17 Different Types of Sunglasses

There are a huge number of sunglass choices out there. Find the best choice for your health, face shape, intended use, and budget by exploring this article.

A close look at various pairs of sunglasses on a colorful surface.

Sunglasses are very important for protecting our eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Wearing them can also make it easier to see when the light is bright, assist with sports and activities, and elevate your sense of style. A great pair of sunglasses can turn heads and complete any outfit.

Whether you need prescription sunglasses from your eye doctor or can pick up a pair from a rack at the department store, there are many options. Read on to discover all the types of sunglasses. Have an idea in mind for what you’re looking for before you head out or search online to buy a pair.

Most sunglass features pertain to both men and women. Find the perfect pair for you by choosing the best lens and frame type to fit your needs. There are a huge number of options out there.

Related: Glasses vs Contact Lenses (I wear both) | 16 Types of Eyeglasses

Types of Sunglasses by Lens

The right lens for you will come down to a variety of factors. Some of the most important things to consider are the protection the lenses provide if they suit the activities you hope to do while wearing them, and how your eyes feel when wearing them. Of course, your style is another consideration to keep in mind.

Polarized Lens

This is a close look at how a pair of polarized sunglasses affects the sight and filtering of light.

Polarized lenses will reduce glare from the surfaces of water, glass, and snow. By reducing glare, the true color of objects can be seen. These lenses are great for fishermen, driving, and certain sports. Polarized sunglasses offer many other benefits in addition to reducing glare and seeing true colors. These include reducing eye strain and improving visual clarity and comfort. Polarized lenses can be found in a variety of colors, with darker colors providing for more polarization.

Lenses that offer UV protection

A close look at a man wearing a pair of sunglasses that protects his eyes from UV rays.

It’s important to choose sunglass lenses that offer UV protection. This is the best way to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays. When shopping, choose lenses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses that are labeled as UV 400 provide adequate protection from the sun’s ultraviolet light rays.

Glass Lenses

Three pairs of sunglasses with glass lenses.

Glass was the go-to material for hundreds of years for lenses. They are being edged out by plastic products, but are still relevant. Glass lenses are very difficult to scratch. It’s also considered to be extremely optically clear. Some disadvantages are that glass is heavy and the weight can be uncomfortable. These lenses can also shatter or crack and offers little protection to harmful UV rays if not coated.

Polycarbonate Lenses

A close look at a pair of ski glass with polycarbonate lenses.

Developed in the 1950s, polycarbonate became a popular option for lenses in the 1980s. Since this time, this material has become the norm for sports goggles, safety glasses, and children’s eyewear. This material will not shatter and is 10 times stronger than ordinary plastic or glass. Polycarbonate is also lightweight and can block 100 percent of harmful UV rays without the need for a coating.

Plastic Lens

This is a close look at a pair of white sunglasses with plastic lenses.

Standard plastic lenses need a coating to reduce the impact of the sun’s harmful rays. However, they are cheaper and offer more clarity than polycarbonate lenses. Plastic lenses respond well to the tinting used to make glasses into sunglasses.

Photochromic Lenses

This is a close look at a pair of riding sunglasses with Photochromic Lenses.

Photochromic lenses are made to be clear indoors and automatically darken when in bright outdoor conditions. They can be worn like normal glasses and serve as sunglasses when outdoors.

Colored Lens

This is a close look at a bunch of various sunglasses with colored lenses.

Common colors for sunglass lenses are brown, black, gray, green, orange, yellow, amber, and red. Some people may view colors as a fashion choice, but there are actually benefits to choosing certain colors. For some, certain colors may feel more in sync with your vision. If looking for a neutral lens that doesn’t distort colors, opt for gray, brown, or green.

These colors also decrease glare and eyestrain. Yellow, orange, and amber lenses may distort color and increase contrast. Red or rose-tinted glasses also increase contrast but strongly distort colors.

Mirrored Lens

A pair of mirrored sunglasses on a wooden bench at the beach.

Mirrored lenses can be very stylish and also help to reflect light away from your eyes more than regular tinted lenses. These lenses can be found for men or women with a prescription or in regular lenses in a variety of styles. A few other benefits include providing anonymity, glare protection, and durability. Mirrored sunglasses can also offer a brighter field of vision since they reflect light instead of absorbing it.

Gradient Lenses

A pair of fashionable sunglasses with gradient lenses.

Gradient lenses include a top part of the lens that is darker than the bottom part. These lenses allow you to look sophisticated and glamorous while wearing them. They can also be helpful for driving because the top part of the lens blocks out the harsh sun while the bottom allows you to see the dashboard. While they protect your eyes outdoors, it’s also easier to transition inside when you can still see out of the bottom.

Tinted Lens

A pair of fashionable sunglasses with tinted lenses on the beach sand.

