3 Simple Tips For Picking The Perfect Photochromic Lens Color

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So you’ve made the decision to try light-reactive (photochromic) prescription lenses. Now the question is: “Do I choose gray or brown?”  To simplify your decision, you’ll want to consider the following three factors:

1. Frame Color

Prescription glasses not only provide vision correction, they’re also a fashion accessory. When deciding on a lens tint, most eyeglass wearers consider frame color the most important factor.  The same way color combinations play an important role in our wardrobe, nobody wants lenses that clash with their frames.

So what’s the secret to coordinating an attractive lens and frame ensemble? A good rule of thumb when selecting a photochromic color is to go with gray lenses for cooler or neutral frame colors like black, white, gray, silver, chrome, and blue. Brown lenses are a better option when pairing them with warmer frame tones such as brown, gold, tan, yellow, green and red.

2. Darkness

If you want the darkest lens possible, go for the gray. In premium photochromic brands such as sunsync or Transitions, gray lenses achieve approximately 88-89% darkness, allowing only 11-12% of light to pass through. Brown lenses on the other hand, achieve approximately 84-85% darkness, meaning 15-16% of incoming light is passing through the lens.

3. Contrast

If you’re looking for better contrast to improve the sharpness of your vision, brown lenses will do the trick.  Brown lenses accentuate greens and reds, enhancing contrast and sharpness in the sun. This makes them a perfect fit if you golf, fish, or participate in other outdoor activities where contrast is key.

 A Final Consideration

You may be asking, “Is gray or brown better when indoors?” The answer is neither. Both turn clear when you’re out of the sun, so there is no difference between brown and gray indoors or at night.

As a VSP member, your benefits provide a savings of up to 40%* on sunsync photochromic lenses. Plus, for a limited time, you can receive a $20 rebate when you purchase your sunsync lenses.


  • Anne Mester says:

    I don’t know if there is a good solution to this, but I find the most annoying thing about these types of lenses is that when I’m driving, the lenses turn nearly clear, thus leaving the problem of glare from the sky and road unsolved. what would you suggest?

    • David C says:

      Hi Anne – It is recommended to have a second pair of dedicated driving sunglasses kept inside the car, in a console or glove compartment out of direct sun and heat. Photochromic lenses are ideal to have on your everyday glasses to offer brightness protection when frequently going in and out of doors such as at school or out shopping.

    • Michelle Doutrich says:

      I have the same issue. I always buy only prescription glasses that come as a set with magnetic sunglass clips – they match the frames of the glasses and are easy to take on and off in the car.

  • Bonnie Beane says:

    Thanks for this info ~ eye appointment’s coming up next month.

  • Jody Hudson says:

    Question: How well will these work inside a car? Even a clear windshield will block some of the UV that causes the lenses to darken. Most windshields these days have a slight tint. Does the amount and color of tint have an effect on the darkening of the sunglasses? Are some color sunglasses affected more or less than other colors by the UV-blocking effect of a windshield?

    • David C says:

      Hi Jody – Even clear car windshields block nearly 100% of UV light so photochromic lenses do not activate inside the car. There will be new photochromic products coming in the near future that are slightly tinted at all times including inside the car and get very dark when exposed to UV light.

  • Paul says:

    When you say both lens turn clear when out of the sun, what does that mean? Do the lens become 100% colorless? I had these type lens in the 1970s and early 1980s, and they were not colorless inside.

    • David C says:

      Hi Paul – Both colors allow about 96% light transmission in the clear state. The very faint residual tint is virtually imperceptible to the eye and can only be seen if the lenses are placed against a pure white background.

  • Which color is best for driving, night vs day?

  • Mack says:

    I have had the gray light sensitive “Transitions” for years. They are wonderful for every situation except driving. They tend to lighten when in the car no matter how bright of a day it is in southern California. So this year I am getting prescription Sunglasses just for when I am driving!

  • Art says:

    I found the article on how to choose the right color lens to color of a frame very helpful. Thank you

  • Charles Rodriguez says:

    Very informative and timely, I am shopping for transitionl lenses for the first time and learned a lot from your article !!

  • Hernan Gomez says:

    Excellent long and short of reactive lenses. Please include in the future the new green-graphite lenses. My experiece with them is that colors are brighter yet cooler than brown but not as dull as grey lenses. Reminds me of the G15 green lenses that you would see on the pilot sunglasses.

  • Jack says:

    Very useful information.

  • Stephan says:

    I tried photochromic lenses twice. The first pair barely changed at all. The “new and improved” version was better but not by much. My experience proves to me that Photochromic sunglasses don’t come close to giving you the eye protection you get from a simple pair of high quality sunglasses.

  • Kathleen Beaudoin says:

    Google “Dioptic Sunglasses.” They fit over your glasses and block the sun from the front, top and sides. They are not expensive – about $30. I have had mine for 2 years and they are a god-send.

  • Edith Schauble says:

    For the car one can use the “clip on” sunglasses. Works very well Edith

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