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What are reading sunglasses, and what types are available?

woman wearing reading sunglasses at the beach while reading a book

Reading sunglasses are designed to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and improve your near vision with just one pair of glasses. They come in many brands and styles and with plenty of lens types, like polarized and blue light-filtering lenses and progressive or bifocal options.

Reading sunglasses are great for certain outdoor activities, such as gardening and enjoying a good book at the beach. Many people find this dual-purpose eyewear much more convenient than switching between reading glasses and sunglasses. 

Types of reading sunglasses

Reading sunglasses are available with all the same types of specialty lenses as standard sunglasses, including blue-light filtering and polarized lenses. Plus, you can choose from progressive, fully magnified or bifocal lenses to ensure clear vision and UV protection for different activities.

You can find many different brands and styles when you visit your optician, as well as at your local drugstores and department stores and online. Reading sunglasses come in all of the most popular frame shapes — from aviator to cat eye to traditional square — and most are nearly indistinguishable from standard sunglasses. 

No matter where you shop, you should have plenty of options in men’s, women’s and universal styles. 

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Polarized reading sunglasses

Polarized lenses are specially designed to reduce the glare from sunlight bouncing off of flat surfaces. That makes polarized reading sunglasses the perfect choice for enjoying a book at the pool or beach. They will sharpen your near vision, eliminate glare from the pages, and even minimize eye strain caused by squinting.

While polarized lenses are a popular choice for drivers, it’s important to note that you should never wear your reading glasses, whether they are sunglasses or not, while driving unless they have bifocal or progressive lenses. 

Progressive reading sunglasses

Like most sunglasses, progressive sunglasses can also protect the eyes from harmful UV rays. Progressive sunglasses feature line-free multifocal lenses that provide clear vision for near, intermediate and far distances.

The seamless-progression design of these lenses means you can read small print, work at the computer and even drive without ever needing to switch the glasses you are wearing. Progressive sunglasses go even further to allow you to see clearly and comfortably while enjoying most of your favorite outdoor activities.

Maybe best of all, progressive sunglasses look just like single-vision prescription sunglasses. The seamless lenses don’t have “lines” like bifocals and trifocals that some people find disrupting to vision. 

Progressive lenses do require a prescription, so you’ll need to see your eye doctor before you can get a pair. Also, due to the precision necessary in the location of these lenses’ power gradients, they aren’t available in standard fashion frames.

SEE RELATED: Can reading glasses ever help see distance?

Full-lens reading sunglasses 

Full-lens readers and reading sunglasses have lenses with a consistent amount of magnification from top to bottom. Many of the non-prescription reading sunglasses you can pick up at the drugstore fit into this category. 

Like progressive-lens glasses, they don’t have any lines to disrupt your field of vision. However, they only provide clear vision for close-up tasks, so you’ll need to remove them for other activities. 

Full-lens reading sunglasses are a great option for people who have trouble seeing up close but don’t need vision correction for other distances. They can protect your eyes from the sun and glare while you work or relax outdoors, and then you can put them safely away until you need them again. 

Bifocal reading sunglasses

Bifocal reading sunglasses offer the same comfort and protection from the sun as regular sunglasses, and their design provides clear near and distance vision without having to take them off. They are another great option if you only need near-vision correction.

The magnified sections at the bottom of the lenses sharpen vision for close-up needs, while the unmagnified top sections don’t affect vision at all. If you’re out gardening or working on the car and need to take a quick break, you can keep your sunglasses on and see normally through the top portion.

SEE RELATED: Bifocal sunglasses

Stick-on reading lenses for sunglasses

Stick-on reading lenses might be a good option for you if you already have a pair of non-prescription sunglasses that you love. They are easy to apply and remove, and they fit into the inside of sunglasses lenses so they’re not visible from the outside.

You’ll want to make sure you purchase stick-on reading lenses with the magnification power you need. Once you have your lenses, all you have to do is trim them a little to fit the shape of your glasses and follow the simple instructions for applying them.

Popular brands of reading sunglasses

Ray-Ban reading sunglasses

These iconic sunglasses provide 100% UV protection and high-definition vision from every angle due to Ray-Ban’s digital surface technology. Their online store offers a great assortment of lens options and frame styles, including limited editions. 

Whatever type of reading sunglasses you are looking for, you should be able to find them with Ray-Ban — just be sure to have your prescription handy to order. You can even create customized Ray-ban reading sunglasses with their Custom Lab if you want truly unique eyewear.

Foster Grant reading sunglasses

The Foster Grant SunReaders come in a great assortment of classic and bold frame styles and patterns. Whether you want full-lens magnification or a segmented lens, all SunReaders will provide protection from 100% of UVA–UVB light. If you’re shopping on their website, you can also select the specific magnification power you need, from +1.00 to +3.50.

While you’re exploring Foster Grant’s reading sunglasses, be sure to keep an eye out for the Sofia Vergara x Foster Grant special collection. Vergara has designed four elegantly stylish pairs of SunReaders. Her goal is to improve your vision and style without the exclusive price tag.

Oakley reading sunglasses

The ever-popular Oakleys combine leading lens technology with perfectly balanced three-point frames. Oakley reading sunglasses are available in most of the same streamlined-yet-rugged styles as their standard glasses and, depending on where you shop, with single-vision, progressive and bifocal lenses. 

You can also rest assured that all Oakley sunglasses will filter 100% of UV rays and blue light up to 400 nm — as long as you buy them from an authorized retailer. Oakley’s reading sunglasses are only available with a prescription if you order through their online store, but you can find some non-prescription options with other retailers ranging from about +1.25 to +3.00 magnification.

Peepers reading sunglasses

Peepers are unique on our list because the brand specializes in stylish and effective readers. All Peepers reading sunglasses feature UV400 sun protection, seven layers of anti-glare coating and scratch-resistance

You can choose your favorite pair from among five fashionable frame shapes and eight different colors in both men’s and women’s styles. And each pair can be customized as full-lens or bifocal in magnification ranges from +1.00 to +3.00.

SEE RELATED: Sunglasses: a guide to lenses, frames and facial fit

What to consider when you buy reading sunglasses

While it’s definitely important that your reading sunglasses are comfortable and look great on you, your biggest priority should be selecting the correct magnification power. Even if you don’t need a reading glasses prescription, it’s a good idea to see your eye doctor to find out which power of lens you should buy.

Most non-prescription reading sunglasses you can find in stores range from a near vision (NV) strength of +0.25 to +6.00. If you end up choosing a magnification power that is just a bit too weak or a little too strong, it could lead to eye strain and headaches down the road, even if the lenses seem to allow you to see perfectly.

Once we reach the age of 40, virtually all of us will begin to notice the tell-tale signs of presbyopia — the age-related loss of near vision. Most of us can get along perfectly well for a long time with a few great pairs of non-prescription readers. If you start to feel like none of the drugstore reading sunglasses are quite cutting it anymore, it’s probably time to head back to your eye doctor for a prescription. 

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