Does Wearing Sunglasses Cause Sunburn?


As we bask in the warm embrace of the sun, a common question bubbles up in our minds: does donning a pair of sunglasses lead to sunburn?

It’s a query that intertwines the simplicity of daily life with the complexity of health science. Wearing sunglasses does not cause sunburn. This might come as a surprise, considering how we often link sun protection to what we wear. 

Sunglasses, those stylish shields for our eyes, are a barrier against the sun’s glaring rays, but what about our skin? This article delves into the intriguing relationship between our beloved sunnies and our skin’s health.

Unraveling the Myth: Sunglasses and Sunburn

Common Misconceptions and Social Media Claims

The idea that sunglasses cause sunburn has spread like wildfire on social media and various online platforms. 

Despite its popularity, this claim lacks a solid foundation in science and has been effectively disproven.

The Science Behind Melanin Production and UV Exposure

Melanin, our skin’s natural defense against sunburn, is influenced by genetics and UV exposure, not significantly by wearing sunglasses. 

While sunglasses might slightly lower melanin production, their protective benefits for the eyes outweigh this minimal effect.

Melanin, Vitamin D, and Sun Exposure

The Relationship Between Melanin Production and Sunlight

  • Melanin’s Protective Role: Melanin, our skin’s natural sunblock, absorbs harmful UVB rays. This is crucial for everyone, but especially for those with darker skin, who have more melanin and need more sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as lighter-skinned individuals.
  • Preventing Skin Damage: Beyond giving our skin its color, melanin is our frontline defense against sunburn and skin damage. It’s like a shield, reducing the risk of skin cancer caused by UV radiation. This protective role is a result of our genes and how much UV light our skin absorbs, as determined by the melanocyte-stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland.

Vitamin D Synthesis and Its Connection to Skin Protection

  • Melanin and Vitamin D Balance: While melanin is a hero in shielding us from UV damage, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It makes vitamin D production less efficient, particularly in people with darker skin. This is because melanin competes with the process that converts sunlight into vitamin D.
  • Sunglasses and Melanin Production: When we wear sunglasses, we slightly reduce the intensity of light reaching our eyes. This can lead to a minimal decrease in melanin production. However, this effect is so small that it doesn’t significantly change our overall risk of sunburn or affect vitamin D synthesis.
  • The Bigger Picture: So, while sunglasses may tweak the melanin production process a little, they’re far from being a direct cause of sunburn or a significant barrier to vitamin D production. Their primary role is to protect our eyes from glare and UV damage, especially during activities like driving or skiing.

The Impact of Sunglasses on Skin Health (Sunburn)

Debunking the Link Between Sunglasses and Reduced Melanin

  • Myth vs. Reality: The idea that sunglasses cut down melanin production and up the risk of sunburn is just a myth. Science shows this isn’t true.
  • What Really Affects Melanin: It’s not about whether you wear sunglasses or not. Melanin production is more about your genes and how much sun your skin gets.
  • Sunglasses and Skin Around the Eyes: While sunglasses do give some shade to the skin around your eyes, they don’t stop your skin from making melanin.

Protective Measures Beyond Sunglasses for Skin Safety from Sunburn

  • Sunscreen is Key: Use sunscreen with strong sun protection on all skin that sees the sun. Remember to put more on after swimming or sweating.
  • Finding Shade: When the sun is at its peak, between 10 AM and 4 PM, try to stay in the shade or use things like umbrellas for extra protection.
  • Dress for Sun Defense: Wear hats, long sleeves, and pants to give your skin an extra layer of defense against UV rays.
  • Timing Your Sun Exposure: Stay indoors when the sun is at its strongest, usually from mid-morning to late afternoon.

Choosing the Right Sunglasses for Optimal Protection

Features to Look for in Effective UV-Blocking Sunglasses

  • 100% UV Protection: The top priority is finding sunglasses that block all UVA and UVB rays.
  • Polarization for Clarity: Polarized lenses are great for reducing glare, convenient for driving or water sports.
  • Lens Color and Vision: The color of the lenses doesn’t impact UV protection, but certain colors can make things look clearer and enhance contrast.
  • Fit Matters: Good sunglasses should fit snugly, covering your eyes and the surrounding area to maximize protection.
  • Material Quality: Look for durable materials like glass, plastic, or polycarbonate with a UV-absorbing coating for long-lasting use.

Misconceptions About Sunglass Lenses and UV Protection

  • Darkness Doesn’t Equal Protection: The darkness of the lenses isn’t a reliable indicator of UV protection.
  • Clear Lenses Can Protect Too: Even clear lenses with a UV coating can shield your eyes just as well as dark lenses.
  • Price Isn’t Everything: Expensive designer sunglasses don’t always offer better UV protection than more affordable options.

Additional Strategies to Prevent Sunburn

Importance of Sunscreen and Protective Clothing

  • Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen: Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 on all skin that’s not covered by clothes. Reapply every two hours, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Cover Up: Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hats for extra protection.
  • Shade is Your Friend: Stay in the shade, especially during the sun’s peak hours from 10 AM to 4 PM.
  • Limit Direct Sun Time: Try to avoid long periods in the sun, particularly between 11 AM and 3 PM when it’s strongest.

Best Practices for Sun Exposure Management

  • Smart Tanning: Remember, tanning is a sign of skin damage. It’s better to enjoy the sun safely than to tan.
  • Special Care for Kids: Children’s skin is more sensitive, so make sure they’re extra protected.
  • Skin Checks: Keep an eye on your skin for any unusual changes or growths and see a doctor if something seems off.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is important, as dehydration can make you more prone to sunburn.

Expert Insights on Sunglasses and Sun Safety

Medical Professionals’ Views on Sunglasses and UV Exposure

  • UV Protection is Key: Doctors stress the importance of wearing sunglasses that block UV rays to protect our eyes.
  • Awareness Gap: A study from Jordan showed that people know UV rays are harmful, but many are unsure if their sunglasses protect against these rays. This leads to fewer people wearing protective eyewear.
  • Need for Education: There’s a big need to teach people more about how UV-protective sunglasses can prevent eye damage from the sun.

Addressing Common Myths with Scientific Evidence

  • Busting Myths: Science shows that fears like sunglasses causing skin cancer are not true. Health experts around the world say sunglasses are important to limit UV damage to the eyes.
  • Price and Culture Influence Choices: The cost of good sunglasses and what people believe about them in different cultures affect whether they wear them.
  • Spreading the Word: It’s important to clear up these misunderstandings and share the real benefits of UV-protective sunglasses for keeping our eyes healthy.


In exploring the intriguing question of whether sunglasses cause sunburn, we’ve delved into various aspects of sun safety and eye protection. 

While sunglasses shield our eyes from harmful UV rays, their effects on skin health, including melanin production and sunburn risk, are small. The key takeaway is that wearing sunglasses does not cause sunburn. 

Instead, they should be included in a comprehensive sun protection strategy that also includes sunscreen, protective clothing, and sensible sun exposure habits. By combining these measures, we can enjoy the sun safely while protecting both our skin and eyes.