How to Determine If Your Sunglasses Provide UV Protection

By Eyecare NG

Excessive exposure to UV radiation can cause keratitis (corneal inflammation), cataract, skin cancers, growths in the eye (pterygium and pingueculum), retinal burns and macular degeneration. Therefore, it is important to minimize the exposure of your eyes to UV radiation.

The best way to keep your eyes protected from UV radiation particularly when you are outdoors is by wearing sunglasses with 99 – 100% UV protection. Use of face caps, wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen creams also offers some protection for the eyes and surrounding skin.

Wearing sunglasses without UV protection can do more harm than good. However, many people do not know if their sunglasses provide UV protection or not, as one cannot tell by just looking at the glasses.

Learn why wearing sunglasses without UV protection does more harm than good.

Sunglasses often come with labels and under normal circumstances, the extent of UV protection the sunglasses provide are indicated on the label. However, due to counterfeiting and flooding of markets with fake and substandard sunglasses, it is not advisable to rely solely on the label on the sunglasses to determine whether or not they offer UV protection.

Here are ways you can determine if your sunglasses have UV protection:

Get them tested at an eye care centre

Eye care professionals can tell if your glasses have UV protection or not using an equipment known a spectrophotometer or auto lensometers that have UV testing features.

Use a UV flashlight to test them

UV flashlights are similar to the blue lights banks use to detect fake currencies. You can buy one and use it to check whether your sunglasses have UV protection. To check your sunglasses using a UV flashlight, take the following steps:

  1. Go into a dark room with the flashlight, your sunglasses, and a naira note.
  2. Switch on the UV flashlight and shine it on the naira note. You will notice some security features (lines and symbols) that were not visible before. These security features are watermarks hidden in the naira note and they cannot be seen with normal light.
  3. Place the naira note under your sunglasses and shine the UV flashlight again on the note through the glasses. If you still see the security features on the naira note, your sunglasses do not have UV protection; but if the security features are not visible, your sunglasses have UV protection.

Important notes

  • There is no correlation between the colour of sunglasses or the level of tint on them to how well they protect the eyes from UV radiation.
  • The cost of sunglasses is not an indication of the extent of UV protection they offer.
  • To avoid purchasing fake or substandard sunglasses, buy from reputable dealers such as eye clinics and genuine distributors/ retailers of known UV protection eyewear brands.
  • Polarized sunglasses are often confused with UV protection sunglasses. They are however not the same. Polarized glasses reduce glare from the sun thereby making vision clearer while UV protection glasses prevent UV rays from getting into the eyes.  However, many sunglasses that are polarized also provide UV protection.

Related Resources

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