If sunglasses are not polarized, they are likely tinted. A pigmented dye is used to tint the lens. The darker the tint, the better the UV protection. As described above, tinted lenses can come in a variety of colors, which also provide different benefits to the person wearing them. The most common colors are gray or brown lenses.

Reading Sunglasses

A pair of brown reading sunglasses with a book and a hat outdoors.

If you love to read while outside, you can get basic reading glasses that are tinted or polarized. This can save you from switching back and forth between several pairs of glasses.

Types of Sunglasses by Frame Shape

There are seemingly endless options when it comes to the frame shape. Most of these can be fitted with whichever type of lens you prefer. Sometimes, a person’s face shape will dictate what type of lens will look best. Other times it all comes down to personal preference and style.

Here is a look at the Aviator Frame, Clubmaster, Cat Eye Sunglasses, Wayfarer, Round Sunglasses, Butterfly, Square Sunglasses, Sport Sunglasses, Oval Sunglasses, and Oversize Sunglasses

This is an illustration of the various frames for sunglasses with labels.

Other shapes include:

Browline Sunglasses

A pair of black browline sunglasses with gold accents.

Heart Sunglasses

This is a close look at a pair of red heart-shaped sunglasses.

Clip-On Sunglasses

A pair of clip-on black sunglasses on a pair of reading glasses.

Rimless Sunglasses

A pair of rimless sunglasses with colored lenses.

Types of Sunglasses by Frame Material

Sunglass frames are usually made from either plastic or metal. Within each of these categories, there are many different variations. There are pros and cons to each material.

Plastic Frame

A close look at a pair of sunglasses with colored lenses and plastic frames.

Usually, the least expensive, plastic frames are easily found. The most common plastic material used is called zylonite. This type of plastic is similar to Celluloid and was first made in 1869. The next most common plastic used for sunglasses is polycarbonate. This material offers more impact resistance and is usually used for sport or safety glasses.

Metal Frame

A close look at a pair of sunglasses with metal frames and tinted lenses.

Metal frames tend to last longer. Most are made with a high-strength, lightweight composite metal material. Common materials used alone or in combination include aluminum, nickel, and stainless steel. Titanium is a premium material, as it is resistant to corrosion, very strong, and hypoallergenic.

How to Choose a Frame Style by Face Shape

This is a colorful chart depicting the different sunglasses for every face shape.

Face shape plays an important role in what type of frames look best on your face. You can take these ideas with a grain of salt, or run with the ideas. You need to choose what you like, what you think looks good, and what gives you confidence. However, it can’t hurt to try on these suggested frame styles next time you are searching for the perfect pair of sunglasses.

Round Face

Those with a round face should try:

  • wayfarer frame
  • cat eye frame
  • square frame

Square Face

Anyone with a square face will look great in:

  • round frame
  • aviator frame
  • heart frames

Oval Shaped Face

People with an oval face should try on:

  • wayfarer frame
  • aviator frame
  • oversized frame
  • browline frames

Heart-Shaped Face

Those with a heart-shaped face should start with:

  • wayfarer frame
  • cat eye frame
  • sport frame
  • browline frame

Long Face

A long face should look great in:

  • round frame
  • square frame
  • aviator frame
  • thick-framed sunglasses

Triangular Face

Anyone with a triangular face should first try:

  • round frame
  • rectangular frame
  • clubmaster frame

Where Should I Buy Men’s and Women’s Sunglasses?

If you need a cheap pair of sunglasses, you can find them nearly anywhere. Stop into your local department store or even find them at gas stations and grocery stores. Just keep in mind that these sunglasses will equate to a disposable pair of sunglasses. They will break easily and will not be of the highest quality. The amount of protection they provide may also be minimal.

If you are in the market for a good pair of sunglasses that will protect your eyes and last for a long time, there are a few places to consider. The first place is your eye doctor. This is an especially good place to start if you need prescription sunglasses.

Other places you can consider stopping into in person are a Sunglass Hut location, Costco, or upscale department store. If you are looking into sunglasses for fishing or other sport, stop into your local sporting goods store or fly shop.

The most common place to purchase high-quality sunglasses is now online. There are endless possibilities out there when shopping online and you can even get prescription sunglasses at a great price. Many sites allow you to have a free trial with the sunglasses to make it easy to find the perfect pair from home.

Some sites also allow you to upload a picture of yourself and “try on” glasses to make sure you find a pair that you like. A few great sites to explore are Warby Parker, Madewell, Zenni, DIFF, 39dollarglasses, Nasty Gal, Steven Alan Optical, Express, Amazon, ModCloth, Maui Jim, and Francesca’s.

What are Some of the Best Sunglass Brands?

If you are serious about making the commitment to obtain a great pair of quality sunglasses, keep some of the best brands in mind. Here is a list of brands that you should consider:

  • Gucci
  • Prada
  • Versace
  • Burberry
  • Christian Dior
  • Ray-Ban
  • DKNY
  • Dolce & Gabbana
  • Valentino
  • Maui Jim

Why is it Important to Wear Sunglasses?

