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Summer’s here, which means you desperately need to cover up your eyes with something — preferably sunglasses — to keep them safe from the sun’s bright rays. After talking to two optometrists and the vice president of membership at The Vision Council, we found that polarization — which guards your eyes against glare — was equally as important in sunglasses as UV protection — which protects your eyes against health problems like cataracts and photokeratitis (basically an eye sunburn). Combined, polarization and UV protection offer a superior visual experience to block out glare, especially if you’re near the water.
The Vision Council’s Consumer inSights Q1 2022 report found that Americans are more likely to look for non-prescription sunglasses online (versus prescription sunglasses), and of that group, 53 percent were buying multiple pairs. Their Focused inSights 2022 report also found that 74% of respondents said they were more likely to wear sunglasses after finding out that the sunglasses protected their eye health. 61% of respondents in that same report said they were more likely to wear sunglasses if they had known that larger sunglasses offered better UV light protection, too.
To help shoppers seeking both style and real protection from the sun, we spoke with experts about what to look for when buying sunglasses and highlighted those that fit the bill — and came in at a reasonable price, with a good amount of positive reviews from customers.
Great polarized sunglasses in 2022
To help as you shop for a pair of polarized sunglasses to take you through the summer, we’ve rounded up a handful of sunglasses that match the guidance our experts gave us. We chose sunglasses across four different style categories — round, square, cat-eye and aviator — all with polarization and UV protection, as well as great reviews.
Sunski’s Dipsea sunglasses are polarized, with 100% UVA, UVB and UV400 protection. While UVA and UVB rays both come from the sun, UVA rays have the longest wavelengths — meaning they’re most likely to cause your eyes problems — and UVB rays are generally absorbed by the ozone layer. UV400 goes a step further to protect against all UV light, an expert told us. Rounded lenses can sometimes sacrifice coverage, but these should cover both of your eyes fully: the width of the sunglasses’ temples is 139mm (or more than 5 inches) and the lens’ width is 49mm (or around 2 inches). The Dipsea are an especially fun choice because they come in so many different colors and patterns, too: from a white frame with blue lenses to a tortoise coloring with amber lenses to a translucent champagne with brown lenses, among other options. (There are eight color combinations total). They also come with a lifetime warranty, in case something happens to them during one of your adventures. The Sunski Dipsea have a 4.5-star average rating from more than 1,200 customer reviews.
I’m a longtime fan of Kent Wang, a small company that has consistently made high-quality sunglasses in my years of experience. Their Keyhole sunglasses are a great pair of round glasses: they’re polarized, of course, with 100% UV400 protection and a keyhole-shaped gap on the bridge of the nose (that’s where it gets its name from). The standard sunglasses have a 145mm-long (or nearly 6-inch) temple and each lens’ width is 50mm (or around 2 inches). The Keyhole sunglasses are unique because they’re made from blocks of cellulose acetate instead of plastic, according to Kent Wang, which gives the sunglasses greater “flexibility, durability and depth of color.” The Keyholes come in four colors as of this writing — tortoiseshell, light tortoiseshell, black and clear — and they have a two-year warranty.
Blenders was founded under the idea that the sunglasses market needed more mid-priced eyewear options that follow trends, according to the brand. These Canyon Black Tundra sunglasses are a classic squared shape, with 100% UV protected, polarized lenses. If that’s the look you usually go for, these sunglasses will also hide your eyes from the sun with their large shape — they’re 143mm long across the temples (or nearly 6 inches) and each lens is 55mm (or around 2.2 inches) wide. They come in 12 colors, from black on black to white frames with blue lenses. Blenders include a handy microfiber pouch with each pair of sunglasses you buy, as well as a sticker pack for those among us who are feeling playful. Though they don’t offer a warranty, the sunglasses have a 45-day return policy. The Blenders Black Tundra have a 4.9-star average rating from more than 3,800 customer reviews.
I know, I know — justice for red-haired people. These polarized and UV400-protected sunglasses, named because they’re black (like a “Ginger’s Soul”), have a square shape similar to the Blenders Black Tundra sunglasses. The difference between the two lies primarily in the branding. Goodr’s A Ginger’s Soul sunglasses have “Goodr” written on the arms of their sunglasses, so if you’re not a fan of sunglasses that show that off, you’d be better suited for the Blenders. They’re also a little smaller width-wise than the Blenders, measuring at around 139mm (or 5.4 inches), and each lens is around 53mm (or 2.1 inches) wide. Though the Ginger’s Soul sunglasses only come in black on black, Goodr offers a wide range of colors in this same style — 35 total — and they come with a one-year warranty.They have a 4.5-star average rating across more than 2700 customer reviews.
The Sunski Camina Black Slate sunglasses are cat-eye styled, which means they’re oversized and the top edges pull outwards, an old Hollywood look adored by many. Like the other Sunski frames mentioned in this guide, the Caminas are 139mm (or more than 5 inches) wide along the top. They’re also 53mm (or 2.1 inches) wide per lens. The Camina glasses come in four color variations — Black Fade, Blush Terra Fade, Tortoise Amber and Cola Amber — which is not a ton of variety, but at least gives you some personal choice. Sunski’s sunglasses come with a lifetime warranty and have a 4.3-star average rating from more than 150 customer reviews.
