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4 Reasons Kids Should Wear Sunglasses

4 Reasons Kids Should Wear Sunglasses

By Meredith Marmurek 

Reviewed by Valerie M. Kattouf, OD, FAAO on August 1, 2023 

You already know it’s important to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. While UV exposure delivers the benefits of Vitamin D production, it can elevate your risk of developing cancer, cataracts, and other issues.  


So, do children need to wear sunglasses too? In short: Yes! We spoke to Dr. Valerie M. Kattouf, OD, FAAO, to learn more about the importance of sun protection for children’s eyes. Here are four reasons why kids should wear sunglasses:  

1. Protect Their Eyes Now 

It’s common for kids to spend more time outside and get more sun exposure than adults. It’s actually been estimated that 80% of a person’s lifetime UV exposure takes place before they turn 18. But children’s eyes aren’t fully mature and can’t filter UV radiation like adults’ eyes can. This means their eyes are at a higher risk of damage caused by the sun’s harmful UV rays.  

Long-term unprotected UV exposure can lead to the following eye health problems as adults:  


Photokeratitis is like getting a sunburn on your eye. It’s a painful condition that is most often caused when the sun’s light is reflected off surfaces like water and roadways. Photokeratitis is temporary and usually goes away in about 48 hours.  


This is a non-cancerous, wedge-shaped growth on the white of the eye (the sclera) that can spread to the cornea. It’s also known as “surfer’s eye” because it can happen when someone is exposed to the sun’s UV rays reflecting off of water.  


Prolonged UV exposure over a lifetime can contribute to the growth of a pterygium. If a pterygium affects the cornea, it can permanently disfigure your eye as well as cause astigmatism and other vision problems.  

2. Keep Their Eyes Healthy for the Future  

UV damage accumulates over a person’s lifetime, so it’s critical that your child’s eyes are protected whenever they go outside, no matter how old (or young) they are. Prolonged UV exposure without protection can cause serious eye health and vision issues later in life, including: 


A cataract is when the eye’s natural lens is cloudy. Cataracts cause blurry, hazy vision and can make it hard to see at night, among other issues. Cataracts can only be removed with surgery. 


Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) 

The macula is the part of the eye responsible for your sharpest vision. It helps with tasks such as driving, reading, and recognizing faces. A person with macular degeneration slowly loses their central vision while maintaining their peripheral (side) vision. There is no cure, but there are treatments that can improve vision and delay the condition’s progression. 

Eye Cancer 

Cases of eye cancer are rare in the U.S. but they do happen. Too much unprotected exposure to UV rays can contribute to the development of cancer of the eyeball, eyelid, and eye socket. 


Kids can reduce their risk of having these eye health and vision problems by wearing sunglasses outside from an early age. 

3. Protect the Skin Around Their Eyes 

You already make sure your kids wear sunscreen outside to protect their skin from getting sunburned and reduce their risk of skin cancer. The skin around your children’s eyes also needs protection, but sunscreen can cause eye irritation if not applied carefully. 


You can help protect this delicate skin with properly fitting sunglasses that cover more of your kids’ eyes and face. Wrap-around and aviator styles are good choices for added coverage. 

4. Create Good Eye Health Habits 

You can set a good example for your kids by wearing your own sunglasses every day when you go outside. Sunglasses are important year-round, whether it’s sunny or cloudy, because:  


  • Snow, ice, water, and sand all reflect UV rays.  

  • The sun’s UV radiation can be just as damaging on overcast days as it is on sunny days. 

What to Look for in Kids’ Sunglasses 

When you’re looking for kids’ sunglasses, make sure you choose a long-lasting pair that protects your child’s eyes. Dr. Kattouf says it’s also important to look for the following features: 


  • UV protection – The main reason children should wear sunglasses is to protect their eyes from UV rays. Their sunglasses should block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. This level of protection is sometimes called UV 400. Sunglasses that block UV rays will have a sticker indicating the level of protection. 

  • Sturdy and flexible build – You don’t want to worry about your children’s sunglasses breaking. Consider polycarbonate lenses that are lightweight, scratch-resistant, and impact-resistant. Spring or flex hinges can also increase durability.  

  • Proper fit – Your kids won’t want to wear their sunglasses if they don’t fit. The frames should fit securely without being too tight.   

  • Proper size – Opt for sunglasses with the proper eye size (or lens width) for your child to protect the eyes and face.  

  • Prescription lenses – If your child wears glasses, a pair of sunglasses with their prescription will provide UV protection and vision correction at the same time. Talk to your child’s eye doctor about prescription sunglasses, and remember to update your child’s prescription sunglasses when they get a new vision prescription.  

  • Photochromic lenses – Another option for kids who wear glasses is photochromic lenses that automatically get dark outside when UV light is present. They then go back to clear inside. Also known as transition lenses, your children’s eye doctor can help determine if they are a good option. 

  • Polarized lenses – These lenses reduce the glare that comes from sunlight reflecting off of surfaces such as water, sand, snow, and ice. If your kids spend a lot of time on the water or participate in outdoor sports, polarized lenses can help them see more clearly.   

Do Babies Need Sunglasses? 

Dr. Kattouf recommends that babies younger than six months old minimize sun exposure. Once an infant reaches six months, their parents can consider having them wear sunglasses.  


Like older children, babies’ eyes don’t filter out UV rays, so they’re at risk for the same types of eye damage and vision problems when they’re outside without eye protection. Babies also have very delicate and thin skin around their eyes that needs to be protected. 


When choosing infant sunglasses, look for the same features as older kids’ sunglasses — 100% UV protection, proper fitting, and durable frames and lenses.   


In addition to using sunglasses, you can protect kids from the sun by having them apply broad-spectrum sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat when they're outside.  


When your children are ready for shades, check out our wide variety of kids’ sunglasses with 100% UVA-UVB protection and scratch-resistant lenses.  




  1. Sunglasses for kids. All About Vision. February 2019. 
  2. 4 ways to keep your child's eyes protected from the sun. Essilor Newsroom. Accessed September 2023. 
  3. Tips to stay safe in the sun: From sunscreen to sunglasses. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. August 2022. 
  4. Photokeratitis. All About Vision. August 2023. 
  5. Pterygium: What is "surfer's eye"? All About Vision. March 2019. 
  6. UV and sunglasses: How to protect your eyes. All About Vision. March 2019. 
  7. What is a cataract? All About Vision. June 2023. 
  8. Macular degeneration: Types, causes, symptoms and treatments. All About Vision. June 2022. 
  9. Eye cancer: Types, symptoms and treatments. All About Vision. February 2021. 
  10. Why should you wear sunglasses year-round? All About Vision. March 2020. 
  11. What parents need to know about kids’ sunglasses and vision health. All About Vision. January 2021. 
  12. Are baby sunglasses necessary? All About Vision. January 2021. 


*Like, Essilor Newsroom, All About Vision and AAV Media, LLC are part of EssilorLuxottica.