name given to a Glass photochromic lens. They do not react as well as the transitions and are much heavier to wear. However, one good thing about glass reactolite is that they work much better behind a car windscreen than the transitions do. (If only we could have the best of both worlds.)

In most cases the Transitions lens is the preferred option due to the over all comfort and performance.

Photocromic lenses are ideal in the sense that they can save you having to purchase two pairs of glasses ie, Clear glasses and a pair of Sunglasses. However, many people who wear transitions also have a cheaper tinted pair just to use in the car.

Please feel free to leave your questions in the comments box and I will try my best to answer them for you.

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38 Responses to “Transition Lenses”

  1. Geoff Says:

    Can you supply photochromic multi-focal glasses which emply a plastic clip-on bridge? These are fitted to my present (Reactolite)frames to lessen the impact load on the nose bridge and distribute the load more widely.

  2. JANE HEDLEY Says:

    Hi, could you please tell me if you do varifocals in transition glasses and how much would they cost i ethink they will be expensive.

    many thanks
    Jane Hedley

  3. Mark Bowden Says:

    Thank you

    Yes we can make varifocal lenses with transitions. Transitions are £40 extra.

    Many Thanks
    Mark Bowden

  4. Clive Barrett Says:

    I was totaly impressed with specs4less service especially as I supplied the wrong prescription details and was sent glasses with incorrect lenses. I phoned and explained the problem and was told very politely to just email the correct prescription and send back the glasses. Less than a week later I received my new glasses which were perfect in every way and at no extra cost. Thank you specs4less, I am recommending you to everyone I know who has to wear specs.

    PS And the snooker glasses have definitely improved my playing.
    Thank you once again.
    Clive Barrett

  5. Peter Kearney Says:

    Pity i did not know of you earlier am awaiting my new specs from D&A
    standard varifocals lens and standard frame £189 + £60 for transitions.

  6. Peter Says:

    Is it possible to buy transition lenses which range between a tint (rather than completely clear)when indoors and a much darker tint (as sunglasses) when out of doors?

  7. monica Says:

    I have one weak eye, with a mainly peripheral vision which needs a thicker lens and have worn varifocal lenses which are thinned{glazed?)and with reactolite. This has always made my glasses quite expensive. (Last year I started to develope a cataract in my strong eye and have been told to have a re-test evey year.) Would you be able to cope with my prescription or would it be too complicated, and almost as expensive as going to the normal opticians where I get 1 to 1 care?

  8. Richard Says:

    I’m really disappointed with my transitions, the optician told me they were the best thing since sliced bread but when I got behind the wheel of agricultural equipment they didn’t work and this is in Australia miles from anyone. Fortunately I took my sunglasses and as clumsy as the combination may have looked the sunglasses when fitted over my glasses held the fort till I came home again. I was then told by the same optician that transitions wont work behind safety glass. The same applies for normal driving too, so unless I take my ’shades’ with me the headaches continue. And the optician still doesn’t as far as I am aware, carry the right size of clip ons. I remain very disappointed with them.

  9. Harlan Vander Griend Says:

    If someone has worn glass photogrey lenses for a long time could they have color perception problems when they switch to plastic transitions lenses? We have a patient who says that he sees yellow with his new transitions lenses.

  10. Saira Ellahi Says:

    Hi, do you have any lenses (photochromic or otherwise) with ANTI GLARE coatings? I would like something to use when driving to avoid glare at certain times of the day when the angle of the sun is particularly problematic (They dont need to be vision correcting lenses), many thanks

  11. Mark Bowden Says:

    Hi Saira - we do have anti-glare (or anti-reflection) coatings available on all of our glasses. If you don’t need correction, just select “plano” for the prescription, and voila !

