More than half of Americans spend their workdays behind the screen of a computer, and even those who don’t reportedly spend an average of six-hours watching TV or looking at other screens for recreation, according to numerous studies and surveys. Because the vast majority of these gadgets and devices are backlit by LED lighting, they omit what is commonly known as “Blue Light,” which can not only be damaging to the human eye but can also have other detrimental effects on general health and wellbeing. Recognizing this reality, eyewear and lens manufacturers have addressed this issue with Blue Light-blocking glasses.
As this space has evolved over the last few years, Blue Light-blocking technology has become increasingly prevalent, though the quality and efficacy of said tech can hugely vary from product to product, and that’s before taking into account the construction and quality of the frames housing the tech-equipped lenses. In a bid to help protect your eyes from these high-energy rays, we’ve pieced together this guide to the best Blue Light-blocking glasses, delving into what exactly Blue Light is, why it matters, and your best options for protecting your eyes from it.
What Exactly Is Blue Light?
Breaking Down The High-Energy Wavelength
Light is comprised of electromagnetic particles traveling in waves that give off energy in varying lengths, strengths, and ranges. Measured in nanometers (with one nanometer directly equating to one-billionth of a meter), these waves are broken up into different color categories, with the shorter wavelengths boasting higher-energy. Falling between 380 and 500 nanometers Blue Light constitutes roughly one-third of all visible light and is one of the shortest, and therefore most powerful/high-energy wavelengths.
Technically defined as High-energy Visible radiation (or “HEV”), Blue Light sits right alongside ultraviolet on the wavelength light spectrum, and like its UV counterpart, has been shown to cause long-term damage to the eye. In addition to the sun, the vast majority of computer monitors, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices utilize LED-backlit displays, which generate an enormous amount of short-wave Blue Light.
Seeing The Light
The Benefits Of Wearing Blue Light-Blocking Glasses
While it can be harmful, Blue Light is also beneficial to the human body in the right doses and when received at the right time. Long-form Blue Light —or “good blue light”—helps us to regulate things such as our sleep cycle, and shouldn’t be eliminated entirely.
The harmful effects of “bad” Blue Light include an increased likelihood for depression (especially of the seasonal variety), headaches, mental fatigue, and Digital eyestrain syndrome (or DES), which causes blurry vision, neck and back pain, dry and bloodshot eyes, and trouble focusing. Bad Blue Light (aka shortwave) can even bolster the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and age-related macular degeneration (or AMD) which can lead to a loss in vision. Those that have undergone a cataracts surgery are at even greater risk of HEV damage.
There’s a wide range of benefits associated with wearing Blue Light-blocking glasses. In addition to remedying or at least lessening many of the symptoms above, a slew of studies’ users have cited increased levels of alertness, improves mood, better memory, and cognitive function, heightened clarity and sharpness, and generally better mental health. Blue Light also plays a vital role in helping our bodies regulate their sleep cycles via exposure during daylight hours.
By exposing your eyes to Blue Light at nighttime, it throws off your circadian rhythm, lowering melatonin production in the brain. Often available in regular and prescription versions, Blue Light-blocking glasses are able to almost entirely eliminate glare, which plays a big part in solving these aforementioned issues.
The human eye is able to block out the lion’s share of ultraviolet light, with less than 1% of UV radiation actually reaching the retina. The same can’t be said for Blue Light, however, almost all of which travels through the lens and cornea before getting to the retina. For this reason, Blue Light can easily cause irreparable damage, especially when exposed to it for long durations on a near-daily basis—a scenario that describes a good chunk of today’s workforce.
With so many of us working from behind a screen—and countless studies pointing to Blue Light causing very real long-term harm—a good number of lens and eyewear companies have started engineering glasses to specifically address the light coming from our screens and gadgets, taking into account the distance at which the average user sits from their screen. There are also Blue Light-blocking films and covers that are made to stick over smartphone and tablet screens.
DISCLAIMER: When discussing the topic of Blue Light in 2020, it’s important to note that this is still a relatively new field of study, and while significantly more is known today than even a few years ago, a good deal of research and peer-reviewed studies need to be conducted before an objective verdict can be reached.
