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UV Protection Glasses vs. Blue Light Glasses: Which Should You Choose?

Nowadays, we’re all about multifunctionality — we have microwaves that are also air fryers, tablets that turn into laptops, and refrigerators that send text messages. When time is short, being able to do two things at once can help us ensure that all our bases are covered.

When you think about it, it makes sense that glasses would do more than help you see. Maybe that’s how they started, but these days, eyewear does so much more. Glasses can help you see through glare, protect your eyes from UV and blue light rays, and show off your sparkling personality.

When it comes to choosing eyewear, which should you look for — UV protection or blue light protection?

Here’s a hint: you might not have to choose at all. Read on for a full breakdown on UV and blue light, as well as a discussion on which is more important.

What Is UV Light?

The sun emits two main types of UV light: UVA and UVB. UVB rays are responsible for surface damage like sunburns and dark spots, while UVA rays have a longer wavelength that allows them to go deeper into the skin, causing damage that might not be immediately visible. For instance, UVA rays contribute to wrinkles and issues with skin tone.

Damage from UV light comes in the form of free radical damage. You might have heard a lot of confusing information about free radicals, but the truth is that they’re a little simpler than they may seem.

Free radicals are atoms or molecules that lack an electron, which causes them to be unstable. To regain stability, these molecules steal an electron from another nearby molecule.

However, this doesn’t exactly fix the issue — instead, it just creates another free radical. This chain reaction goes on and on, spreading damage like wildfire. Ultimately, free radical damage (oxidative stress) can cause DNA damage, long-term health concerns, and serious health issues.

How Does UV Light Affect the Eyes?

When you hear the term “UV light,” you probably think about how it affects the skin—things like sunburns, wrinkles, and freckles. However, thanks to the chain reactions of free radical damage, UV light can affect pretty much every part of your body. Here are a few ways that UV light can affect the eyes.

Changes in Vision

We all love to have a little fun in the sun, but spending too much time exposed to UV rays can cause your vision to change over time. This could come in the form of the following:

  • Growths: The eye's surface absorbs about 99 percent of UV radiation and can form growths on the surface of your eye, like pingueculas and pterygiums. These can cause your vision to look blurry or blocked in some places.
  • Cataracts: These are cloudy patches around the eye’s lens, and are caused in part by UV exposure. They can cause vision to appear cloudy and blurry.
  • Macular Degeneration: The macula is part of the retina, which takes in light. If it’s exposed to too much UV radiation, the macula can break down, causing blurry vision in the center of your visual field.
  • Corneal Damage: Seeing reflected light, such as light coming off of waves or snow, can damage the cornea. This can cause blurred vision and eye pain.

Some of these conditions are irreversible, while others can be fixed with medical procedures.

Wrinkles Around the Eyes

You might not have any fine lines or wrinkles anywhere else, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to developing a wrinkle or two around your eyes. Crow’s feet are usually some of the first wrinkles that show up, and they can even show up in your 20s and 30s.

These wrinkles are due in part to our repetitive facial expressions. When you think about how often we squint or smile, it makes sense that this area would develop wrinkles first.

However, UV damage is another reason this skin is so susceptible to early aging. UV rays can cause DNA damage and damage a cell’s ability to produce collagen. Collagen is the protein that gives the skin its structure — without it, the skin might look like it’s sagging.

UV radiation doesn’t just lower collagen production — it can also cause collagen to build up strangely in the skin, causing the appearance of wrinkles. The overall effect can make your eyes look tired and aged.

What Is Blue Light?

Blue light awareness has gained momentum recently, especially as we’ve learned more about its effects on our health.

Essentially, blue light is a certain wavelength of light on the visible light spectrum. This means that we’re exposed to blue light every day — in fact, about one third of all the light we see is blue light.

Most of this light comes from screens, and we are exposed to them constantly. We’re exposed to blue light from our computers, TVs, phones, and even some e-readers. Today, blue light is even showing up in the most unlikely of places, like smart refrigerators and car dashboards.

Blue light is also natural — scientists agree that the sun is the world's biggest source of blue light. Without this light, we wouldn’t be able to see anything. However, as our moms always said, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

How Does Blue Light Affect the Eyes?

Blue light from the sun can help you stay alert and support your brain. In its natural form, blue light is a key part of our circadian rhythm. If we’re exposed to enough of the sun’s blue light during the day (and early morning and late evening sunlight), our bodies know when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to be awake.

However, blue light from screens isn’t perfectly balanced in a rhythm that meets our needs. When we’re exposed to too many screens, especially at nighttime, it can keep us from feeling sleepy and ultimately contribute to sleep problems.

That’s just one way blue light can affect our health. Here are a few more ways blue light can affect the eyes.

Increases Vision Problems

Our eyes are naturally made to filter light and turn it into images — that’s how vision works. However, our eyes aren’t made to absorb the excessive blue light we’re exposed to nowadays.

Almost all of the blue light we’re exposed to passes through the front of our eyes to our retinas. Over time, this constant overexposure can lead to macular degeneration, cataracts, and growths on the eye.

Causes Eye Strain

Have you ever felt pain or dryness in your eyes, possibly combined with blurry vision? If this feeling passes after a bit, then it could be eye strain.

We’ve all strained our eyes occasionally, and getting too much exposure to blue light can contribute to eye strain. This is also combined with the eye strain that tends to come when we focus on something without blinking, since people tend not to blink as much while looking at a screen.

UV Protection Glasses vs. Blue Light Glasses

So, now that we know the ins and outs of UV light and blue light, which one should you protect your eyes against? As you can see, both types of radiation can affect your eyes.

If you protect your eyes against just one type of radiation, you could still be leaving yourself open to damage from the other. If you want to give your eyes the best chance at good health, you should find a pair of glasses that protects you against both — especially if you look at screens for your job or entertainment.

How To Choose Protective Eyewear

When choosing a pair of glasses, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, what’s your face shape? Finding your face shape can help you pick a pair of glasses that fits your features and looks natural when you wear them. For example, The Finley is a rectangular frame that looks stylish on anyone with a round or oval face shape.

Of course, you should go with a pair of glasses that makes you happy. As long as you love your pair of specs, you’ll look radiant no matter what.

Next, make sure the lenses provide UV protection. Many glasses do, but it’s always a good idea to double-check. At Pair Eyewear, all of our frames have UV protection.

Then, you’ll want to add a blue light coating to your lenses. This is usually an extra step with added costs, but believe us — it’s so worth it.

Next, if you’re shopping with Pair Eyewear, you’ll want to pick some sweet top frames to round out your look. With our interchangeable magnetic frame covers, you can adjust your look to fit any style or outfit choice. It’s the next step in customization!

The Bottom Line

UV light isn’t just a concern for your skin — it can also wreak havoc on your eyes. When it comes down to whether you should opt for UV protection or blue light protection for your eyes, the answer is simple: Choose both.

At Pair Eyewear, it’s easy to add on a blue light coating to any of our basic frames. You can also add lens customization options like polarization and reflective coatings, if you’re purchasing a pair of sunnies. This way, you can maximize your everyday eye protection.

To learn more about eye health, visit the Pair Eyewear blog today.


Protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV light | National Eye Institute

How blue light affects your eyes, sleep, and health | UC Davis

Why You Should Care About Free Radicals | Cleveland Clinic

Eye Strain: How to Prevent Tired Eyes | American Academy of Ophthalmology