  12. Donald Clarke Says:


  13. Donald Clarke Says:

    hello. I have a heated front windscreen, and if you look hard you can see the wavey lines in the glass,
    My problem is after dark, odd glasses tend to highlight the wavy lines when you have headlights coming towards you, making the objects move ,thus giving me a false impresion of the road ahead,and the cars they seem too pick up the lines on the windscreen before the cars, my previous pair of glasses are alright, so at the moment I am useing them at night.
    I have had a recent eye test and that was alright.
    my glasses are vari focus photocromic
    What sort of glasses would you suggest for me for driving at night.
    Yours Faithfully
    Donald clarke

  14. Jack Aylward Says:

    How long will the transition lenses work. I have a pair of glasses apprximately 5 yrs old. They don’t seem to work like they did when they were new?

  15. Mark Bowden Says:

    There shouldn’t be a “wear out” period for Transitions, at least for the most modern variants and genuine lenses.

  16. Liz Says:

    Hi Mark,

    You’ve mentioned that Reactolite Lenses are best for driving, yet Spex4Less only seems to sell Transitions Lenses. Can you please confirm that Transitions will work whilst driving, or should I buy a separate pair of tinted glasses?
    (My concern is that my eyes are so bad, that I’ll need to pull over to swap glasses and cannot quickly change them when driving.)


  17. Mark Bowden Says:

    Hi Liz - Transistions will not work well when driving, as the windscreen absorbs most of the UV that is required for the tinting reaction to take place. The same is true for all “Reactolite” lenses to a lesser or greater extent (depending on their sensitivity).
    I recommend getting some cheap prescription sunspecs for the car

  18. Christine Pike Says:

    My glasses are probably four or five years old; they are reactolite, and variolux with anti scratch/glare. On holiday in South Spain and France on very bright days, the reactolite did not work at all causing me considerable discomfort, streaming eyes, squinting etc. On close inspection of the lenses it appears that the reactolite is wearing out although I have been told this is not possible. A friend has told me to put them in the freezer to recharge - is this correct. Will your transistion lenses do the job in extreme conditions, or should I consider a separate pair of sun glasses for such occasions?

  19. Mark Bowden Says:

    There are “Reactolite” lenses that have a filter applied (or a type of coating) as a less expensive alternative to Transitions. It IS possible for this coating to become worn and hence block less UV.
    Transitions will NEVER wear out as they are an integral part of the lens - although they (and no other photochromic lens) will ever be as dark as dedicated sunglasses can be - so if you are going to be spending a lot of time outside in bright sunlight, I would recommend a good pair of (dark !) tinted prescription sunglasses for maximum comfort.

  20. Ed Says:

    Hi, I just purchased Transition lens, and they turn slighly dark when I go outside. I have another pair that I purchased a year ago, and they get very dark. I like my new pair to be darker, so I went to the place where I purchased my glasses, and they soaked my glasses in this dye so they would have a tint all the time. Will they still change again after being tinted, and become darker when I go outside in the sunlight? Thanks, Ed

  21. tom Says:

    my transitions donot seem to get dark enough?

    The optician tells me in time they will improve darkness. Is this true ?

    How can I tell if they are getting darkest possible?

    Cd they be faulty. I bought the “best”had

  22. David Denby Says:

    My wife has a pair of reactolite glasses now just over 2 years old. when these glasses start to darken, they start to craze which make the glasses slightly blurred. The supplier Vision Express say the coating is only guaranteed for a year, your comment please

  23. Mark Bowden Says:

    Ed - if they applied a tint it is likely that it had a UV block in there as well, in which case your transitions may not work properly any more as they nee dthe UV light to change darker

  24. Mark Bowden Says:

    Tom - the extent they go dark is controlled by the type of process the manufacturer uses and the amount of UV light they are being exposed to when worn. They won’t change the chemistry once made - so it is only dependent on how bright it is when you go outside

  25. Mark Bowden Says:

    David - the reactolite process itslef should not effect the optics, so should not effect vision. The warranty given is up to the supplier

  26. mandy Says:

    I’m looking into buying transitional lenses for my 10 year old. His prescription is about a year old but expires 12/01/10. Do you recoment I use this prescription or should I take him back to see if it has changed any. I want to buy him a pair of glasses that he can keep your at least 2 years since it’s so expensive for me.