For this stylish entry, Sunski has taken its best-selling frame design and bestowed it with a lens that will block 50% of all Blue Light under 450 nanometers. Unsatisfied with the current frame constructions, the San Francisco-based eyewear outfit set out to craft its own proprietary option, giving way to the creation of what’s been dubbed “SuperLight” recycled resin material which is comprised of plastic scraps—that would otherwise be destined for the landfill—which have been processed and transformed into an ultra-hardwearing polycarbonate resin. Made from SuperLight plastic and offered in tortoise or grey light blue, the Sunski Classic is designed in California and is backed by the company’s generous lifetime warranty.
Pixel Eyewear Buteo
Pixel Eyewear’s Buteo is a Blue Light-blocking pair of glasses designed from the ground-up for daily use behind a computer screen. These handcrafted glasses are good for blocking out shortwave Blue Light from displays and devices thanks to a special anti-glare coating that specifically addresses the “flickering effect” that’s caused by Blue Light emitted from screens. Furthermore, they also block out 100% of ultraviolet light. The Buteo is sold with either a jet black frame construction or a classic tortoise material, both of which sport an understated yet timeless aesthetic that won’t be falling out of fashion anytime soon. The Buteo’s price is also something of a bargain considering the overall quality of the lenses and frame construction.
Felix Gray Jemison
Inspired by another timeless 1950s fashion staple, Felix Gray’s Jemison glasses combine ageless looks and a clean, minimalistic design with modern Blue Light-blocking technology. Named after the first black woman to travel into outer space, Mae Jemison, these glasses are made by hand and feature premium Italian acetate frames and Felix Gray’s own proprietary form of Blue Light-blocking tech. It’s also important to note that the Jemison boasts a wide frame, and is made for those with either wider heads, or that want a slightly-oversized pair of specs, with 52mm lenses and an 18mm bridge. The fact no hardware or hinges are visible anywhere on the outside of this model also adds a more unique and high-end feel.
Warby Parker Hayden
Since its inception in 2010, Warby Parker has been a disrupter in the eyewear industry with high-quality wares that are offered at an exceedingly fair price and backed by free shipping and a brilliant at-home “try-on” system. Among the company’s many top-notch pairs of glasses is the Hayden model, which puts a premium spin on a midcentury eyewear classic. Offered in Striped Pacific or Rye Tortoise and in multiple widths, the Hayden features UV and Blue Light-blocking lenses set in hand-made and polished cellulose acetate frames. This model also packs rugged hardware and screws that have been Akulon-coated, though, like the previous entry, the Hayden doesn’t sport any externally visible hinges or hardware.
SPY Optic Helm Wayfarer
Alongside producing some of our favorite snowboard and motorcycle goggles, SPY Optic also churns out some fantastic casual eyewear, applying the rugged construction from its extreme-sports-focused offerings into more low key daily-wear glasses. Boasting a classic Wayfarer silhouette, SPY’s Helm model is constructed from the brand’s insanely-durable Grilamid frame material and is paired with a six-base polycarbonate ARC lens configuration. Supported via integrated hinges, the lenses utilize SPY’s proprietary Happy Lens and Trident polarization, which increases color contrast, improves mood and alertness, blocks 100% of UV light, and shields your eyes from harmful shortwave Blue Light, while letting beneficial long-wave rays through. The Helm Wayfarer is also offered in a variety of frames and lens color options.
ROKA Phantom Alloy+
By combing a wiry, aviator-esque shape with durable full-alloy construction, this pair of ROKA glasses deliver solid protection in an incredibly comfortable and extremely lightweight package. Regardless of which of the five color options are selected, each pair features soft, super-grippy, color-matched GEKO tips on the ends of the arms and across the bridge of the nose. Equipped with ROKA’s “Rise Lens Tech,” these glasses are offered with two different lens options: the ZX-1 which blocks 26% of light near the 455-nanometer frequency with no color distortion; or the yellow-tined ZX-2 which blocks 41% of this light while only slightly altering color perception. ROKA’s Phantom Alloy+ is also protected by a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Costa Ballast Readers
Costa’s Ballast Readers are a versatile cross between adventure-ready sunglasses and traditional reading specs. Built around a co-injected bio-based TR90 nylon frame material, the Ballast Readers boast rugged lenses made from a shatterproof 580P polycarbonate. Using Costa’s patented C-Mate technology, these glasses don’t feature any visible lines separating the bifocal portion from the rest of the lens—which is available in a trio of different (magnification) power ranges. And, despite the modern nature of these 100% polarized dual-function glasses, Costa produces them using old-world-style craftsmanship, with each pair made by hand. Should you manage to somehow damage them, Costa stands behind the Ballast Readers—as it does with all of its glasses—with a generous, full lifetime warranty.
