The Best Places to Buy Sunglasses

We’re big fans of Nordstrom’s vast selection and generous return policy.

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best-sunglasses-retailers

Ray-Ban; Smith Optics; Nordstrom; Zenni; Oakley

When you’re trying to check out the view on vacation or catch up on your latest beach read, the last thing you want is a harsh glare getting in the way. In addition to enhancing your daytime vision, sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

“Many people underestimate how much the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can pose a significant risk not just to the skin but also to their vision,” says Dr. Robert C. Layman, president of the American Optometric Association. UV rays enter through your cornea (the clear covering at the front of your eye) and can damage not only the cornea itself but also the lens of the eye, eyelid skin, and retina.

“When shopping for sunglasses, it’s important to verify that they provide the right amount of UV protection (99-100 percent), optical quality, and durability,” Layman adds. “Generally, more expensive sunglasses may offer more stylish frames, higher quality lenses, sharper images, and less glare, however, it is very easy to find inexpensive glasses that offer 100 percent UV protection. Just don't assume all cheap sunglasses provide this level of protection, even if a sticker on the lenses says, ‘blocks UV.’”

Pick up a pair of sunglasses at one of our favorite retailers. They have eye protection for everyone, whether you’re a minimalist shopper or are always looking for a bold buy. Note that the warranty policies we list are all against manufacturer’s defects only and don’t cover regular wear and tear or accidental damage.

These are the best places to buy sunglasses.

Best Overall: Nordstrom

Best Places to Buy Sunglasses
Courtesy of Nordstorm

Why We Love It: It has thousands of frames from nearly all your favorite designers with a slew of options and a generous return policy.

What to Consider: Brand warranties can be tricky to handle when purchasing from a third-party retailer, and it doesn't have many outdoorsy options if you need something performance-ready.

Nordstrom sells almost 4,000 different designs for women and almost 3,000 for men, so you certainly won’t be starved for choice at this department store. And with options ranging from their house brand BP. to VIPs like Ray-Ban, Dior, and Gucci, there’s a pair for every style and budget. Sort by options like color, material, brand, and style to find your perfect match, but if it ends up being a dud, Nordstrom’s generous, flexible return policy is there to help you out. Give your aviators an upgrade with the Gucci Pilot, or go for a French Riviera-ready white cateye from Givenchy.

Return policy: The company says it “handles returns on a case-by-case basis with the ultimate goal of making our customers happy.” | Warranty: None listed

Best Classic: Ray-Ban

Ray-Ban Classic Polarized Aviators

Ray-Ban

Why We Love It: Get a pair of the shades that started a movement, backed by a solid warranty and easy refund policy.

What to Consider: You’re likely not going to want to wear these in an athletic setting.

If you want classic style, start at the source. Ray-Ban’s nearly universally flattering Wayfarers started an entire fashion movement, and they make some of the best examples of classic sunglasses shapes. Their site offers a total of 455 styles for whatever suits your fancy, whether that’s aviators, a rounder shape, or something with a touch of vintage influence. Ray-Ban does have an option to add prescription lenses to your frames as well, so you can keep your vision both sharp and shaded. Go for one of the 13 different available colors of Aviators to keep it cool.

Return policy: Full refund within 45 days | Warranty: 24 months

Best Outdoor: Smith Optics

Smith Bobcat Matte French Navy + ChromaPop Rose Gold Mirror Lens

Smith Optics

Why We Love It: Smiths delivers on both looks and performance, with lots of sport-friendly features and color-enhancing lenses.

What to Consider: If you want something a little more out-there fashion-wise, this may not be the brand for you.

Smith’s optic expertise spans all seasons of the outdoor sports world, from sunglasses to ski goggles. Whether you want everyday sunglasses that can go from the trail to tapas or a heavy-duty on-the-water pair, you can find them here. Even better, all the dimensions are conveniently displayed right under the glasses, so you can dial in your preferred size without digging on their website. And the ChromaPop lenses are absolutely killer. Rather than muting your vision and making things look duller, they actually make colors look brighter but still natural, with no polarized distortion. 

Lock in full wraparound coverage and performance features with the top-selling Guide’s Choice, or get something slimmer but still performance-ready with the Lowdown range. (I wore a pair of Smiths for four months backpacking around New Zealand, and the green hills and bright blue water never looked better.)

Return policy: 30 days of purchase with a $6 return fee | Warranty: Lifetime

Related: The Best Sunglasses for Every Trip

Best Sports: Oakley

Oakley Holbrook Fourth of July Special Edition

Oakley

Why We Love It: Performance-focused Oakleys keep your eyes covered no matter what activity you’re doing.

