Look for UV protection, fit, impact resistance


The ideal pair of sunglasses will vary among individuals. Fair-eyed people, for example, often prefer darker lenses. Our list of must-haves include UV protection, polarization, impact-resistant lenses, and good fit.

ideal lens tint

UV Protection: All sunglasses should block a minimum of 99 percent of UVB and 95 percent of UVA radiation. PS recommends 100-percent protection.

Fit: Glasses should be secure on your face and allow perfect peripheral vision. Look for wraps/shields or frames with large eye coverage for maximum protection from sun and wind.

Lens Material

  • The best lens material often depends on how the glasses are to be used (or abused).
  • Polycarbonate lenses: very high impact resistance, can be thin and light, good optics.
  • CR-39: good optics, comfortable and lightweight, common for prescription.
  • Glass: Clear, crisp vision but can be heavy, very scratch-resistant.
  • Propionate/acetate: thin and light lenses, not for prescription.
  • NXT: polyurethane, very impact resistant, good optics.
  • Trivex: impact resistant, good optics, not available in polarized.
  • SR-91: impact resistant, good optics.

Lens Treatments/ Tints

Tints and treatments help define the lens purpose. A glare-reducing polarizing filter is a must.

Photochromic: Good UV protection, adjusts tint to varied light conditions.

Scratch-resistant/hydrophobic: minimizes abrasions (front and back) and can help repel water.

Mirror flash treatment: Reflects light, conceals eyes.

Copper or brown tint: Helps improve contrast and bottom definition.

Rose or amber tint: Lenses that block only 70 percent of visible light are good general-purpose lenses for early morning/late afternoon/early evening.

Grey tint: Good general purpose tint that is good for mid-day use and maintains natural colors.

Care and cleaning

A hardcover case is key to protecting your investment. A soft microfiber bag is convenient way to protect lenses.

Never use paper towels, tissue products, or your clothes to clean your eyewear. To avoid scratching your lenses, use a specialized eyewear cleaning cloth that is soft and lint free.

Dont leave your glasses in the sun or on the dashboard of your car. Excessive heat and cold can cause them to warp over time.

Sources: Vision Council (www.thevisioncouncil.org), Dr. Karl Citek at Pacific University College of Optometry.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at darrellnicholson.com.


  1. Okay, have you spent time in salt water with sunglasses before? Because the most important thing is not mentioned in your article—the most important thing is whether the coating in the lens is dissolved by the salt water. Some aren’t; LOTS are. I’ve had otherwise great sunglasses ruined by a single day on the salt water, so that’s by far the most important factor in choosing glasses for the ocean

  2. To the editor,
    Thanks for your article on sunglasses.
    As a harbor pilot and sailor the most important criterion I use for selection of sunglasses is lens polarization. Light “waves” are polarized horizontally when they strike the surface of the water. The shallower the angle the more light is polarized as in early morning and early evening. Polarized lenses aligned vertically block a large part of the reflected light without making the lenses much darker.
    It seems to me polarization should be an essential component for boating sunglasses.
    Simon Zorovich