Do Sunglasses Have an Expiration Date? Unveiling the Truth.

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This post has been updated. It was originally published in 2019.

Do sunglasses expire? Are your sunglasses still good after a couple of summers? Do they have an expiration date? These questions often pop up when it comes to our beloved shades. In this ultimate guide, we will uncover the truth about whether sunglasses have an expiration date or not.

Summer is coming so I thought it was time to update this post. As we step out into the bright sunlight, we rely on sunglasses to protect our eyes from harmful UV rays. But do sunglasses lose their protective qualities over time? Are they less effective after a certain period? Join me as we delve into the facts and myths surrounding the lifespan of sunglasses.

If you’re curious whether your favourite pair of sunglasses is still up to the task, keep reading. Prepare to unveil the truth about the expiration date of sunglasses. Your eyes are important so let’s ensure that your eyes are always protected in style.

But first, before we get into the technical science stuff, here’s a short story that prompted me to write this blog post.

Had my trusty sunglasses expired under the hot sun?

I was enjoying my trip exploring Arizona when my eyes began to ache. I’m not sure if you have ever experienced your retinas burning, but it is not pleasant. I was wearing my trusty Prada sunnies that have accompanied me on numerous adventures. I wondered, do sunglasses expire?

Purchased a while back, they were 2 years old to the month and I wondered if this pair was past their date. I have several other pairs of sunglasses, many of them older than the ones I was wearing and I have never had sore eyes before.

My girlfriend (who is a Doctor) told me that my sunglasses must not have proper UV protection. Since one cannot survive in the hot Arizona sun without sunglasses, I was faced with a moment of desperation. I quickly purchased an $8 pair of sunglasses from a dollar store that promised 100% UV protection.

Women wearing sunglasses in Arizona desert
My dollar-store sunglasses saved my eyes. At least they matched the Arizona vibe and landscape.

While I may not have looked as stylish in my dollar store sunnnies, my eyes no longer burned. It was clear to me that I was going to have to retire my two-year-old Pradas.

Once home and saddened by the thought of throwing out my Pradas, I began researching sunglasses and whether or not they actually expire. Does the UV coating degrade over time, making them nothing more than a fashion statement?

Do sunglasses actually expire?

Much to my disappointment, it turns out that the answer to my question of do sunglasses expire was not what I’d hoped. Over time, our sunglasses become nothing more than fashion accessories that need replacing.

The concept of sunglasses having an expiration date has sparked much debate. The truth is, sunglasses themselves do not have a set expiration date like food or medicine. However, it is important to understand that the effectiveness and quality of sunglasses can deteriorate over time.

Sunglasses are designed to protect our eyes from harmful UV rays, and the lenses play a crucial role in this. Over time, the protective coating on the lenses can wear off, reducing their ability to block UV rays. Additionally, the frames can become worn or damaged, affecting the overall durability and functionality of the sunglasses.

While sunglasses may not have a specific expiration date, it is important to consider their age and condition. Older sunglasses that have been exposed to prolonged sun exposure, extreme temperatures, or rough handling may no longer provide the same level of protection. So maybe it was the 120-degree Arizona sun that did mine in!

Understanding the lifespan of sunglasses

The lifespan of sunglasses can vary depending on several factors. One of the key factors is the quality of the sunglasses. Higher-quality sunglasses are typically made with better materials and undergo more rigorous testing, which can contribute to a longer lifespan. But not necessarily, as my story proves, even high-end sunglasses can expire.

Another factor to consider is the lens material. Different lens materials have varying levels of durability and resistance to scratches. For example, polycarbonate lenses are known for their impact resistance and durability, while glass lenses may be more prone to scratches.

The frequency of use and the conditions in which sunglasses are worn also play a role in their lifespan. Sunglasses that are used frequently and exposed to harsh conditions, such as extreme heat or saltwater, may experience more wear and tear compared to sunglasses that are used sparingly or in milder conditions.

Sunglasses typically last for about two years

Science tells us that the lifetime is approximately two years, and in the case of my Pradas, I’d say that’s pretty darn accurate. During my research, I discovered that you can test the efficacy of your sunglasses at home. You don’t need to wait until your eyes burn, as I did.

According to this news article, you can purchase a UV flashlight and shine it against any dollar bill. When the watermark from the bill lights up, put your sunglasses in front of it. If it disappears, then you’ll know your sunglasses are still working. If the watermark is still visible, I’m sorry to say, your sunglasses need replacing. The good news is that means you get to go shopping for a shiny new pair of sunnies. Bonus!

I plan on ordering one of these lights so I can test the rest of my sunglasses. Many of them are older than my Pradas and I’m curious to see how they are holding up. Since I don’t wear the same ones all the time, the amount of sun exposure is impossible to guess and I want to ensure I’m protecting my eyes. If sunglasses expire, I want to make sure mine don’t need replacing.

Chanel sunglasses and case
Designer names don’t necessarily mean better protection. Always double-check before buying to be sure they provide 100% UV protection, like these Chanel beauties that are also polarized.

Signs that your sunglasses may be expired

While sunglasses may not have a specific expiration date, several signs may indicate that it’s time to replace them. You needn’t wait until your eyes burn – and I don’t recommend it!