  27. Jeff Chiak Says:

    I’ve transition lenses but after 11 months they have changed from clear to yellow when indoors and it does not turn dark like it used to . The maximum darkness when I go outdoors is just about 10-20%.
    Apparently after a year, it does not work as well. I went back to the optometrist and he said that that is normal that it does not get as dark and turns yellow.

    Time for a new clear len tha twill not turn yellow ever and a big waste of $200 for adding auto darkening on top of the lens cost. If I was told that it will lose 80% of it ability and turns YELLOW, I would not have gotten them.

    Buyer beware.

  28. Mark Bowden Says:

    Mandy - kids’ eyes can change so rapidly, it is always a good idea to get them checked, especially before buying glasses if possible

  29. Mark Bowden Says:

    Jeff - there are certainly different types and qualities of transition lenses. We use Essilor Transitions who are the industry lenses - and we have never experienced this kind of problem as they are annelaed lenses. It is true that sometimes you get what you pay for i’m afraid…………although $200 seems like a lot for the lenses you describe.

  30. Jeff Chiak Says:

    Thanks, I’ll give transitions another shot. Good to know that not all of them are the same.

  31. John Wittenberg Says:

    I have had some very expensive Essilor photochromic lenses for about 2 years. Now, in strong sunlight, when they darken there are small spots all over the lens that stay light. Is this a lens fault?

  32. Mark Bowden Says:

    hi John - shouldn’t happen, especially with Essilor. Suggest you take them back where you bought them and ask them to show them to Essilor for comment.

  33. Felicity Brown Says:

    I wear photochromic Essilor Comfort varifocal lenses in one of my pairs of specs.

    I have the impression that they darken well on cold, bright winter days, to be almost as dark as traditional sun glasses, but much less in hot sunny weather! In other words, the temperature as well as the brightness seems to be a factor in how much they darken. This can be a bit annoying when on holiday abroad in hot weather, as this is precisely when I particularly want dark glasses!

    Am I correct in my impression? I have never read anywhere that temperature is a factor.

    Thanks for any answer you can give.

    (Incidentally, Boots used to do a se;ection of glasses which came with their own, magnetically attached sun shades, a perfect fit of course. These were a brilliant idea. I presume they are not popular with opticians because they cut down the profits; one was not obliged to buy two pairs of specs or expensive photochromic ones!!)

  34. marw w Says:

    my transition lenses are just over two years old and if you look closely at the lens it is covered in tiny wrinkles which now distort causeing disconfort and impossible night driving whats the deal. I paid five hundred dollors for these glasses and now I wear a pair seven years old. These are junk

  35. mat hussain Says:

    Hi, I have been reading quite a lot of comments about transition lens.
    I too have purchased photochromic lens (plastic!), the main reason for the transition lens is because my job entails a lot of driving and hoped that transition lens would tint and sooth the eyes against the bright winter sun.
    But to my horror as I now read these transition lens won’t work behind a windscreen!
    The glass version works as per the comments but are too heavy so it’s a no win situation.
    When for goodness sake is some manufacturer going design something for the driver who needs prescription lens which can tint in the sunlight and go normal when light fades without having to buy and wear silly sunglasses which are tinted permanently??


    Mat Hussain

  36. Mark Bowden Says:

    marw w - you should not have these kind of problems with real transitions lenses. Transitions is a specific tradename of Essilor, so I would take them back if you were sold them as “Transitions”

  37. Mark Bowden Says:

    Mat - the problem with transitions when driving is with the windscreen not the lenes - it is designer to absorb UV which is what triggers the chemistry in the glasses
    If you didn’t have that, you would get sunburned as well when driving !

  38. Mark Bowden Says:

    Felicity - it is true that photochromatic lenses go darker in cold temperatures. This is because the chemistry os the molecules that are used are temperature dependent, and the warmer it is the less dark they will go - and the less quickly they will return to clear.
    You may notice that if you wear them outside, they will go darker much more quickly than when you return indoors and reverse the process.

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