These Deja View sunglasses from Knockaround have a square shape, with the pointed top edges that all cat-eye sunglasses share. They’re polarized, offer UV400 sun protection, and they’re 144mm (or 5.6 inches) wide and each lens is 56mm (or 2.2 inches) wide, a little bigger than the Sunski. Knockaround has 15 different styles of the Deja Views, from the green frames and lenses we’ve highlighted here to a matte black on black coloring (if you’re looking for something more reserved). Though they don’t have a warranty, the Knockarounds can be returned for 30 days after you receive them. The Deja Views come with a 4.9-star average rating from nearly 300 customer reviews.
Goodr’s Mach G aviator sunglasses, like the others highlighted here, are polarized and UV400-protected sunglasses, made with no-slip grip coating, according to the brand. Like Goodr’s other sunglasses, they also have the brand’s name printed on their arms. They’re about 145mm wide, or 5.7 inches wide, and each lens is about 58mm wide, or 2.3 inches. Though the Blackout frames here only come in black, the Mach G sunglasses come in eight other colors, from tortoise to red frames with bright, multi-color lenses. They come with a one-year warranty and have a 4.4-star average rating across nearly 600 customer reviews.
These aviator-style sunglasses from L.L.Bean are polarized and they’re 100% UV A, B and C-protected. (While UVA wavelengths are the longest and most important to protect your eyes from, with UVB rays coming in a distant second, UVC are short and probably won’t bother you. Still, I appreciate L.L.Bean’s promise here.) They look classic — think “Top Gun”— so if you love vintage, or you’re old at heart, they might be a good pick. L.L.Bean’s sunglasses come in three sizes — small, medium and large — which means there’s a lot of variety depending on your face shape and size. Their frame widths start at 135mm wide, or 5.3 inches, and go up to 146mm, or 5.7 inches. And their lens widths start at 52mm, or 2 inches, and go up to 59mm, or 2.3 inches. They only come in two colors, a “shiny silver” and a “shiny gold.” They come with L.L.Bean’s one year warranty and you can return them after that if they’re defective in any way. The Classic Aviators come with a 3.9-star average rating from 20 customer reviews.
How (and why) to shop for polarized sunglasses
When you start looking online for your next pair of sunglasses, these are criteria you should take into account, according to experts.
Firstly, we should discuss the difference between UV protection and polarization. UV protection guards against light entering the eye and causing health problems like cataracts, sunburns and in the worst cases, eye cancers. Polarized sunglasses help you see better and reduce glare, which can be especially bad near bodies of water. Not all polarized lenses are UV protected, and not all UV protected lenses are necessarily polarized. It’s important to look for both in your search.
Look for polarization. While everyone agreed that polarized lenses are especially great when you’re near a body of water, Sheena Taff, optician and spokesperson for The Vision Council, said that even if you’re in a city environment, polarized lenses will offer a superior visual experience.
Polarization is important because polarized lenses block out glare, therefore increasing contrast sensitivity, Michael Vitale, the Vice President of Membership and Technical Affairs at The Vision Council, told me.
Taff said that polarized lenses work to reduce reflective light as well as direct light. “They provide clear, sharp vision, which enhances color and contrast,” she said. She and Amy Steinway — who is an optometrist, an assistant chief of primary care at University Eye Center and an assistant clinical professor at SUNY College of Optometry — both mentioned that polarized lenses are especially great for water sports. “Polarized lenses reduce the glare on the horizontal meridian,” Taff said, “which means the wearer can actually see through the surface of the water — and even see fish — which would be invisible to someone wearing tinted sunglasses.”
UV protection is equally important. Experts told me that UV protection blocks any light that bounces off the back surface of the lens and into the wearer’s eyes. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, “UVA rays have the longest wavelengths, followed by UVB, and UVC rays which have the shortest wavelengths.” While UVC and some UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, UVA rays are not. 100% UVA and UVB protection is a good place to start, opticians recommended.
To make this easier, you can also look for sunglasses marked as “UV400.” UV400 means that the sunglasses will block all UV light, according to Steinway.
Your lens size and style are up to you. However, Steinway told me that the larger the lens, the better. Taff said the same. “Keep in mind that sunglasses only offer as much protection as the physical coverage of your eyes.” Without adequate coverage, you can’t achieve proper UV protection, Taff told me.
In terms of style, Taff said that she noticed sunglasses are purchased quite differently than eyeglasses because the experience is “overwhelmingly self-guided by the consumer, who can be very influenced by styles they see on celebrities and friends.” Sunglasses — because you can pop them on and off your face at will — give the wearer more freedom to try more fashion forward and trendy styles, she explained.
You shouldn’t have to spend all that much. Steinway told me that prices can vary extremely, which is true. But as long as your sunglasses are labeled with the proper information above, it should be acceptable. After looking for polarized, UV-protected lenses, I set our highest priced pair of sunglasses at $60, which seems more than enough to spend. Some sunglasses cost hundreds of dollars — there’s no need to spend that much money unless you’re looking for a pair of designer sunglasses. And according to The Vision Council’s research team, their Focused inSights 2020 Report on Consumer Choices told them that 19 percent of shoppers list “price” as their reasoning to buy a certain pair of lenses — followed by looks and style.
Although it’s not a necessity, a long warranty is a nice perk. Since these sunglasses are pretty reasonably priced, it’s less important that they come with years and years of protection. But I made sure to highlight those sunglasses that had years-long warranties or otherwise came with lifetime warranties. This is helpful if you’re a little clumsy, too.