What Makes the Best Anti-Reflective Coatings

Jun 10, 2022
7 min read
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What is an anti-reflective coat?

An anti-reflective coat is a layer applied to glasses to improve your vision, reduce glare, and eye strain, and improve the appearance. The coating reduces reflections from the front and back surface of lenses to improve your vision while driving at night and for digital device use. When reflections are eliminated, the wearer’s eyes may be more easily viewed, increasing their eye contact with others.

In the past, anti-reflective coatings spotted, peeled, and scratched easily. If your patients have complained about these problems in the past, you should educate them on today’s anti-reflective coatings. These problems have been virtually eliminated as technology has improved.

What kinds of anti-reflective coatings are available?

Typically anti-reflective coating can be broken into two categories: standard and premium. Premium anti-reflective coatings last longer and are available with extra features. For example, most have a surface treatment that seals the layers, repels water, and allows for easier cleaning. Some surface treatments may repel both water and oils, but these are typically upgrades. Additionally, you may find anti-reflective coatings that protect against blue light, scratches, and can even repel dust.

Data is still inconclusive on whether blue-light anti-reflective coatings may be beneficial for computer/tablet/cellphone users. Study results are still inconsistent on the everyday benefits of blue blocking lenses. There is little evidence at this time to support the use of BB filters to minimize near work-induced asthenopia or for a larger-scale introduction of BB lenses in routine clinical practice.

As of 2021, studies continue to show that using blue light glasses may be beneficial for sleep disorders like jet lag or a shift in work schedules.

While studies regarding the positive or negative effects of blue light may be controversial, most optometrists recommend blue-light anti-reflective coatings; they will not cause any harm and may prove beneficial.

There are a number of names in the anti-reflective market that have their own proprietary anti-reflective coating including the four major lens manufacturers as well as a myriad of small labs. If possible, recommend patients purchase a premium product, with a two-year warranty, and make sure that the anti-reflective coating is created through a vaporized process (more on that to come).

If your patients have vision insurance, their insurance plan may dictate the type of anti-reflective coating you should recommend. Co-pay amounts are set by their insurance company, and typically, patients will have to cover a higher co-pay for a higher quality anti-reflective coating. Patients may take issue with paying for something they feel is “extra” or an “add-on,” but I always advise my patients to upgrade to the premium offerings.

Glasses are something your patients use everyday, and the premium anti-reflective is worth the price! The charts below reflect typical charges for VSP and Eyemed patients for easy consultation. There are always exceptions, but these seem to be proven for a majority of plans. I’ve tried to include some in each category from each manufacturer.

VSP Signature Copay (S/MF) Choice Copay (S/MF) AR Coatings with Category
Category A $37.00 $41.00 Essilor SharpView, Zeiss Gold ET Coating, Zeiss Super ET Coating
Category B $51.00 $58.00 Crizal Easy, Zeiss DuraVision Chrome, Hoya Premium Coating
Category C $61.00 $61.00 Crizal Alize, Zeiss DuraVision Silver UV, Hoya Super HiVision
Category D $75.00 $75.00 Crizal Saphire UV Coating, Zeiss DuraVision Platinum, Shamir Glacier Plus, Zeiss PureCoat
Eyemed Copay AR Coatings with Category
Standard $45.00 Essilor Sharpview+, Hoya Premium Coating, Zeiss Super ET
Tier 1 $57.00 Crizal Easy, Hoya Premium w/ View Protect, Zeiss DuraVision
Tier 2 $69.00 Crizal Alize, Zeiss DuraVision Silver
Tier 3 80% of U&C Crizal Prevencia, Crizal Rock, Shamir Glacier Plus, Zeiss DuraVision Platinum

Is there a difference between anti-reflective coatings?

There are several hundred types of anti-reflective lenses on the market, and research is important. Quality can be substantially different between retailers. As a general rule, warn your patients that they do not want glasses ordered in a day. These lenses will not be of the highest quality.

Premium, anti-reflective coatings can take several days in the lab as the different layers of treatments are applied. We explain the coating process to the patient and the extended time it takes for lens manufacturing is from the coating being “baked into the lens.” The quality is improved because you are unable to separate the lens from the different layers of applied treatment. This also prevents the spotting, peeling, and scratching mentioned earlier.

In contrast, some standard lenses have factory-applied anti-reflective coatings on both surfaces. These tend to come with shorter warranties and tend to break down more easily.

The process of creating premium anti-reflective coatings requires substantial technology, and looks something like this:

  1. Lenses must be cleaned and inspected for visible defects; any scratch or defect can cause problems with the coating.
  2. Lenses are loaded into a vacuum sealed chamber and are rotated.
  3. A beam of electrons vaporizes the coating material, adhering them to the surface of the lens.

Every anti-reflective coating is made from its own formula, but most consist of a layer of metallic oxides. The more layers in the anti-reflective coating, the more reflections are neutralized. Some premium coatings can have seven layers or more.

Depending on the manufacturer, each anti-reflective lens will reflect a certain color. Most tend to be green or purple. Spectacle lenses with a blue-light anti-reflective coat may appear more blue in color.

Do I need an anti-reflective coating on my glasses?

You should always recommend that your patients order glasses with an anti-reflective coating. They will be unhappy with the quality of their vision without it. I always educate my patients that the lenses in my phoropter have an anti-reflective coating on them. If they do not purchase it on their glasses, they will not see as well as they did when I checked their vision.

Today's anti-reflective coatings can eliminate almost all of the reflections from eyeglass lenses, allowing 99.5 percent of light to pass through the lenses and enter the eye. Everyday activities such as watching TV, driving at night, and reading on a tablet will be much clearer with an anti-reflective coating.

It’s not only important for decreasing glare, but the proper coating also improves the appearance of glasses and the person wearing them! Eye contact is essential in sales positions, TV appearances, Zoom interviews and meetings, or healthcare. Anti-reflective coatings allow us to clearly see eye to eye.

The newest anti-reflective coatings in 2022

In the last 2 years, several new anti-reflective coatings have been introduced to the market by the 4 leading manufacturers: Shamir, Essilor, Zeiss, and Hoya.

Newest anti-reflective coatings

  1. Crizal Rock coating is the new premium generation of anti-reflective coating from Essilor. The scratch resistance as well as the thermal resistance of the lenses have been increased over Prevencia with improved smudge resistance and ease of cleaning. This coating is resistant to scratches after 300 shake cycles in a sand tray.
  2. Shamir Glacier Plus has a low-reflections finish to reduce cosmetic glare, improved scratch resistance from original Glacier, and is a no color anti-reflective coating.
  3. PureCoat by ZEISS PLUS is water-repellent, dirt-repellent, oil-repellent and has a transparency of over 99%.
  4. Hoya Vision Superior Scratch Resistance claims to be “the world's most durable coating and maximizes visual acuity for night driving.

In the last several years, lens manufacturers continue to innovate and improve their products. When choosing an anti-reflective coating for your patients, consider durability, ease of cleaning, and their replacement lens policies should something happen to your patient’s lenses.

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About Courtney Dryer, OD

Courtney Dryer is a 2011 graduate of SCO. She opened 4 Eyes Optometry in her hometown of Charlotte, NC in February of 2013. After 5 years, the practice name was changed to Autarchic Spec Shop to renew the practice's commitment …

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