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Do cheap sunglasses protect your eyes as well as the expensive brands?

piggy bank wearing sunglasses on the beach

What exactly are you paying for when you purchase name-brand sunglasses? Is it additional protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation? Do prescription sunglasses provide more UV protection than non-prescription pairs? Do cheap sunglasses offer any UV protection at all?

Let’s explore the answers to these frequently asked questions:

Do all sunglasses have UV protection?

The glaring truth is that not all sunglasses offer the same level of protection from the sun. Namely, cheaper sunglasses brands can offer a lower level of UV protection.

However, the price tag isn’t necessarily a red flag for improper UV protection. For example, some clip-on sunglasses brands are under $20 but offer UV 400, the maximum level of protection.

That being said, cheap sunglasses usually do offer some kind of UV protection — it’s just a matter of how much.

How do I know if my sunglasses provide UV protection?

If you already have sunglasses and aren’t sure what level of UV protection they provide, take them to your local optical shop and ask to have them tested in a photometer. The test should take less than a minute and shouldn’t cost much, if anything.

If you’re shopping for new sunglasses online, it’s usually easy to tell if a certain pair offers UV protection because it will say as much in the product description. More than likely, the description will offer the level of UV protection, where UV 400 is the highest level — it’s the equivalent of blocking 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

If you walk into a store that specifically sells sunglasses like Ray-Ban or Oakley, then you should be able to ask an attendant about the UV protection for any pair.

However, knowing the UV protection for a pair of sunglasses can sometimes be a little tricky. If you’re purchasing sunglasses from a gas station, drugstore or another location that doesn’t specialize in selling sunglasses, then that information may not be readily apparent.

You should be able to tell if sunglasses are UV protected by inspecting stickers on the lenses. If they don’t tout “100% UV protection,” then consider purchasing another pair.

Do cheap sunglasses protect your eyes?

Cheap sunglasses can certainly protect your eyes from the glaring rays of the sun, but only to a certain extent. Some inexpensive sunglasses offer exceptional UV protection for your eyes while others don’t offer nearly enough.

In short: High-quality, low-cost sunglasses are out there — you just have to know what to shop for.

SEE RELATED: Are Cheap Sunglasses Bad for Your Eyes?

What are the best sunglasses to protect your eyes?

When shopping for sunglasses, look for:

  • Maximum UV protection (listed as UV 400, 100% protection against UVA and UVB rays, or something similar)

  • Glare protection (polarization)

  • Well-fitting, comfortable frames

  • Visibility through the lenses (if the tint is too dark, you may have trouble seeing through them)

  • Scratch-resistant coating

While some of these qualities aren’t directly responsible for protecting your eyes, they all work to make your sunglasses more effective.

How to protect your eyes from UV damage

Wearing sunglasses with the proper amount of UV protection is a great first step in shielding your eyes from sun damage.

In addition to wearing sunglasses, you can protect your eyes from the sun by wearing brimmed hats outside, utilizing your car visor while you’re driving and staying in the shade.

If you’re planning to play outdoor sports or expecting to be in an area that doesn’t offer shade, you can also wear discreet foundation or concealer around your eyes to reflect the light. (Surprise! Sun damage doesn’t care about gender norms!)

READY TO SEARCH FOR NEW SHADES? Find an optical store near you or shop online.

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