What to Consider: The sporty look isn’t for everyone.

Oakleys are inescapable in the sports world, and their extremely neon hues and specific shapes are easy to spot in the wild. Those shapes and colors aren’t just to look cool, though. Prizm lenses enhance color, contrast, and detail, and the frames are designed to be as lightweight as possible while staying comfortable — and staying on your head no matter how fast you’re going. They’re even tested for impact protection just in case of any unexpected bumps. Go for the Radar EV Path if you want to see that sport-focused design in action or the Holbrook if you’re looking for more of an all-around feel.

Return policy: 30 days after receiving | Warranty: Two years

Best Customization: Zenni

Zenni Optical Square Glasses

Zenni Optical

Why We Love It: Choose from more than 600 frames and 20 tint options, with prescription options available too.

What to Consider: If you don’t like your choices, their return policy isn’t very good.

Zenni offers more than 600 styles of sunglasses frames, but that’s just the beginning. Once you’ve chosen your frame, you’ve got a few other decisions to make. Choose from prescription, reader, or non-prescription lenses, then whether you want polarization or just standard tint and in what color. There are more than 20 tint options, including mirrored options in addition to polarized. Frames themselves range from hearts and hexagons to classic aviator and Wayfarer shapes to bedazzled cateyes. A funky lens choice will really pop against the translucent Champs, or enjoy a twist on a classic shape with the Titanium Browline glasses.

Return policy: 30 days from receipt for ​​a one-time-use 100-percent store credit or for a 50-percent refund (both excluding shipping)  | Warranty: 30 days

Best for Prescription: Warby Parker

4.8
Warby Parker Rawlins Sunglasses

Warby Parker

Why We Love It: Get direct-to-consumer prescription glasses without any upcharging middlemen.

What to Consider: The color palette runs a little more muted and the lenses are mostly polycarbonate rather than glass or metal.

Warby Parker created quite a stir in the eyewear industry when their direct-to-consumer model hit the scene. The ability to try on up to five pairs for free at home before you purchase is super convenient for the indecisive, or try them on virtually if you don’t want to wait for the mail. Lenses are coated to be scratch-resistant just in case you get a little too enthusiastic or throw them in your bag unprotected, and they block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Warby Parker’s frames tend to run toward neutral blacks and tortoiseshells, but we’re digging the fun confetti tortoiseshell of the Raina for your summer parties or beach-ready hues of the Haskell.

Return policy: 30 days from receipt, full refund | Warranty: None, but will exchange damaged pairs within 30 days of receipt and provide one free replacement of prescription lenses if they get scratched within the first six months

Easiest to Shop: Bloomingdale’s

Dior Womens Rectangular Sunglasses

Bloomingdales

Why We Love It: The many search filter options make it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for.

What to Consider: Manufacturer warranties may not apply.

While they don’t have quite as many styles as Nordstrom (though their impressive selection includes more than 1,000 pairs), Bloomingdale’s offers a notably better set of filters to find just the right pair. In addition to the usual gender, designer, and color options, you can also filter your search by sunglasses style, lens width, and lens type so you can find the perfect size and shape. Pick up some hexagonal Ray-Ban aviators or get a little mod with a flat-top unisex style from Celine.

Return policy: Free returns up to 90 days | Warranty: Not listed.

Related: The Best Beach Accessories for Hitting the Sand

Best Budget Collection: REI

Best Places to Buy Sunglasses
Courtesy of REI

Why We Love It: The extensive collection of budget brands is backed by REI’s customer support.

What to Consider: Like other third-party retailers, you may not get a warranty with your purchase.

You can find nearly all of our favorite budget sunglasses brands at REI, including Goodr, Sunski, Knockaround, and Tifosi, all of which offer UV protection and often polarization at affordable prices. As Layman says, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a quality pair of sunglasses, and REI is known for selling solid, reputable outdoor gear. The top-rated Knockaround women’s Paso Robles and men’s Torrey Pines live up to their name by being impact-resistant and capable of standing up to a long day outdoors, even if you happen to flip your canoe.

Return policy: 90 days for non-members, one year for members | Warranty: Not listed

Best on Amazon: Sungait

Sungait Womens Lightweight Oversized Aviators

Amazon

Why We Love It: You get the ease of shopping on Amazon plus a solid brand reputation.

What to Consider: They may not have the same build quality as a more high-end pair.

