After wearing glasses for about half my life, I decided to try photochromic lenses. These darken when exposed to sunlight, as if I had put on sunglasses. It's pretty neat!

I got them in early summer, and I have mixed feelings. It was nice to be able to hang out in really bright sunlight without needing to squint or shade my eyes. This has never been something that bothered me very much, and I never used to wear sunglasses, but it was nice to have a bit less light.

On the other hand, as I wore them more, it was starting to feel a bit depressing. Colors were not as bright, and the world seemed less alive. Especially as we got farther into winter I was really preferring the view around the edges of my glasses. I decided to get an otherwise identical pair, but with regular lenses—it's pretty great how buying glasses online has made them so much cheaper that I can get an extra pair without feeling extravagant!

So far I like the regular glasses better, but I think I would prefer photochromics in really strong sunlight? Is there such a thing as mildly photochromic lenses, which stay clear on a typical day but darken in intense sunlight?

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I had photochromics for several years. I found them mildly-helpful-and-mostly-unobjectionable in the summer, but ridiculously annoying in the winter (when they both tend to be darker because of low-altitude sun, and the temperature makes them clear up slower once you move inside).

Also, I was relentlessly mocked by the fashion police. :P

Ultimately I moved away from them.

Colors were not as bright, and the world seemed less alive.

Colorblind glasses such as EnChroma provide the same "hang out in really bright sunlight without needing to squint or shade my eyes" benefits, but make colors more vivid, not less.

I eventually transitioned away from regular wearing of sunglasses when I learned to soften the muscles around my eyes enough not to need them as much, but for a while my EnChromas were really great.

Be careful. Photochromics gave me (well, helped a lot in giving me) a horrible case of SAD. And when I mean horrible, it was way worse than moderate depression. 15 years later and I still have a habit of installing ridiculously powerful lightning everywhere just to make sure it never happens again. 

I go with magnetic clip-ons these days. I accept that I'll break/scratch/lose some, and just keep one in my back pocket and in my car.

Have you considered lasik much? I got it about a decade ago and have generally been super happy with the results. Now I just wear sunglasses when I expect to benefit from them and that works a lot better than photochromatic glasses ever did for me.

The main real downside has been slight halos around bright lights in the dark, but this is mostly something you get used to within a few months. Nowadays I only noticed it when stargazing.

The true downside of Lasik is the nontrivial risk of permanent eye dryness, this hurts like hell and doesn't really have a cure apart from constantly using eye drops. The bad cases are basically life destroying, my mom had a moderate case of chronic dry eyes and it made her life significantly more unpleasant (she couldn't sleep well and was basically in constant pain during the day).

I'm very nervous about my eyes, and deeply unsettled by the idea of eye surgery. Relatedly, I like having a protective layer between my eyes and the world.

(Spoiler block contains description of eye surgery.)

You may be thinking of PRK? LASIK

involves cutting a flap in the outer layer, which is peeled back and they reshape the corneal stroma, then the flap is put back in place and the cut around it

 

heals. With PRK the outer layer is removed entirely.

Not that I'm saying you should get LASIK — I got it done recently and it's been marginally better than glasses or contacts, but it hasn't been life-changing in any way so far.

Plus it doesn't really solve your problem, since one of the nicest things about photochromic lenses is that you're already wearing glasses and they just kick in when it gets too bright. After LASIK, you have to carry around sunglasses, remember to put them on and not lose them! I've actually been considering getting non-prescription photochromic lenses to get back some of the nice "automatic activation" features of my old glasses.

I want able to read your whole comment, sorry! As soon as I got to the part about cutting eyes I needed to stop.

Oh sorry! Having recently been deep-diving on this when considering the process I forgot some people might be squeamish about it. I've put the detailed description under a spoiler block.

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