Anti-Reflective Coatings

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If you have a pair of glasses, or if you know someone who wears glasses, then you may have noticed the lenses reflecting light with a bit of colour in it, sometimes blue or green. Or maybe you’ve looked at an older pair of glasses that appears to reflect light at a much stronger rate with no colour visible. Perhaps you’ve heard others asking if their new glasses have the “anti-glare coating”. But what is this coating, and why is it considered a standard part of modern lenses?

What is an Anti-Reflective Coating?

anti-reflective lens coatings eyeglasses on table - 360 eyecare blog

An anti-reflective coating, sometimes referred to as an AR coating, or anti-glare coating, is a coating that is applied during the manufacturing of ophthalmic lenses. Originally developed for camera lenses to improve clarity and resolution in film, lens manufacturers brought the technology over to help improve optical clarity for glasses wearers.

Our vision relies on light entering the pupil and hitting the retina, which sends signals to the brain to convert into visual images. Conventional lenses without any coatings will reflect a small percentage of light away from the eye; less light entering the eye means less visual information for the brain to interpret, which results in slightly reduced optical clarity. With an anti-reflective coating in place, up to 99.5% of light rays are allowed to enter the eye, and this results in sharper vision.

Anti-reflective coatings also have the added benefit of improving the look of glasses aesthetically. With less light reflected, lenses look more invisible to those observing them and allows others to see the wearer’s eyes rather than their lenses. And while this coating does reflect some light back, lens labs are able to manipulate the coating to reflect a much dimmer colour in comparison to white, such as green or blue.

Are There Different Kinds of Anti-Reflective Coatings?

There are several coatings that may be applied to lenses. The first is a clear hard coat, which treats the surface of the lens with a scratch-resistant protective layer. This coating is usually the base layer and has no colour or other optical properties to it, and is considered standard just as an anti-reflective coating is.

Anti-reflective lens coatings - uncut lenses - 360 Eyecare blogAn anti-reflective coating can vary in quality between manufacturers. Some may offer a coating that includes oleophobic and hydrophobic properties, which help to repel water and oils secreted from our skin and make it easier to clean with proper lens cleaner and microfibre cloths and stay clean longer. These advanced coatings will cost a bit more in comparison to basic anti-reflective coatings but are worth the price for the ease of care and higher quality vision as a result.

Older anti-reflective coatings were factory applied onto lenses almost like a layer of paint. These coatings were softer and could scratch off over time or through improper handling of the glasses. These coatings were also very sensitive to temperature fluctuations and would crackle and start to break down after a few years.

With newer advancements in chemical engineering technology, coatings are more consistently adhered to the lenses down to the microscopic level with vacuum deposition technology, which results in a stronger coating layer that resists “flaking away” like its older counterparts. Newer, better coating techniques and technologies improve even on this, greatly extending the usable life of the lenses. Most companies will offer several tiers of anti-reflective coatings, and the more expensive options will typically be using these newer technologies.

Want to discuss anti-reflective coatings and how they can improve your visual quality? Feel free to contact or drop by either of our offices – 360 Eyecare – Rosedale or 360 Eyecare – Beaches and speak with our trained and licensed opticians.