Why Do Sunglasses Make My Eyes Hurt? 5 Common Mistakes People Make

Reviewed by:
Samuel Wallace

A sun-kissed beach, a long drive on an especially sunny day, and an outdoor picnic are all perfect occasions to wear your stylish sunglasses.

But what happens when, instead of shielding your eyes, they start causing discomfort? It’s like sipping on a cold drink and getting a brain freeze.

Some of the most common reasons sunglasses may hurt your eyes are if the lenses are too dark or light, are cheap and do not protect against UV rays, or do not account for extreme glare. It’s akin to using an umbrella with holes during a downpour.

Interestingly, the darkness of lenses can also be a factor when deciding whether to wear sunglasses at night.

5 Common Mistakes When Choosing Sunglasses

Selecting the perfect pair of sunglasses isn’t just about style; it’s a crucial decision impacting eye health and comfort.

However, common mistakes, from choosing the wrong lens shade to skimping on UV protection, can turn this protective gear into a source of discomfort. Let’s delve into these pitfalls.

1. Lenses that are too dark or too light (Selecting the right lens shade)

  • Mismatched Shades: Just like wearing a heavy coat on a warm day, sunglasses that are too dark for the environment can be overkill. On the flip side, light lenses on a bright day can be like wearing a t-shirt in a snowstorm.
  • Guiding Principle: Match your sunglasses to the light intensity. For instance, on a day with minimal glare, opt for light or medium shades. Reserve those ultra-dark lenses for days with intense light reflection, like beach days.

2. Inadequate UV protection

  • The Hidden Danger: While sunglasses might shield your eyes from brightness, without UV protection, they’re like a fence with holes. Your eyes become vulnerable to harmful UV rays, increasing risks like cataracts. This is why premium brands like Costa emphasize UV protection in their sunglasses.
  • The Deception of Cheapness: Bargain sunglasses might save your wallet but can betray your eyes. They might lack proper UV protection, and the dark tint can trick your pupils into letting in more harmful rays.

3. Importance of Frame Style and Fit

  • Comfort is Key: A frame that pinches your nose or squeezes your temples is like wearing shoes two sizes too small. It’s not just about style; it’s about comfort and protection.
  • Wraparound Wonders: Wraparound sunglasses are like all-terrain vehicles for your eyes. They offer comprehensive protection, shielding your eyes from light coming from all directions.

4. The Impact of Glare and How to Counteract It

  • The Glare Snare: Glare is like a pesky fly that won’t leave you alone. It intensifies eye fatigue, especially if you’re driving or near reflective surfaces like water.
  • Polarized Protectors: Polarized lenses act like a seasoned security guard, filtering out the unruly glare and letting in only the good light. They’re especially handy for those who spend a lot of time outdoors.

5. Cheap Sunglasses

  • The Price of Frugality: While saving a few bucks might be tempting, cheap sunglasses can be a costly mistake for your eyes. They might not offer the UV protection your eyes crave. That’s why you should consider buying brands like Costa, Mau Jim or Cazal, as their sunglasses offer UV protection without any discomfort.
  • Long-Term Costs: Investing in quality sunglasses is like buying a durable umbrella. It might cost more upfront, but it saves you from future troubles and expenses.

Personal Experiences: Sunglasses and Discomfort

Navigating the world of sunglasses can be a personal journey filled with both style and comfort challenges. While they shield our eyes, individual experiences with them can vary, leading to unexpected discomforts.

1. Depth Perception and Polarized Lenses

  • The Polarization Paradox: Polarized lenses, while celebrated for reducing glare, have sparked discussions about their impact on depth perception. As if two chefs were debating how to cook pasta, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
  • 3D Cinema Connection: Interestingly, the magic behind the 3D movies we enjoy lies in polarization. Those snazzy 3D glasses use polarized filters, each oriented differently, to serve unique images to each eye, mimicking the natural depth our eyes perceive in the real world.

2. The Distance Between Lenses and Eyes

  • The Proximity Puzzle: The distance between your sunglasses’ lenses and your eyes can make a huge difference between comfort and headaches. It’s akin to the difference between shoes that fit just right and those that constantly rub against your heel.
  • Protection vs. Proximity: While sunglasses sitting too close can be a nuisance, those that are too distant might slack off in shielding your eyes from harmful UV rays. It’s a delicate balance to strike.

