Polycarbonate lenses are a type of eyeglass lens made of a strong yet lightweight plastic. They’re designed to withstand impact, correct vision issues, and give your glasses a streamlined appearance with their thin profiles. In fact, we’re such big fans that polycarbonate lenses come standard in all Warby Parker frames.

Since entering the glasses scene in the 1980s, polycarbonate lenses have become one of the most popular lens choices. But why is this type of plastic so prolific? What does it have that glass and other lens materials don’t? 

Read on to learn about the benefits of polycarbonate lenses and why you should consider them to complete your frames. 

How Are Polycarbonate Lenses Used?

Because they’re both transparent and sturdy, polycarbonate lenses can be utilized in both standard prescription glasses and safety glasses or goggles. They’re also the lens of choice for highly active people and kids: They’re often found in children’s glasses and sports eyewear.

Polycarbonate isn’t just found in eyeglass lenses, however. The material has historically been used for headlights, CDs, helmets (including ones worn by astronauts), and other industrial needs. 

Polycarbonate Lenses Advantages and Disadvantages

Wondering if polycarbonate lenses are right for you? Check out their many strengths and other factors below. 

Advantages of Polycarbonate Lenses

Impact Resistance

Polycarbonate lenses have consistently proven to be one of the most impact-resistant lenses on the market. They’re not likely to crack, chip, or shatter if they’re dropped or hit with something.  

Thin, Lightweight, Comfortable Design

Polycarbonate lenses combine excellent vision correction with a thin profile—up to 30% thinner than standard plastic or glass lenses. 

Unlike some thicker lenses, polycarbonate lenses can accommodate strong prescriptions without adding too much bulk. Their lightness also helps them rest easily and comfortably on your face.


You can add a variety of different coatings and treatments to polycarbonate lenses, including anti-reflective coatings and blue-light-filtering coatings. Polycarbonate lenses can also be progressive lenses, which feature multiple zones of vision correction. 

UV Protection

Polycarbonate lenses are ready to shield your eyes from UVA and UVB rays straight out of the gate: They have built-in UV protection, no additional treatments needed. 

Disadvantages of Polycarbonate Lenses 


Polycarbonate lenses tend to cost a little more than regular plastic lenses. That being said, their longevity can make the slight uptick in price well worth it. Other lenses run a greater risk of breaking and needing to be replaced. (Worth noting: At Warby Parker, polycarbonate lenses come standard with your frames at no additional cost.)

Not Suitable for Every Prescription

When it comes to prescriptions with very high powers, polycarbonate lenses have their limits. People with especially strong prescriptions or severe astigmatism may experience some visual distortions when looking through polycarbonate lenses. 

If your prescription is stronger than +/-4.0, then high-index lenses may be for you—we carry 1.67 and 1.74 high-index options. 

Your optometrist or optician should be able to determine what kind of lens is best for your prescription, and we always recommend following their advice. 

Needs Scratch-Resistant Coating

Polycarbonate lenses can get marked up if they haven’t been given a scratch-resistant coating. Fortunately, this kind of coating is automatically applied to all of our polycarbonate lenses. 

Close up view of a pair of blue and black Warby Parker glasses

Looking for new lenses?

Polycarbonate lenses come standard with our frames and are included in the price.

Polycarbonate Lenses vs. Other Types of Lenses

Polycarbonate lenses typically have a leg up against other types of lenses for glasses. Here’s how they compare to the competition:

Polycarbonate Lenses vs. Glass Lenses

Polycarbonate lenses are thinner and lighter than glass lenses, plus they won’t break nearly as easily. (Given the fragility of glass, it’s not a common lens material anymore.) 

Polycarbonate Lenses vs. Plastic Lenses

Polycarbonate lenses were introduced as a better alternative to other plastic lenses, and they’ve held onto that distinction. They weigh less, they’re thinner, and they’re more impact-resistant than the other types of plastic lenses that came before them. 

Polycarbonate Lenses vs. High-Index Lenses

Technically, polycarbonate lenses are a type of high-index lens themselves. But there are lenses with an even higher refractive index than polycarbonate, meaning that they can correct vision at higher prescriptions while maintaining a thinner profile. 

Other high-index lenses are a great option if your eye prescription calls for a power of +/- 4.0 diopters or greater. But they come at a higher price point than polycarbonate lenses. 

Polycarbonate Lenses vs. Trivex Lenses

Trivex lenses were developed in 2001 and have emerged as a worthy rival to polycarbonate lenses. They’re similarly lightweight and impact-resistant, and they can sometimes boast greater visual clarity. 

However, Trivex lenses are typically not quite as thin as polycarbonate lenses, and they cost more. 

How To Care for and Clean Polycarbonate Lenses

You can care for your polycarbonate lenses the same way as you would any plastic lens: Try not to drop, damage, or scratch them, and store your frames in a glasses case when they’re not in use. 

Cleaning your polycarbonate lenses can be accomplished with a dollop of dish soap, water, and a microfiber cloth. Make sure the dish soap you use is lotion-free, and follow our other tips on how to clean your glasses

Polycarbonate lenses are the best of both worlds: strong yet light, technologically advanced yet widely available. It’s no surprise that they’re one of the most common choices for people who need prescription glasses. Try them in your frames today! 

Glasses starting at $95

Each pair includes prescription lenses with scratch-resistant, anti-reflective, and superhydrophobic treatments—and they block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

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