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Are Sunglasses as Necessary in Winter?

We all know that summertime sunglasses are a must. The summer sun is bright and many of us spend more time outdoors with the warmer weather. It’s almost automatic to just grab sunglasses before leaving the house when the weather is nice…but what about on overcast and colder days that can accompany the winter months?

Don’t be fooled

When the weather is warmer in the summer it sometimes seems that the sun is brighter, but it isn’t. The sun is just as bright in the winter as it is in the summer. It’s just not as warm out, don’t let the lower temperatures trick you. Your eyes will still thank you for wearing sunglasses during the winter seasons.

The sun isn’t brighter in the summer

On overcast, wintry days, we may not feel like we need sunglasses for protection as much because the sun doesn’t seem so bright. However, the sun’s powerful light is still shining through those clouds and reaching our eyes in the same way that it does in the summer. Here’s why!

The warmer temps may make us believe that the sun is brighter in the summer, but it isn’t. The sun actually sits lower in the sky during the winter months (and at a different angle) due to the spin of the planets. Because of this, we actually get more sun exposure in the winter than during the summer months. Without sunglasses, this exposure can be damaging to different layers of our eyes, including the retina.

Sunglasses are always needed

I try to grab my sunglasses every time I leave the house. I also keep a pair in my purse and in the center console of my car because life happens and I like to have a pair just in case. Though sometimes the darker, cloudy skies don’t always make me reach for my sunglasses automatically, I do try really hard to remember to wear them anyway.

Leaving my sunglasses at home, for me, is the equivalent of leaving my phone or wallet. I feel kinda naked without them!

Know your own needs

It’s important to note here that if sunglasses hinder our vision by making it seem too dark, then it wouldn’t necessarily be safe to wear them. We may not be able to see the ground as well while walking (especially if it’s slippery out from snow or ice). Wearing sunglasses may also make it more difficult to see when driving if our surroundings become too dark.

Be cautious and wear your sunglasses only when they’re not an obstruction to your vision. Our eyes require the right amount of light to work properly and be healthy. Too little light can be just as dangerous as too much light.

Winter glare

Just as the sun reflects off of pool or lake water, it reflects off of snow and ice. Sunglasses are a great way to protect our precious eyes from these potentially harmful UV rays in the winter. I don’t know about you, but when I look at a snowy landscape on a sunny day in winter, it’s sometimes so bright that it literally hurts my eyes. Sunglasses drastically help to reduce this discomfort for me.

Sunburned eyes

Also, in many parts of the country, winter months means a lot of wind and snow. Sunglasses can protect our eyes from these elements as well. In areas of the country where there is a lot of snow, snow country, there is the additional problem of ‘snow blindness’ for skiers and snowmobile riders.

UV rays and winter weather conditions can cause sunburned eyes, damaging the cornea for about a week (as long as a sunburn would last on skin). This condition is both painful and harmful to our eyes. Eye protection for those of us in snow country who are feeling adventurous this winter is an absolute must! These sunglasses may be more in the form of goggles.

Colder, winter months sometimes mean cloudier skies and less time spent outdoors. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can forego the sunglasses. It’s important to always protect our fragile eyes from the harmful rays of the sun.

Happy, Healthy Winter to All,

Andrea Junge

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Len Smith
    7 days ago

    Andrea, super article everyone should take to heart. I’d like to add that I changed my exercising from running to bike riding in 1994 about 2 months before I was diagnosed with AMD. And I’m a little nuts about exercising, doing over 7,000 miles per year on a bike from 1995 until 2016. When my ophthalmologist learned that, he made me get wrap around prescription sunglasses (I’ve been legally blind without glasses since at least 8th grade but totally correctable with them). The reason for the wrap arounds was to reduce as much of the sun’s rays coming in under my sunglasses as well as from the sides, explaining to me a lot of sunlight is reflected, especially off roads. And while we never discussed winter, the reflection off snow and ice is major when we’re outdoors. (As an aside I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which brings on depression in the winter from significantly reduced sunlight. When my psychiatrist told to use light therapy (for SAD we get a special light we let shine in our face about 30 minutes a day), I said I was reluctant to due to AMD. He said I can wear sunglasses as the light only needs to hit our facial skin).

  • shelby-comito moderator
    3 days ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your learnings and experience with us @lensmith. Such an important point you make about the reflection of sunlight can be just as harmful as direct rays – wrap around sunglasses are a great tip! And great to know that the light therapy is still safe to use with sunglasses. Thanks for sharing and we’re thinking of you during these dark winter days. – Shelby, Team Member

  • us52609662
    1 week ago

    I never leave without my sunglasses. For cloudy days I use the amber color lenses, they work better then my dark lenses. I also use the amber in the rain.
    I have however stopped driving at night not worth the worry of having an accident.
    I don’t even go to the mail box without my sun glasses. Great article.

  • shelby-comito moderator
    1 week ago

    Thank you so much for sharing these great tips @us52609662, and I commend you for prioritzing your eye health and safety! We really appreciate you commenting and sharing your feedback. Please continue to keep us posted on how you’re doing! – Shelby, Team Member

  • Denny Simon moderator
    2 weeks ago

    The question of sunglasses in the winter is a no-brainer for me. UV protection goes without saying … so I’d be wearing sunglasses regardless. Ever since I had my first MD event (that’s what I call it) I have had difficulty adjusting to rapid changes in light – bright to dim and vice versa. It just seems to take a long time for my irises to adjust to the change. This is especially troublesome while driving. AND, in the winter when the sun stays low in the sky all day, there are many times when I am assailed by a bright flash or sustained intensity as I pass a building or drive around a bend in the road. Does anyone else have this problem? Denny –, Team Member

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