Girl wearing IE9011 Navy/Yellow frame with Revo mirror lens

Not all sunglasses are equal

Not all sunglasses are equal

At a recent baby expo a young mother told me she will only buy cheap sunglasses for her children as all sunglasses are the same. Her reasoning was that they all must pass the compulsory sunglasses standards, and as her children are rough they will only break them.

However, it is false to believe that all sunglasses are the same. What she did not realize is that all world sunglasses standards are only the minimum requirements needed so that no major harm occurs to the eyes (Maximum protection is not a requirement). Additionally, some sunglasses can still cause trouble despite passing world standards  (see our warning note at the top of this page: Some European brands of children’s sunglasses with category # 4 lenses can cause blindness).

UV protection limitations

Even the strictest sunglasses standard in the world, AS/NZS 1067.1:2016 from Australia, can have as low as 0% UVA protection, depending on the lens category and general purpose sunglasses with category #3 lenses can pass the standard with only 91% UVA protection as the following table shows. Note that both the EU and USA standards are worse as they neglect all UVA radiation from 380nm to 400nm.

Table showing the UV protection as a percentage
Note: Please don’t presume that darker lenses automatically cut more UV radiation. It is possible to make a CAT #4 lens with no UV protection. This type of lens will only lead to blindness.

For young children the minimum UV requirements are just not good enough to give maximum protection. At this age total protection is needed to stop nasty UV related eye diseases.

Easily broken sunglasses permitted

What this mum also did not realise is there’s no requirements for manufacturers to use materials that will not break easily, and cheap materials do break. I have even seen sunglasses at discount stores, markets and pharmacies broken while on display even before kids wear them. So, yes some kids are rougher than others but giving them sunglasses that break easily does not help. She may as well just put her money in the bin because that is where these so-called cheap sunglasses will go in short time, saving her nothing in the long run.

Lens colour, no requirements

There are also no requirements on lens colour in all world sunglasses standards and this is a critical misstep. As 10% of boys and 2% of girls are colour blind and the incorrect coloured lens only compounds the problem. Many parents will be quick to say that their child is not colour blind, but unless you have had them tested there is no other way to know. Only one colour lens gives maximum clarity and glare protection in addition to being safe for colour blind kids. This is the G-15 lens, and you should only buy sunglasses with these lenses for your children. “G” for neutral green and 15 for 15% light transmission, which falls under category #3 general purpose sunglasses. Unfortunately the two most commonly used lens colours in sunglasses are grey (never great for clarity and affects some colour blind kids) and brown (reasonable for clarity but useless for glare protection and adversely effects the largest number of colour blind kids).

So how do you buy a good quality pair of sunglasses that will protect eyesight, last without breaking too easily, and not cost a fortune? Please read our Critical points to look for when buying baby – toddler sunglasses. This will help, but buying sunglasses is a difficult thing to get right. We do test many branded and non-branded sunglasses and only a small number pass what we classify as good quality.

I can say with certainty that only Idol Eyes Australia has made baby sunglasses since 1987 when we made the world’s first baby sunglasses, and we also have a history in optics since 1950. We have sunglasses for every stage of your child’s growth, from 0 yrs to late teens. And our sunglasses are always reasonably priced so every child will be properly protected.

We receive many reviews from happy customers from all around the world saying that they only trust the Idol Eyes Australia brand, and continue to buy our sunglasses as their children grow into that next size or for more kids as their family grows. We are also grateful for the many customers who have recommend our products to their family and friends. Recently at a baby expo in Brisbane we had a new mum come to our stand with her daughter in the pram wearing a pair of our baby sunglasses. The baby looked really cute. I was then told by the mum that the sunglasses were the pair that she wore when she was a baby. Now that really is high praise.

If you do have any questions about buying the correct sunglasses for your baby and kids or have other questions please contact us via:

Boy and girl wearing Idol Eyes Australia sunglasses and sun hat

Questions about baby/kids sunglasses and eyes

Common questions about baby/kids sunglasses and eyes

Here you can read some of the questions about baby/kids sunglasses and eyes and learn how to protect little eyes and avoid UV radiation damage. If you have any questions please leave them in the “Leave a comment” at the end of this blog.