Maui Jim Boardwalk
Maui Jim’s Boardwalk glasses offer classically-cool style in a package that discreetly hides a host of modern tech and high-end touches. The model is built around injected nylon frames with spring-hinges and embedded rubber nose and ear-tip pads for increased comfort when worn for long periods. The Boardwalk’s lightweight frames house the brand’s SuperThin Glass lenses which, in addition to being 20-30% thinner and lighter than regular items, are also incredibly scratch and shatter-resistant, and feature Maui Jim’s PolarizedPlus2 lens technology which enhances colors while blocking 100% of UV rays, eliminating glare, and shielding its wearer from Blue Light. These top-shelf shades are also sold with a trifold case and cleaning cloth and are protected by a two-year warranty.
Oakley Tie Bar
Oakley has long been a household name, with the eyewear and outdoor gear manufacturer boasting a deep catalog of well-made products, and while the company’s Tie Bar is admittedly a bit of a departure from the firm’s norm, it’s nonetheless made with the same quality and attention to detail that Oakley’s sunglasses are famous for. The Tie Bar’s intelligent and classic aesthetics are complemented by full titanium frame construction, making for a ridiculously lightweight yet highly durable piece of eyewear. And, while the Tie Bar comes in numerous color options, each is equipped with its own contrasting hinge color, adding an extra dash of style to the already-elegant glasses. In addition to a regular Blue Light-blocking version, these glasses are also available with prescription lenses.
Persol 3012V Computer Glasses
For more than a century, Persol has been producing finely-crafted Italian glasses, imbuing stylish designs with quality handmade construction and thoroughly-top-shelf materials. The Turin-based firm’s 3012V Computer Glasses wonderfully-encapsulates this winning formula, with optical-grade plastic frames with ornate arrow-style metal hinges. Sporting a thin profile, the lenses on these glasses are distortion-free, highly-resistant to scratching, and are treated with an anti-reflective coating that helps to mitigate mental fatigue and eye-strain. It’s also important to note that you’ll need to select the “Blue Light Filter” option under “Optional Lens Enhancements” when ordering in order to get the HEV-ready version. And, while we’re partial to the striped brown and crystal colorway, these glasses also come in tortoise and blacked-out variants, too.
Tom Ford Square Acetate Optical Frames
Whether it’s bedsheets, bags, or blockbuster films, it seems like Tom Ford can do no wrong, with the Texas-born entrepreneur, filmmaker, and fashion icon boasting an uncanny ability to produce world-class designs and products. And the American designer label’s Square Optical Frames are no exception, starting with un ultra-clean black acetate frame design that’s wonderfully complemented via Tom Ford’s signature T-logos in rose gold on the front of the frame and laser-cut stripes on the outside of the palladium temples. Made in Italy, this thoroughly-premium pair of glasses is also fitted with a spring hinge, as well as lenses that have been bestowed with Tom Ford’s Blue Block Technology.
Garrett Leight Wilson
Garrett Leight’s Wilson glasses were modeled after the specs famously worn by John Lennon, with a stainless steel frame and acetate Windsor rims and temples. Outfitted with clamp-on nose-pads with adjustable metal arms and a 22mm bridge, these glasses also get CR93 lenses with an anti-reflective coating that provides supplementary protection, on top of the Wilson’s ability to shield its wearer from ultraviolet and HEV rays. Interestingly, the Wilson comes in a total of nine different solid and tortoise color options, giving these glasses the ability to complement a wide variety of styles and outfits. Like with the previous entry, you have to make sure to add the Blue Light-blocking feature, otherwise, these won’t protect from HEV.
The 12 Best Men’s Sunglasses Under $50
Shopping for a pair of glasses but limited to a slightly more restrictive budget? Fear not, as our guide to the best men’s sunglasses under $50 is packed with a dozen stellar eyewear options that won’t break the bank.