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In addition to sunglasses, you can get clear safety glasses that claim "Blocks 99.9% of harmful UV rays". The advantage of clear safety glasses is that they can be worn both during dusk and after dark when there are millions of tiny bugs trying to fly into your eyes.

It made me wonder how essential is the darkness/tint of a pair of regular sunglasses, and how good clear safety glasses are at protecting your eyes from the sun?

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The dark tint isn't required for UV blocking. That's not to say it's not a good thing to have.

Many plastics have strong UV absorption, and some safety glasses have an additional coating. For blocking UV lasers this has been tested, though UV laser glasses are often a pale straw colour. Many safety glasses actually have UV protection anyway.

There are also UV-blocking clear glasses designed for their anti-UV properties above other functions.

Of course, the visible component of light that also contains a lot of UV is often intense enough to be uncomfortable, and to cause eye strain. This is a good reason for sunglasses to be dark. For cycling in particular I use safety sunglasses, which are a good combination of mechanical/dust protection and light blocking (visible and UV).

  • withdrawing my comments, maybe it is just me not seeing this as a good answer to the question. – James Jenkins May 31 '18 at 15:56
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    Good answer. It would be improved by stating it a bit more forcefully: It is completely not essential and clear glasses can block UV light as efficient as any tinted glasses for all eye protection purposes. – Stian Yttervik Jun 1 '18 at 20:13
  • @StianYttervik Except that is not what the answer says, since that is not true. The question seems to assume that UV is the only wavelength one might want to protect their eyes against, which is false. The actual question at hand, however, is whether the darkness/tint is essential or good for protecting your eyes from the sunlight in general, not specifically UV-only. – Loduwijk Jun 4 '18 at 15:15
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Blocking UV and reducing visible light intensity are separate functions, and the latter can actually reduce the former; glasses that are opaque to UV but completely transparent to visible light will mean that pupils will be constricted in direct sunlight, reducing UV exposure.

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