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How To Test If Sunglasses Have UV Protection - Ultimate Guide

Just because you’re wearing sunglasses doesn’t mean you’re protected against UV radiation. Regardless how expensive or how cheap yours are, you shouldn’t judge their efficiency by how they look or how much they cost you.

Some models may simply feature dark lenses, with no UV protection or polarization. Others may only have polarization, but no UV. And there are even sunglasses with UV protection layered on the lens rather than embedded in it.

Long story short, you want a product with 100% protection against all the ultraviolet rays. Whether labeled as “UV 400” or “UVA and UVB”, it has to be printed on their label. And it must come with the 100% symbol next to it.


How can you tell if your sunglasses really have UV protection?

There are two simple ways to get the answer to this important question. One involves entering the closest optical shop and asking an optician to run a test. It’s super-fast, it’s free, and it’s accurate. The photometer available in such shops will tell you without any doubt if your lenses have UV protection or not.

The alternative can be tried at home, with one condition – you should have a UV flashlight. If you have one sitting around the house, grab the paper money out of your wallet and do this test. Shine the flashlight on the money and you’ll see the UV fluorescent fibers on it starting to glow. Then, put your sunglasses on, and see if you can still notice that glow, through the lenses.

As you can imagine, if your sunglasses have UV protection, they should block the glow of the UV-fluorescent fibers. If they don’t, or not as much as you’d hoped, they either don’t have UV protection at all, or they don’t have the level of protection you want. The latter applies to older sunglasses with coated UV protection and scratches on the lenses.


Three common misconceptions about sunglasses with UV protection

Before we end this quick guide, we really need to add a few essential details. If you’re that interested in making sure you have quality sunglasses with full UV protection, you will most certainly want to be aware of the following aspects:

  1. Just because you have dark lenses doesn’t mean you’re protected from UV;
  2. Just because you have polarized lenses doesn’t mean you’re also having UV protection;
  3. Just because you have a pair of sunglasses with UV protection doesn’t mean you’re completely protected.


Here’s what we mean:

Dark lenses may keep the light and some of the brightness away. But if they don’t have polarized lenses with UV protection, you’re risking a lot more than you’re gaining! Behind a dark lens, the eye will relax and expand the pupil.

With a larger pupil, more light will enter the eye. And if the lens has neither polarization nor UV protection, you’re exposing yourself to even more UV rays. The risks? All sorts of visual issues can derive from here. Some are more treatable, like cataracts, while others are harder to deal with, like macular degeneration or the rare ocular melanoma.

Moving on to the polarization aspect, these days many sunglasses feature both UV protection and polarization. But that’s not necessarily the norm, and you should always check the label to see exactly what you’re getting from it.

As for the third misconception, note that even when your sunglasses have UV protection, their design matters a lot. The highest UV protection comes from the wrap-around models. Those ones will protect your eyes even from the UV rays that may be heading to your eyes from the sides of the frame.

Long story short, you can easily test if your sunglasses have UV protection. If they don’t, you’d better find better ones. Know that good sunglasses don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, but they must offer you UV protection, without exception.