It seems our favourite travel accessory has an expiry date, and it’s two years.

I was enjoying my most recent 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. Purchased in June 2017, they were precisely 2 years old to the month. Apparently sunglasses expire so I have to wonder if these ones were 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 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 in which I purchased an $8 pair of sunglasses from a dollar store than promised 100% UV protection. While I may not have looked as stylish, my eyes no longer burned. I’ll consider that a win.

Women wearing sunglasses in Arizona desert
My dollar store sunglasses that saved my eyes. At least they matched the Arizona vibe and landscape, lol! They’re pretty funky so I’ll probably bring them to Burning Man in Nevada next.

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? Much to my disappointment, it turns out that yes, over time, our sunglasses become nothing more than fashion accessories that need replacing. 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 as 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 it’s still there, I’m sorry to say, they need replacing. The good news is that means you get to go shopping for a shiny new pair of sunnies.

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.

Of the people I’ve asked so far, most of them were unaware that sunglasses’ UV protection actually 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. 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.

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

Photo credits: All pictures in this post were taken by me on my iPhone X.

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Do sunglasses really expire?