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Cheap Sunglasses: Dangers & Do They Work?

If summer is approaching or you are out on a sunny day, you may be tempted to stop by your local retail store and pick up a pair of cheap sunglasses.

While cheap does not mean ineffective, there are some important things to look out for when purchasing a new pair of sunglasses — primarily whether they offer UV protection. Cheap sunglasses that offer protection for your eyes can cost around $10 to $20. 

But many pairs of cheap sunglasses don’t offer adequate UV protection. This means your eyes may be exposed to harmful rays and damaged while you think you are protecting them. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Cheap Sunglasses

The most important thing to consider before buying any sort of sunglasses, whether they are cheap or expensive, is the level of UV protection they offer.

The primary reason to purchase and wear a pair of sunglasses when it is sunny outside is to protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays from the sun. When you consistently expose your eyes to ultraviolet rays, you have the chance to severely damage them.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays can lead to eye cancer or the formation of cataracts. Both of these conditions can cause irreversible damage to your eyesight. Though these conditions are often treatable, it often requires serious surgery.

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Which Brand Has the Best Cheap Sunglasses?

According to The New York Times, one of the best pairs of cheap sunglasses are the J+S Classic Aviators. These sunglasses are about $19 on Amazon, and they have a high rating of 4.4 stars out of 5.

The aviators have very good UV protection. They also come polarized, meaning they reduce glare, which makes it easier to see in bright situations.

Another popular brand for cheap sunglasses is Sungait. Their vintage round sunglasses have very good UV protection, and the lenses are also polarized. These sunglasses are about $16. The overall rating of these sunglasses is 4.7 out of 5 stars.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, Joopin has you covered. Their semi-rimless sunglasses are about $11. These sunglasses have very good UV protection and are polarized. Their overall rating is 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Are Cheap Sunglasses Worth It?

Cheap sunglasses can be worth it in some cases. The single most important aspect you have to consider when purchasing a pair of cheap sunglasses is whether they will protect your eyes from UV rays.

When buying sunglasses, make sure to read the label or do research ahead of time to ensure that the pair you are buying lists UV protection as one of the features of the sunglasses. According to the University of Utah, important phrases to look out for when purchasing sunglasses are protection against both UVA and UVB or protection against UV 400.

If you are able to find a pair of sunglasses that offers protection against ultraviolet rays, and they don’t seem like they will quickly break down due to wear and tear, cheap sunglasses can definitely be worth it.

Dangers of Buying Cheap Sunglasses

Cheap sunglasses may not offer the level of protection that more expensive sunglasses can offer, leading to a higher risk of damage to your eyes in the long run. The main danger associated with cheap sunglasses is that they will not adequately protect you from the sun’s rays, which can lead to serious health concerns for your eyes.

Wearing sunglasses that don’t protect you from ultraviolet rays may actually increase the risk of damage to your eyes. Dark sunglasses can cause your pupils to dilate, causing more light to enter your eyes than if you were wearing no sunglasses at all. This increase in ultraviolet ray exposure can expedite and increase the chances of eye problems and diseases.

Cheap sunglasses may also simply be made out of cheaper and flimsier materials. These sorts of sunglasses may need to be replaced much more often than a pair of sturdy, well-built sunglasses. While this is not a threat to your health, continually buying cheap pairs of sunglasses may result in you spending more overall than if you had purchased one or two high-quality pairs of sunglasses.

Cheap Sunglasses FAQs 

Are cheap sunglasses worth it? 

If you can find a pair of cheap sunglasses that are well built and will protect you from ultraviolet rays, cheap sunglasses can be worth it. The most important thing is to confirm their level of UV protection. You want 100 percent protection.

Are cheap polarized sunglasses really polarized?

It depends on the brand. Make sure to read the label, and do some research on the specific pair of sunglasses you are buying to make sure they are actually polarized and offer UV protection. If you can’t find supporting evidence for the brand, such as online reviews, they may not be legit.

Do you need a prescription to buy sunglasses?

No, you can buy sunglasses without a prescription. However, if you have a prescription for glasses or contact lenses, it may be worth looking into prescription sunglasses. These products can offer you UV protection while also correcting your vision so you can see clearly.

Don’t all sunglasses protect your eyes?

No. Some sunglasses are marketed as cheap and affordable, but they may not offer UV protection. Always read the label before buying sunglasses, as many cheap pairs are only intended for fashion purposes. Some even specify that they should not be worn outside.


  1. Tips to Prevent Vision Loss. (August 2021). Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

  2. How to Protect Your Eyes From UV Damage. (July 2019). Johns Hopkins Medicine.

  3. The Best Cheap Sunglasses. (June 2022). The New York Times.

  4. J+S Premium Military Style Classic Aviator Sunglasses. Amazon

  5. SUNGAIT Vintage Round Sunglasses. Amazon.

  6. Joopin Polarized Semi Rimless Sunglasses. Amazon.

  7. Protective Eyewear. (June 2022). National Eye Institute.

  8. How to Tell if Your Sunglasses Are Really Protecting Your Eyes. (July 2018). University of Utah Health.

  9. How Wearing Sunglasses Actually Impacts Your Eyes, According to Science. (August 2019). TIME.

Last Updated November 1, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.

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