  1. Visible damage: If your sunglasses have visible cracks or breaks in the frames, it’s a clear sign that they need to be replaced. Damaged frames can compromise the functionality and durability of the sunglasses.
  2. Scratched lenses: Scratches on the lenses can not only affect the clarity of your vision but also reduce the effectiveness of the sunglasses in blocking UV rays. If the lenses are heavily scratched, it’s time to consider getting a new pair.
  3. Loose or stretched frames: Over time, the frames of sunglasses can become loose or stretched, affecting the fit and comfort. If your sunglasses no longer fit properly or feel loose, it may be time to invest in a new pair.
  4. Faded or worn-out coating: The protective coating on sunglasses can wear off over time, especially if they have been exposed to sunlight for extended periods. If the lenses appear faded or the coating is visibly worn out, it’s a sign that the sunglasses may no longer provide adequate protection.
When learning how to stand up paddleboard it's a good idea to wear a PFD

Tips for extending the lifespan of your sunglasses

In addition to proper care and maintenance, there are a few additional tips that can help extend the lifespan of your sunglasses.

Invest in quality sunglasses. Higher-quality sunglasses are often made with better materials and undergo more rigorous testing. Investing in a reputable brand can increase the longevity of your sunglasses. But not always, so be sure to check for a UV rating.

Consider polarized lenses. Polarized lenses not only reduce glare but also provide added protection against harmful UV rays. They can help protect your eyes and enhance your visual clarity, making them a worthwhile investment.

Use a strap. If you frequently engage in outdoor activities or sports like I do, consider using a strap or retainer to secure your sunglasses. This can help prevent them from falling off or getting damaged during physical activities. I’m wearing mine in the SUP photo above.

Editor’s tip – I swear by using a sunglasses cord to help protect my Chanel sunglasses when I’m on, in, or around the water.

Avoid placing sunglasses on top of your head. Placing sunglasses on top of your head can stretch out the frames and compromise their fit and comfort. Instead, use a sunglasses strap or store them in a protective case when not in use.

Regularly check for loose screws. Over time, the screws on your sunglasses can become loose. Check them regularly and tighten any loose screws to ensure the frames remain sturdy and intact.

When to replace your sunglasses

While sunglasses can last for several years with proper care and maintenance, there will come a time when they need to be replaced. Especially since we know that sunglasses expire and lose their efficacy over time. Here are some indications that it’s time to invest in a new pair of sunglasses.

If your sunglasses have significant damage, such as broken frames or heavily scratched lenses, they may no longer provide adequate protection. It’s best to replace them to ensure your eyes are properly shielded from UV rays.

Sunglasses that were purchased many years ago may not offer the same level of UV protection as newer models. As technology advances, so does the effectiveness of UV filters. Consider replacing your sunglasses if you are unsure about their UV protection capabilities.

If you wear prescription sunglasses and your prescription has significantly changed, it’s important to update your sunglasses accordingly. Wearing outdated prescription sunglasses can strain your eyes and compromise your vision.

If you find that your eyes are hurting, this is a clear sign that your sunglasses have passed their prime and it’s time for a new pair.

Sustainable options for sunglasses

As we become more conscious of our environmental impact, it’s important to consider sustainable options when it comes to sunglasses. Here are some sustainable choices to keep in mind:

  1. Eco-friendly materials: Look for sunglasses made from eco-friendly materials such as recycled plastic or bamboo. These materials have a lower environmental impact compared to traditional plastics.
  2. Buy from ethical brands: Support brands that prioritize sustainability and ethical practices. Look for certifications or labels that indicate the brand’s commitment to the environment and fair labour practices.
  3. Repair instead of replacing: If your sunglasses have minor damage, consider repairing them instead of immediately replacing them. Many sunglasses brands offer repair services or replacement parts, which can extend the lifespan of your sunglasses. This is what I did with my Pradas. Instead of throwing them out, I had the lenses replaced.

By choosing sustainable options and taking care of your sunglasses, you can reduce waste and make a positive impact on the environment.

Did you know that sunglasses expire?

Of the people I’ve asked so far, most of them were unaware that sunglasses’ UV protection degrades over time, I know I was. I also didn’t know that not all sunglasses provide UV protection. Isn’t that kinda the whole point?!

When shopping for my (second) replacement pair I asked the sales clerk to look up the stats on three designer pairs and only one stated that they provided 100% UV protection. I was shocked to learn this statistic. Versace for the win!

I’m curious, am I the only one who didn’t get the memo on this, or were you in the dark as well? I feel like this is some pretty important information that we should all know.

Conclusion: The truth about sunglasses expiration dates

While sunglasses themselves do not have an expiration date, their effectiveness and quality can deteriorate over time. Factors such as quality, lens material, maintenance, and exposure to harsh conditions can all affect the lifespan of sunglasses. It is important to regularly assess the condition of your sunglasses and replace them if necessary to ensure adequate protection for your eyes.

By properly caring for your sunglasses, investing in quality brands, and considering sustainable options, you can enjoy stylish eye protection while minimizing your environmental impact. Remember, sunglasses are not just a fashion accessory but also an essential tool for maintaining the health and well-being of your eyes.

So, the next time you slip on your favourite pair of shades, take a moment to appreciate the protection they provide and the importance of keeping them in good condition. With the knowledge gained from this guide, you can confidently enjoy the sun while ensuring your eyes are always shielded in style.

UPDATE: I did a video update testing sunglasses for UV protection. Check out my follow-up blog post here: UV Light testing sunglasses.

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Sunglasses do expire, Here's wha to do about it.