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Wearing sunglasses in winter

Wearing sunglasses in winter is a must-do kind of thing. Protecting your eyes from the harsh winter light is just as important as wearing sunglasses in the summer. Except for the temperature - the reason is the same. The ultraviolet (UV) rays are harmful to your eyes so wearing UV rated sunglasses year-round makes sense.

Polarized sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses in winter have to be polarized. Why? Because they are specially coated to shield and protect your eyes from penetrating harmful ultraviolet rays. Very important as your eyes are very sensitive to light. Good quality, branded sunglasses have specific UV labels on them when you buy them from proper store retailers or specialist optical stores. They certainly range in price so it all comes down to how much you are willing to spend on a good pair of sunglasses.

Beware of cheap imitation sunglasses being sold elsewhere such as from a sunday market for example as they may end up damaging your eyes instead by not having the UV protection in them as claimed. The imitation sunglasses may turn out to be more expensive to your eye health than if you had bought a genuine pair of high-quality sunglasses in the first place.

Sunglass style

There are two basic kind of sunglasses, these are regular and wrap-around style. Both come in a multitude of different shapes, sizes and tints.


  • The wrap-around kind is best in winter (and summer too) as it adds a little more protection at the corners of your eyes to guard against bright, piercing winter light with the extended lens and frame. On cold, sunny days, you'll be glad of this closer-fitting feature around your eyes as it will help reduce the strong penetrating daylight.

Regular style:

  • The regular sunglass style just has the straight lenses that you look through with no extended frame as with the wrap-around style. The light will be very strong and bright that sort of seeps in at the sides and around the base of the lens. It might make you squint; it does me so I always wear the wrap-around style. Without the extended frame to protect your eyes, if there are strong winds, you may end up with teary eyes too with this basic sunglass style.

Lens tint type

The difference between wearing sunglasses in winter and wearing sunglasses in summer is the type of tint you need for either low light or really bright sunny days.

Tints range from:

  • Light yellow (best for low-light conditions)
  • Orange (best for partly cloudy and sunny conditions)
  • Amber, rose, red (as above but colours will be distorted)
  • Dark amber to copper to brown (gives good contrast outdoors in more sunny conditions)
  • Green (give good contrast and colours are mostly accurate)
  • Grey (best for any outdoor sports and colours are accurate)

Some tints are better suited to everyday use in winter while others are better suited for engaging in particular outdoor sports.

Contrast and brightness

Let's start at the end. Bottom line is when wearing sunglasses in winter here's what you need: good contrast, brightness and colours.

Sunglasses worn in winter may have a lighter tint because of the more frequently cloudy and dull conditions. However, on really bright, sunny, winter days with that dazzling white snow, you may need darker tinted sunglasses too to reduce the overall brightness.

Keep in mind that with a darker lens, you may not see everything in sharp relief that a lighter lens tint will give you. Mirrored sunglasses will reflect the snow back but I've found that except for skiing, these types of glasses are harder to wear as the contrast between the dark tint and the bright light almost stabs your eyes with the sharpness of the contrast when you take them off outside. Even if you have the wrap-around style of sunglasses, the winter light will still penetrate very sharply.

For a sharper outline of things in winter sunlight, light amber or yellow-tinted sunglasses is one of the best as it has good contrast. This tint lets more light reach the eye in a good way. For everyday use, this would be a good choice for your winter sunglasses.

Now in partly cloudy conditions, you might select a slightly darker or pink-tinted sunglasses that give good contrast. Some sunglass tint will distort the actual colour of the object or scenery that you would normally see without wearing sunglasses. For sports like skiing or skating, light tint for late in the day when the light starts to fade is good and for bright mid-day sun, darker lenses are best.

Buying sunglasses for winter

Wherever you buy sunglasses, make sure the UVB and UVA tag is still attached or any other information to indicate the coatings and what level the sunglasses are rated to. Naturally, the best rating for sunglasses is to block the harmful Ultraviolet rays 100 percent.

If this information is missing or the rating is less than 100%, don't buy them as they are not safe to use. For children, getting them good sunglasses is especially important as they spend more time outside than the average adult. Getting them to wear the sunglasses is another matter altogether!

Buying sunglasses with polycarbonate lenses is the best choice for buying sunglasses. They are light to wear and are resistant to shattering although I have found the lenses may scratch easily but that might be me not being careful enough.

When you are buying them, look outdoors if you can to really test them for their outdoor suitability. To determine what tint is best for you, look at a lens tint guide that most optical stores have to be sure. Best thing is try a different range of tints to see what works best for you. Keep in mind the purpose you are buying them for as well e.g. everyday use, sports, or for driving.

If you want to go with an all-round type tint for wearing sunglasses in winter, then grey would be a good choice as it provides some contrast, reduces brightness substantially and colours appear as they normally are.

Spare pairs

It's quite likely you'll end up with several pairs of sunglasses depending on what best suits your daytime activities. It's also quite likely you'll have to replace them too because you've lost them, dropped them, scratched the lenses or the protective coating has worn off.

Winter eye hazards

Even on dull winter days, you can still be exposed to harsh ultraviolet light so wearing sunglasses in winter is important for your winter eye health.

By not wearing sunglasses, it may damage your eyes later from continued and prolonged exposure so it's important to have them close at hand whenever you are outside.

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