The Critical Need for UV Protection in Sunglasses

Sunglasses help you see in bright sun, but perhaps their most important role is protecting your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation — specifically, the UVA and UVB radiation that can cause the most damage to your eyes. UVA is nearly always present, and too much of it can damage your eyesight. But it’s UVB radiation that inflicts the most harm. It’s present even on cloudy, overcast days, although it’s strongest during peak summer months. While UVA can impact your eyesight, UVB is the stuff that messes with your DNA, which makes it responsible for most UV-related cancers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sports with Heightened Risk of UV Radiation

Any activity performed in bright sunlight brings exposure to UV rays, even sitting in the backyard enjoying the sun’s warmth. But snow, water, and beach sports increase exposure to those damaging rays due to the glare and reflected light that bounces off these surfaces straight into your eyes at a more direct — and dangerous —  angle than the overhead sun. Snow blindness, in particular,  is caused by the reflected UV light effectively sunburning your eyes. Fortunately, the symptoms are temporary, but over time, repeated exposure can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration.

Even indoor sports lighted by intense floodlights, such as those used in stadiums and arenas, produce UV radiation. In some cases, professional athletes will wear UV protection lens filters on their helmets or goggles to not only protect their eyes from impacts but also to protect their eyes from radiation.

UV Myth #1 - The Darker the Lens, the Better the UV Protection
There is no correlation between lens color and UV protection. Clear, everyday glasses can have 100% UV protection, while dark, mirrored sunglasses can have none.

How UV Protection Filters Work

In general, lens manufacturers apply a thin, transparent, and clear UV coating to the lens. The coating both absorbs and reflects UV light. All Rudy Project lenses, from prescription photochromic ImpactX® lenses to HDR polarized lenses and everything in between, block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Even everyday clear lenses can — and should — come with UV protection for the lens. Fortunately, the UV coating doesn’t wear off or degrade over time, although deep scratches can damage the filter and allow UV rays to reach your eyes.

It’s worth noting that the effectiveness of your UV coating is only as good as the lens shape of your sunglasses. One-piece wrap-around lenses work best (think of Skermo goggles or Kelion sunglasses) since they block reflected light from sneaking into your eyes from the sides and bottoms of the lenses. In short, the bigger the lens, the better.

UV Myth #2 - Polarized Lenses Equal UV Protection
Not true. Polarized lenses cut glare and reflected light but don’t block UV rays.

Who Should Wear UV Protection on Their Sunglasses?

Everyone. However, people with lighter-colored eyes (blue or green) are more susceptible to UV light damage. Also, those who live between the Tropics and close to the Equator will face more UV radiation than those living in northern climates. In fact, Puerto Rico and Hawaii are the most intense spots for UV radiation in the United States. Those living at high altitudes are also at heightened risk as they’re closer to the sun than those at sea level.

So whether you’re an Ironman triathlete, a casual water skier, or someone who simply enjoys being outdoors whenever possible, protecting your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays is essential for optimal vision and long-term eye health. Regardless of your sport or lifestyle, Rudy Project has sunglasses that provide the superior protection you need.