What to Know About Gradient Sunglasses

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on August 25, 2022
5 min read

Most people use sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun’s glare and other harmful effects. Gradient sunglasses have two tones to their lens — a darker tone on top that fades to a lighter tone on the bottom. They're practical in that they protect you from the sun’s glare while allowing you to focus on other areas that may be too dark to see with nongradient sunglasses. 

Gradient sunglasses are two-tone sunglasses, which makes them ideal for wearing both indoors and outdoors. A metal oxide is added to the lens material to create the difference in tones. The top portion of the lens has a darker tint, while the bottom has a lighter tint or no tint at all. The sunglasses are named for this gradient transition in tones.

While regular sunglasses have a standard lens tint that consists of just one shade, gradient sunglasses have a gradient lens tint that moves from a dark to a light shade. Both types of sunglasses can help prevent the sun’s glare from hurting your eyes. Standard tint shades will provide more coverage if you’re only using them in sunny environments. Gradient lenses are more helpful if you wear your glasses both inside and outside, where there are lighting differences.

Gradient sunglasses have different tones to limit the intensity of the sun’s rays while giving you the option to look through a lighter part of the lens. They're helpful when driving, where you need to look outside while still being able to read your dashboard. The difference in lighting between outside and inside your car can make it hard to see darker areas when wearing sunglasses with only one shade.

There are two types of gradient sunglasses:

  • Single gradient lenses. Single gradient lenses have a darker shade on the top and a lighter shade on the bottom. They limit the sun’s glare from overhead in the sky while allowing you to look through the lighter part on the bottom. The lighter shade makes it easier to see things like your car’s dashboard or pages in your book when reading outside. 
  • Double gradient lenses. Double gradient lenses have a darker shade on the top and bottom of the lens, with the middle part being lighter. They limit the sun’s glare from the sky above and the sun’s reflection off the ground, especially if there is asphalt or snow on the ground.

Gradient sunglasses usually don’t block ultraviolet (UV) rays. If you’re looking for UV protection, look for lenses with UV treatment that are labeled as absorbing UV light. 

Both gradient sunglasses and polarized sunglasses reduce light glare and eyestrain. They protect your eyes from sunlight and help you feel more comfortable in sunny situations. You may choose one over the other depending on your needs, lifestyle, and preferences. 

Gradient sunglasses

Gradient sunglasses have gradient tint lenses that change from a darker to a lighter shade. They reduce the intensity of sunlight on your eyes but generally do not block UV rays. Because gradient sunglasses don’t usually block UV rays, you do not have any UV protection benefits when wearing gradient sunglasses outside. This is something to consider since long-term exposure to UV rays can harm your eyes by increasing the risk of cataracts or cancers around the eye. 

Gradient sunglasses may be a better choice if you need some glare protection when doing outdoor activities, like reading or playing sports. They may also help when you look at liquid crystal display (LCD) screens like a car dashboard, ATM, cell phone, or watch. You may prefer gradient sunglasses in specific circumstances when glare or more light is an advantage, like looking for icy patches when driving or skiing. 

Polarized sunglasses

Polarized, or anti-glare, sunglasses have a chemical applied to them to filter light and allow only certain light waves in. The glare you feel is light waves bouncing off objects’ uneven surfaces at varying angles. Polarized sunglasses help reduce glare by blocking horizontal light waves and only allowing vertical light waves to pass through the lenses. Polarization doesn’t necessarily mean the sunglasses absorb UV light, but many polarized sunglasses now come with a UV-blocking substance. 

Polarized sunglasses may work better when you need consistent protection from the sun’s glare and UV rays. This may include fishing, boating, golfing, or doing activities in more snowy environments. 

Whether you prefer gradient or polarized sunglasses, make sure they provide UV protection for your eyes. Gradient lenses can have a UV treatment that gives you 100% UV blocking benefits. Most polarized sunglasses already have this UV treatment, but check the label to make sure they provide UV protection. 

Gradient sunglasses keep your eyes comfortable in the sun by limiting the sun’s glare while allowing you to see clearly through the lighter part of the lens. They allow you to do tasks like reading or looking at your phone, where you get some protection from overhead exposure to sunlight. These glasses are also ideal for driving because they can shield your eyes from the sun while allowing you to read your dashboard.

Gradient lens tint often doesn’t block UV rays and doesn't provide UV protection. It only lessens the intensity of the sun’s rays on your eyes. Because gradient sunglasses reduce the intensity of the light reaching your eyes, they can cause your pupils to dilate. When your pupils dilate, they open up to let in more light. This can be a problem because your dilated pupils may allow UV rays to enter your eye more easily. 

Gradient sunglasses block the sun’s glare and make it more comfortable to read, play sports, or do other activities while you’re outdoors. They're ideal for driving because they can shield your eyes from the overhead sunlight while allowing you to read your car’s dashboard. Some gradient sunglasses can also protect your eyes from UV rays if they have UV treatment. If you need sunglasses for when there's a difference in lighting, gradient sunglasses may be the perfect option for you.