Picking the right pair of sunglasses

Posted on July 6, 2018 by Brynna Gabrielson

Woman wearing sunglasses

Summer is upon us - the days are longer and the sun is shining more, meaning you're probably spending a lot more time wearing sunglasses or wishing you had some while uncomfortably squinting through your day.

Picking out a pair of sunglasses can be a consuming task for some. Choosing the right style and shape for your face can be tricky work.  But style aside, there are other things that one should consider when selecting the right pair- they are, after all, not a fashion accessory (well not JUST a fashion accessory) but are there to protect your eyes from the damaging UV rays of the sun. Below we take a look at a few things you ought to consider when picking out your next pair of sunglasses.

UV protection

All sunglasses sold within the UK (and EU) should have a CE marked on them - typically on one of the arms. This indicates that it complies with EU standards and will block out 95% of all UV rays below 380 nanometres (the scale on which light is measured)1. Some glasses will also come with a UV 400 sticker. This means that all UV rays beneath 400 will be blocked.  It's worth noting that while all sunglasses carrying these marks should protect your eyes from UV rays, occasionally some sunglasses won't live up to their protection promise as demonstrated in this article.

HY sunglasses 2Lens colour

You may be surprised to learn that lens colour has no impact whatsoever on UV protection.  In fact, it's quite the opposite. UV protection can be provided in the form of a clear coating on any lens, no matter the hue, and darker lenses cause pupils to dilate, which makes eyes more vulnerable to UV rays2. So if you're keen on a pair of darker shades, make sure they come with adequate UV protection. Otherwise you could be doing more harm than good.

That doesn't mean that lens colour isn't important.  A darker lens will filter out bright light, helping you to see in certain conditions. Different tints can also sharpen contrast and heighten your vision, which can be good when playing sport etc.  Lens colour is generally rated from 0-4, 0 being clear, 4 being the darkest.


In addition to making sure your glasses have adequate UV protection and a helpful lens tint, you may also want to consider purchasing glasses with polarised lenses. Polarised lenses are great for reducing glare of light reflected off of surfaces such as water, snow, the road, or even the bonnet of your car. Opting for polarised lenses will help you see better and reduce eye strain.


When selecting a pair of sunglasses, keep in mind the shape of the frames. If the glasses sit too far from your face, they'll let UV rays in on the sides. Wraparound sunglasses and sunglasses that sit comfortably close to your face will provide the best protection. You should also consider how much of your face your sunglasses cover. The skin on your upper and lower eyelids is delicate and should be protected at all times. One of the most common locations for skin cancer to appear is the eyelid4.

Things to remember

  • You should wear sunglasses year round. UV rays can still damage your eyes in the winter or when it's cloudy out
  • If you're driving you shouldn't wear sunglasses with a lens filter category of 4 as you won't be able to see the road properly
  • To best protect against skin cancer, always wear sunscreen around your eyelids as well as sunglasses
  • Babies and children should be wearing sunglasses whenever outdoors as well

Don't forget, if you have a Simplyhealth Plan you can claim back against the cost of prescription sunglasses!

1 www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2374185/Are-cheap-sunglasses-safe-We-asked-eye-expert-analyse-cut-price-shades.html
2 goaskalice.columbia.edu/are-darker-sunglasses-worse-your-eyes
3 www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/for-your-eyes/the-eyelids-highly-susceptible-to-skin-cancer

Originally published June 2015 and updated July 2018