3. Individual Variations in Sunglass Tolerance

  • The Sunglass Spectrum: Just as some people can’t stand spicy food while others relish it, sunglass tolerance varies widely. Some might find certain lenses or frames irksome, while others wear them with ease.
  • Trial and Comfort: The journey to find the perfect pair of sunglasses is personal. It’s essential to explore various options, much like sampling dishes at a buffet, to discover what suits you best. And if discomfort persists, a chat with an eye specialist might be the next step.

Seeking Solutions and Expert Advice

When sunglasses cause discomfort, turning to expert insights and embracing upcoming innovations can transform our experience, ensuring both style and eye health harmoniously coexist.

1. Consultation with Optometrists and Ophthalmologists

  • The Expert Touch: When sunglasses become a source of discomfort, turning to eye specialists can be a game-changer. For instance, after procedures like Lasik, it’s crucial to consult with an optometrist on the right type of sunglasses to wear. Much like seeking a mechanic for car troubles, optometrists and ophthalmologists can diagnose and address the root causes of your eyewear woes.
  • Tailored Recommendations: Beyond diagnosing issues, these experts can guide you to the ideal sunglasses, ensuring they not only fit well but also serve your unique needs.
  • The Power of Regular Check-ups: Just as we routinely service our vehicles, regular eye exams play a pivotal role in maintaining optimal eye health and warding off strain.

2. Adjusting to New Lenses: Personal Experiences

  • The Adjustment Phase: Slipping into a new pair of shoes might cause initial discomfort, and similarly, new sunglass lenses can require a settling-in period. Initial discomfort or even headaches might crop up.
  • Ease into Comfort: Start by wearing the new lenses for short durations, gradually increasing the time. It’s like dipping your toes in the water before diving in.
  • Persistent Issues?: If the discomfort lingers, it’s a sign to revisit the eye specialist. It’s always better to address concerns sooner rather than later.


Are there specific materials in sunglasses that can cause eye discomfort?

Yes, certain materials, especially in cheap sunglasses, might not be hypoallergenic and can cause allergic reactions or discomfort to sensitive individuals.

Can the color or tint of the sunglasses contribute to eye discomfort?

Absolutely. While the color or tint doesn’t directly cause discomfort, an inappropriate tint for the environment can strain the eyes, leading to discomfort.

How do I know if my sunglasses offer adequate UV protection?

Check for labels on the sunglasses that specify UV protection levels. Ideally, they should block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

Can prescription sunglasses cause discomfort to the eyes?

If the prescription is not accurate or outdated, it can lead to eye strain and discomfort. It’s essential to update prescriptions regularly.

Is it possible to develop an intolerance to a pair of sunglasses over time?

Yes, changes in your vision or eye health can lead to discomfort with a previously comfortable pair. Regular eye check-ups can help address such issues.

Can the weight of the sunglasses cause discomfort?

Heavier frames can put pressure on the nose and temples, leading to discomfort. It’s advisable to choose lightweight frames for prolonged use.

Are there any coatings on sunglasses that can help reduce discomfort?

Yes, anti-reflective coatings and certain polarized lenses can reduce glare and enhance comfort.

How often should I replace my sunglasses to ensure maximum comfort and protection?

While there’s no fixed timeline, it’s good to replace sunglasses when they show signs of wear or scratches or when the UV protection deteriorates.

Can children also experience discomfort from sunglasses?

Yes, children’s eyes are even more sensitive. It’s crucial to ensure their sunglasses are of high quality, offer UV protection, and fit well.

Do Your Sunglasses Make Your Eyes Hurt?

While sunglasses are often seen as the epitome of style and protection against the sun’s glaring rays, their interaction with our eyes is a nuanced affair. Factors ranging from lens shade, UV protection, and frame fit, to individual tolerance play pivotal roles in our experience. 

The crux of the matter is that discomfort arises from a combination of ill-fitting frames, inappropriate lens shades, and inadequate UV protection. Investing time in understanding our unique needs, consulting with eye specialists, and staying updated with innovations can make all the difference. 

In essence, while sunglasses aim to shield, it’s crucial to choose wisely to ensure they don’t inadvertently harm or discomfort our eyes.