Q1. When should my baby start wearing sunglasses?

All babies should begin wearing good quality sunglasses from birth every time they go outside into the sun. You already know the benefits that good quality sunglasses have in protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays and it is even more important that babies and kids are protected, as babies are born without special UV protective cells within the eye called chromophores. Just take note at the stress your baby endures when they are in the sun. Even with the babies eyelids closed UV rays pass straight through the thin skin and burn your child’s eyes causing cataracts, pterygium, actinic & droplet keratites, pinguecula and macular degeneration, leading to blindness. These nasty eye diseases don’t occur instantly but caused due to an accumulation of small amounts of damage over many years. One in seven adults over 50 years of age is legally blind in Australia and similar statistics occur world-wide. This is totally preventable just by wearing good quality sunglasses regularly from birth.

Q2. Is it true that babies should only wear sunglasses in the middle of a hot summer day?

False. To fully protect your babies eyes from UV damage, sunglasses need to be worn all year. For example in mid-winter, early or late afternoon the sun is much lower in the sky and is more direct to the eyes causing just as much damage as the midday summer sun. So constant use of sunglasses all year will benefit your child’s eyes greatly.

Q3. Will any sunglasses that pass world standards (AUS/NZ, EU, USA) protect my babies eyes?

No. All 3 major world sunglasses standards are not the same. Here are some of the differences.

  • Only the AUS/NZ standard uses the correct UV radiation range from 200Nm to 400Nm. In both the EU and USA standard they use 200NM to 380Nm as they believe the sun is not as strong as in Australia. The problem is the UV rays between 380Nm to 400Nm is actually 40% of the total UV radiation so for babies without any chromophores in their eyes (like in adult’s eyes) to protect against UV damage they need 100% UV protection.
  • The latest EU standard has a major error regarding temporal protection for children’s sunglasses. For all adults sunglasses (used for skiing, mountaineering, etc.) with very dark CAT #4 lenses it is compulsory to have temporal protection (side protection) to eliminate any UV rays from entering the eyes from the side causing snow blindness. Children’s sunglasses have been neglected with temporal protection requirements. Many European kids sunglasses brands have CAT #4 lenses without side shields. For young children without any chromophores in their eyes to protect against UV like adults, when they wear these sunglasses the pupil dilates and UV rays enters through the sides and into wide open eyes leading to major eye problems later in life, even blindness.
  • No world sunglasses standard requires the use of G-15 lens colour. The problem is 10% of boys and 2% of girls are colour blind and using the incorrect colour lenses just compounds their problem. Only Idol Eyes Australia with over 71 years experience in optics understands the importance in making sunglasses that not only protect against UV radiation but also do not cause problems for colour blind kids. Only a G-15 colour lens is safe for all children, colour blind or not.

Q4. As a young Asian mum my parents don’t recommend me to put sunglasses on my baby, are they correct?

I fully understand your parents concerns about sunglasses for babies. Many sunglasses made in Asia today and in the past do not comply with world standards and in the past children wearing inferior sunglasses have had major UV damage caused to their eyes. As seen from question 3, even today some sunglasses that do pass world standards can cause major problems. So please follow our complete guide to buying quality children’s sunglasses. Critical points to look for when buying baby – toddler sunglasses. Sunglasses that will protect against harmful UV radiation damage. The alternative for your baby is to not wear good quality sunglasses from birth to protect the eyes and this will only lead to the increased chance of UV related eye diseases or blindness later in life.

Q5. My baby will not wear sunglasses and just pulls them off, so how do I keep them on?

There are many reasons why a baby will pull the sunglasses off as follows.

  • Don’t use hard frames, they are uncomfortable and leave pressure marks on the face. Only use a soft rubber frame, as babies love to be comfortable.
  • Don’t use the sunglasses inside as the lenses are too dark to see clearly, worrying the baby.
  • Do start your baby wearing sunglasses at an early age. The later you leave it the longer it takes for your youngster to get use to wearing sunglasses.
  • Put your sunglasses on first as babies love to copy and always make it fun.
  • Babies do not understand the harm UV rays can do to their eyes but if you place the sunglasses on them when in the sun they quickly realize that they don’t have to suffer the uncomfortable sunlight shining in their eyes.