Read the label: Tips on buying sunglasses

Feb 14, 2023 by Triton Staff

What to look for when buying sunglasses.

When buying sunglasses, it is important to know what kind of light you need to protect your eyes from and what type of light is not necessarily harmful. Here’s what to look for. 

Don’t settle for less than 100%

Look for sunglasses that block 99 percent or 100 percent of all UV light. Some manufacturer’s labels say “UV absorption up to 400nm”  — it’s the same thing as “100% UV protection” and “100% UVA+UVB protection.”


Polarized lenses are designed to reduce the glare bouncing off reflective surfaces like water, but polarization itself has nothing to do with UV light absorption. Check the label of polarized sunglasses to make sure they provide maximum UV protection.

Wraparound style

Studies have shown that enough UV rays enter around ordinary eyeglass frames to reduce the benefits of protective lenses. Large-framed wraparound sunglasses can protect your eyes from all angles. This is especially important on yachts, where UV rays not only come from the sun above, but are also reflected back from the water and gleaming boat surfaces.

Darker doesn’t mean better protection

The UV filter applied to lenses is actually clear, don’t be fooled into thinking the darker the lens, the safer they are for your eyes. Only sunglasses with 100% UV protection provide the safety you need. Similarly, sunglasses with colored lenses, such as amber or gray, don’t block out more sun. However, a brown or rose-colored lens can provide more contrast. 


Mirror finishes are thin layers of various metallic coatings on an ordinary lens. Although they do reduce the amount of visible light entering your eyes, do not assume they will fully protect you against UV radiation.

Gradient lenses

Gradient lenses are permanently shaded from top to bottom or from top and bottom toward the middle. Single gradient lenses (dark on top and lighter on the bottom) can cut glare from the sky but allow you to see clearly below. This makes them useful for looking at your phone outside or at chart plotters and vessel instruments on the bridge. They’re not as good, however, at reducing glare on deck. 

Conversely, double-gradient lenses (dark on top and bottom and lighter in the middle) are better in situations where light is reflecting off the water or exterior surfaces of the boat, but the instrument panel may appear dim and be difficult to read when on the bridge.

Ground and polished

Some nonprescription glasses are ground and polished to improve the quality of the lenses.   While nonprescription lenses that are not ground and polished will not hurt your eyes, you do want to make sure that the lenses you buy are made properly. Here’s how to judge the quality of nonprescription sunglasses:

Look at something with a rectangular pattern, such as floor tile. Hold the glasses at a comfortable distance and cover one eye. Move the glasses slowly from side to side, then up and down. If the lines stay straight, the lenses are fine. If the lines wiggle, especially in the center of the lens, try another pair.

Impact resistant

All sunglasses sold in the U.S. must meet impact standards set by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety. No lens is truly unbreakable, but plastic lenses are less likely than glass lenses to shatter. Polycarbonate plastic sunglasses are especially tough, but they scratch easily. If you buy polycarbonate lenses, look for ones with scratch-resistant coatings.

Blocks 90 percent of infrared rays

Infrared wavelengths are invisible and produce heat. Sunlight has low levels of infrared rays, and the eye tolerates infrared well. Some sunglass manufacturers make health claims for their products based on infrared protection, but research has not shown a close connection between eye disease and infrared rays.


Whether blue light is harmful to the eye is still controversial. Lenses that block all blue light are usually amber-colored and make your surroundings look yellow or orange. The tint supposedly makes distant objects appear more distinct, especially in snow or haze. For this reason, amber sunglasses are popular among skiers, boaters, and pilots.

Courtesy of The American Academy of Ophthalmology. Learn more at

Here are some great shades for yacht crew.

7eye AirShield

Shatter-resistant lenses and a removable eyecup are designed to protect against wind and dust, providing full protection even in high-velocity activities.



Smith Castaway

Different colored lenses are swappable for specific situations, while the customizable base curve and nose pads let you pick your perfect fit.



Vantage LL H2O Polar

 Polarized lenses filter out unneeded light to reduce eye fatigue, and a repellant coating limits water and dirt smudges. They float, too!


Sea Specs Destroyer

Created with life on the water in mind. An integrated strap system secures them to your head, and the grey lens tint enhances depth perception and visibility.




The scratch-resistant, distortion-free, 7-layer lens blocks 99.7% of reflections off water, providing a better view of what is happening on and beneath the water.



Hook Optics

“ThermoForce” technology battles sunny days by stopping up to five times more infrared light than standard polarized lenses. Also glare-free and shatter-resistant.

Check out why protection against the sun is so important here!