Where Does Polycarbonate Fit into Your Practice?

by | Apr 17, 2022 | Data Insights and Industry Trends

Smart practitioners make deliberate, informed decisions on materials, particularly when seeking to differentiate their practices or pursue market niches. If you’re considering exploring the safety market, or expanding your pediatric practice, or just looking to provide more cost-effective options for patients, then polycarbonate will undoubtedly occupy a place in your product mix.


The high impact resistance and light weight features of polycarbonate lenses made them a natural choice as safety lenses when they were introduced in the 1970s. These same properties quickly led to the adoption of polycarbonate lenses for children’s spectacles and sports eyewear. As these thinner lenses became available in a variety of lens designs from multiple manufacturers, they also became more affordable.  Much like CR-39 lenses supplanted glass lenses, polycarbonate lenses usurped CR-39. So, what is the current polycarbonate market share, and which patients are most or least likely to wear them? 

To answer these questions, we analyzed a sample from the GPN database containing millions of lenses sold over the past 3 years, at 2,000+ ECP locations (“doors”) across all 9 US Census divisions. We looked at lens-material share by patient age, as well as by gender and prescription. Prescriptions were normalized by taking the spherical equivalent average of the right and left eye for each of the millions of lens pairs.


Polycarbonate is the base for 56.1% of all lenses dispensed. It is particularly popular among spectacle lens wearers under the age of 18, accounting for 75.6% of all lenses in this age group, and contributing to 19.6% of all polycarbonate units sold. Among men, 58.4% of all lenses sold are polycarbonate, whereas with women it’s 54.4%. 

Considering prescription, polycarbonate usage is highest (60.4% of all lenses) for prescriptions between -0.25D to -3.00D spherical equivalent which includes 45.7% of all polycarbonate lenses.  Prescriptions with spherical equivalents more negative than -6.00D, made of polycarbonate, occupy 22% share of lenses, the smallest value among the prescription clusters.

Profiling by age, gender, and prescription, we see the largest polycarbonate share (78.3% of all lenses) occurs for males, under 18 and with prescriptions between -0.25D to -3.00D spherical equivalent, however this segment accounts for only 4.2% of polycarbonate lenses sold.  Contrast that with the profile of the lowest polycarbonate share of just 14.8% of all lenses among females age 45+ with spherical equivalent prescriptions more negative than -6.00D and who account for less than 1% of all polycarbonate lenses.


High and low polycarbonate share profiles can be explained by the characteristics of these lenses. Protecting children’s eyes behind highly impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses is certainly the key to explaining polycarbonate’s popularity in the sample of patients under 18. With roots as a safety and sport lens, it’s not entirely surprising that the male share of lenses made of polycarbonate would be higher.  However, as women by far outpace men in total lens purchases, females contribute to 57.1% of the total polycarbonate market compared to 42.9% for men. The observed downward trend in polycarbonate for prescriptions more negative than -6.00D is attributable to avoidance of higher levels of vision distorting chromatic aberrations in these ranges.

Through robust analysis of anonymized data, we are able to develop insights, profiles, and a deeper understanding of market results and benchmarks. 

GPN aggregates millions of transactions from thousands of eyecare providers, and focalCenter performs rigorous analysis for delivering timely and precise micro and macro dashboards with interactive business intelligence to the eyecare industry. Please feel free to contact us for more information on growing your eyecare business with data-driven strategies.

By Ron Krefman, OD

Finding solutions in data science.


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