Sunglasses are not just a fashion statement, they are very important for comfort and to maintain the health of your eyes. It’s uncomfortable when walking outside and dealing with brightness and glare. Wearing sunglasses makes it easier to see outdoors and also allows the eyes to be more comfortable and adjust better when heading indoors.

For your health, it’s very important to keep ultraviolet light from getting into your eyes and to keep it away from your lids and skin around your eyes. Sunglasses will protect the eyes from sunburns and can help slow down cataracts and macular degeneration. The area of the face around the eyes is also extremely prone to skin cancer. Wearing sunglasses will also protect these areas from the sun.

What is the History of Sunglasses?

People have been looking for ways to block the bright sun from their eyes since prehistoric times. Prehistoric Inuits would use walrus ivory with small slits cut in them to block the rays of the sun. Emperors and noblemen would place polished gemstones in front of their eyes to reduce glare.

People got creative before eyeglasses were invented. The first pair of corrective eyeglasses came about in Italy between 1268 and 1300. These were just two magnifying glasses that were connected and balanced on the bridge of the nose. Over time, corrective glasses evolved as more advancements were made.

Sunglasses first became widely popular in the 1930s. This is partly because, in 1929, scientists invented the filter to polarize sunlight. They also became popular because movie stars were seen wearing them. Aviator sunglasses became all the rage during WWII, as pilots needed sunglasses to see better. Soon after, advancements in plastics made a huge range of frame options available. Eyeglasses became a feminine fashion statement and we have never looked back.

FAQs

What type of sunglasses should I wear?

The most important thing is to look for are sunglasses that offer adequate protection for your eyes. Next, think about what you will be using them for to choose the best lenses. Also, consider what would look best with your face shape and style to choose the frames.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of polarized sunglasses? 

Your visual comfort may be enhanced by wearing polarized lenses. They also provide excellent vision clarity and contrast and reduce the negative impact of harmful UVA/UVB rays. If you need to see under the surface of the water, polarized lenses make it easier to do so and these lenses also work well in the shade and during the winter.

The lenses can also be found in a variety of colors, allowing for additional color and style benefits. The disadvantages of polarized lenses are that they make it harder to see LCD screens, they can alter your perception of the world, they can cause you to see window grids, and they cost more than standard sunglasses.

What type of sunglasses looks good on round faces?

The best frames for people with round faces are wayfarer, cat eye, and square frames.

What are the good sunglasses brands?

Some of the best sunglass brands include Gucci, Prada, Versace, Burberry, Christian Dior, Ray-Ban, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Maui Jim, and Oliver Peoples.

What types of sunglasses are best for your eyes?

Lenses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays are best for your eyes. Sunglasses that are labeled as UV 400 provide adequate protection from the sun’s ultraviolet light rays.

What color sunglasses should I get? 

Sunglasses can be found in many colors, including gray, black, brown, orange, yellow, green, red, and amber. The choice for you may come down to your fashion choice, but there are benefits to choosing certain colors. The first consideration is which feels best for your vision. Try on a few different colored lenses and see which one feels most natural for your vision.

Some colors, such as red, rose amber, yellow, and orange increase contrast, but distort colors. If seeling things in their natural colors is important to you, choose a neutral lens such as gray, brown, or green.

What’s trending in men’s sunglasses? 

Everyone is crossing their fingers and hoping for an amazing summer in 2021. You might as well get ready for it now and start shopping for a pair of sunglasses that will match current trends. As of now, it’s looking like metal sunglasses in gold and silver will be all the rage.

Others making their way onto the scene are round vintage sunglasses,  D-frame sunglasses, oversized aviators, heavy browline sunglasses, and square wayfarer sunglasses are also on the scene. Do a little mix and match with which styles best fit your face shape and combine that with your preferred lenses to create the perfect pair for summer 2021.

What’s trending in women’s sunglasses? 

Trends for 2021 are already making their way on the scene for women’s sunglasses. Just as with men, one of the big trends this year is gold frames. Even when wearing thin rims, gold stands out and can pair nicely with gold jewelry. Another trend is looking to a frame that is structured and geometric.

Look for rectangular or square lenses depending on your face shape. Transparent frames are also in this year, offering a playfulness to sunglasses, and oversized cat eyeglasses are bringing back the retro look. A final trend of the season is wacky futuristic frames. Let your style shine through and turn heads with an eye-catching and eccentric sunglass choice.

References:

Revant: Polycarbonate Vs. Glass Lenses

Our Everyday Life: The Difference Between Polycarbonate and Plastic Lenses

wikiHow: 3 Ways to Choose the Right Sunglass Lens Color

Tabulae Eyewear: Benefits of Mirrored Sunglasses

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