The dangers of cheap sunglasses

I’ve noticed that cheap sunglasses (the kind sold for $5 to $10 by many supermarkets and drugstores) very often aren’t optically correct; but I hadn’t realized they could actually be hazardous to the health of your eyes. The Daily Mail reports on problems encountered with them in England – but since the cheap sunglasses sold in the USA come from the same source (mostly Chinese factories), the dangers are the same on this side of the Atlantic.

Cheap sunglasses may look like a bargain, but could leave you seeing double or developing headaches.

Even those costing £5 from high street names such as Tesco and M&S failed some lab tests, breaching British Standard quality markers, according to consumer group Which?

It tested three pairs of sunglasses bought from each of seven stores – Asda, M&S, New Look, Poundland, Primark, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – all costing between £1 and £5.

Fifteen pairs failed key tests and only the three from New Look passed everything.

All three pairs from Poundland had what opticians call a vertical prism in the lenses.

Present in some prescription glasses, it has the effect of bending light and can cause double vision or headaches in some wearers.

One pair was labelled good for driving when the lenses were too dark for such use.

A £1 pair from Primark had lenses containing optical power – in other words acting like prescription lenses – and each lens let in different amounts of light.

The Primark glasses could make vision problems such as astigmatism worse, said Which?

A pair of £5 sunglasses from Tesco and one from Asda had one lens different to the other, while several sunglasses let in different amounts of light in each lens.

. . .

Of 40 branches of chains and some small independents visited, a third were judged not up to scratch.

There’s more at the link.

I guess I won’t be buying any more cheap sunglasses. My desire for ongoing optical health makes it worthwhile to invest in something better.



  1. Fortunately, I have prescription sunglasses which live in the console in my truck.

    Unfortunately, I got them in Missouri before moving here, so they're dang near too dark for the weaker sunlight in Alaska. But at least I can see while wearing them.

  2. The only 'sunglasses' I buy are shaded safety glasses. Most are excellent, optically, and are not expensive. New wrap around styles look good, and are super comfortable to wear.

  3. I've got prescription sunglasses(I'm nearsighted, though not too heavily so). Good ones too, but they cost me about $250, on sale(campaign).

  4. I alternate between an expensive (at the time, now I would even flinch at the price) pair of Raybans and dark tint shooting glasses. I also have a few cheapies that I keep around the house for this or that, usually when I can't find my good pairs.

    I did have a pair of cheap ones that gave me a headache every time I put them on. They didn't last long.

  5. I have been using Serengeti sunglasses since 2002. I accidentally stepped on my first pair (that was a terrible day) after having owned them for nearly 5 years. I purchased my current pair in July of 2009 and plan on keeping them for at least another 3-4 years before I replace them. I paid about $250 for the pair I have now and I love them immensely. The technology Serengeti utilizes in their products is impressive. My feeling is I would rather spend $250-$300 every 5-6 years than replacing $20-$30 sunglasses every 3-4 months when they fall apart.

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