How should I choose sunglasses to protect my eyes from the sun?

While most people are more concerned about how they look in a pair of sunglasses, choosing the right pair of sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun's damaging rays. Make sure you choose sunglasses with lenses that provide 100% protection from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Choosing a pair of sunglasses that covers a greater area around your eyes will also help prevent wrinkles around your eyes.
Laura C. Fine, MD
Sunglasses are labeled according to guidelines for UV radiation protection established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). There are three categories:
  • Cosmetic. Lightly tinted lenses, good for daily wear. Block 70% of UVB rays (linked to sunburn and skin cancer), 20% of UVA (responsible for skin tanning and aging), and 60% of visible light.
  • General purpose. Medium to dark lenses, fine for most outdoor recreation. Block 95% of UVB, 60% of UVA, and 60% to 90% of visible light. Most sunglasses fall into this category.
  • Special purpose. Extremely dark lenses with UV blockers, recommended for places with very bright conditions such as beaches and ski slopes. Block 99% of UVB, 60% of UVA, and 97% of visible light.
Just because a lens appears darker doesn't mean its ability to block out UV radiation is any greater than a lighter lens. Look for the ANSI label; even inexpensive sunglasses can be effective.

There is some evidence that blue light from the sun may contribute to the development of age-related macular degeneration. Lenses with a red, amber, or orange tint may provide better protection against this light. You may find less distortion, however, with gray or green lenses.

If you aren't sure what kind of sunglasses to buy or think you may be at high risk for eye disease, consult an eye care professional.

Continue Learning about Eye Care

Which Eye Exams Do You Need?
Which Eye Exams Do You Need?
Regular vision checkups are key, since many eye diseases have no symptoms. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults over 40 should be ex...
Read More
What kinds of eye drops should I avoid for my dry eyes?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
If you have dry eyes you should avoid artificial tears that contain preservatives and drops that cle...
More Answers
What is a prescription eye insert for artificial tears?
Donna Hill Howes, RNDonna Hill Howes, RN
A prescription eyelid insert is a tiny rod that is placed under the eyelid. It dissolves at body tem...
More Answers
How Does Personalized Medicine Play Into Ophthalmology?
How Does Personalized Medicine Play Into Ophthalmology?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.