We know you love Amazon and that sweet two-day shipping. But when it comes to your eyes, you can’t necessarily just filter by lowest price or highest rating and spin the wheel. It’s crucial that your sunglasses come from a brand with a solid reputation that will actually deliver real UV protection. Sungait offers a variety of classic styles, has stood up to third-party testing, and offers 100 percent UV protection. As a nice bonus, they even come with a mini screwdriver in case you need to tighten your pair up. The women’s vintage round sunglasses and men’s rectangular polarized sunglasses are especially popular and nicely versatile, with lots of color options available from sakura pink to acid green mirror to classic black.

Return policy: Within 30 days of receipt | Warranty: Lifetime breakage warranty

Best for Fun Styles: Quay Australia

Quay Australia On the Radio Sunglasses

Quay Australia

Why We Love It: These funky shades are backed by a solid build and philanthropic efforts.

What to Consider: If you get too worried about your sunglasses not matching your outfit, you may not actually wear them.

It’s hard to deny the appeal of the cheap novelty shade. You aren’t going to wear heart-shaped glasses every day (or are you?), so you may not want to invest too heavily. But again, this is your eyeballs we’re talking about, so you should be cautious of the fact that a $10 pair from a street vendor may not provide the UV protection they say they do. Add something trustworthy and funky to your facial wardrobe and keep your vision covered with Quay Australia. These shades feel festival-ready, and even better, Quay partners with a variety of philanthropies and non-profits that “advocate for racial, gender and social justice, support our LGBTQIA+ community, encourage education, promote mental health and uplift future generations.” We’re especially fond of the Come Thru’s fun, frameless-feeling take on an oversized cat-eye.

Return policy: Within 30 days for refund minus $5 shipping | Warranty: 12 months for manufacturing defects only

Related: The Best Sun-protective Clothing for Women

Best Sustainable: Otis

Otis Summer of 67 Sunglasses

Otis Eyewear

Why We Love It: Otis brings sustainability to their stylish glasses with mineral glass lenses and recycled frames.

What to Consider: Since they’re glass, you’ll need to be a little more careful with them.

Though this may seem counterintuitive, not every pair of sunglasses has lenses made of, well, glass. The mineral glass used in Otis’s eyewear is sourced from natural elements, scratch-resistant, non-toxic, and nearly endlessly recyclable. Some models are also available with an Eco-Acetate frame, a 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable acetate made from wood pulp and cotton fiber. Packaging is also plastic-free, and their return policy and warranty are both good, so you can shop with confidence. We like the round, retro-inspired Omars for their versatile shape and neutral but not boring color options.

Return policy: Full credit within 30 days | Warranty: Lifetime

Tips for Buying Sunglasses

Layman offers a few key aspects to look for in an ideal pair of sunglasses. They should block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation, screen out 75-90 percent of visible light, and have matching lenses free of distortion and imperfection. He recommends gray polarized lenses specifically for best color recognition and glare reduction, but if you aren’t concerned about peak performance in those areas, you can play around with your preferences a bit.

Prioritize UV protection

“Don’t be fooled by the color or darkness of lenses,” says Layman. “Neither factor solely determines the level of UV protection.” He recommends looking for lenses that have a uniform tint across the entire lens; if you prefer a gradient lens, they should lighten gradually from the top down, with the lightest shade at the bottom.

Consider polarization

Polarization is really an individual choice. If you’re bothered by glare, then you may benefit from polarization, Layman says. The American Optometric Association doesn’t necessarily recommend polarized sunglasses over non-polarized, but the former does offer better glare protection.

Know your sizing specs

You can tell the size of an eyeglass frame by three numbers stamped on the inside of the frame. These identify the lens size, bridge width, and temple length in millimeters. These aren’t a full guarantee of identical fit across models, though; frames can have identical sizes but still fit differently depending on style, according to Layman.

Choose an appropriate style

Consider what type of activity you’re most likely to be doing in your sunglasses. If you’re mainly taking leisurely city strolls, you’ve got a nearly endless array of options. But if you’re doing something more active or out on the water, there are sports models with specific features that can help you get maximum glare reduction or ensure that your glasses stay on your face even in choppy surf. There are also various theories about what shape of sunglasses looks best on varying face shapes, but we don’t think you need to be limited by your facial geometry — go for whatever you think looks the best.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What does it mean if sunglasses are polarized?

    “Polarized sunglasses help substantially reduce glare that reflects off certain surfaces (including cars and light-colored pavement) and helps see objects more clearly,” says Layman. “Anyone who is bothered by outdoor glare can benefit from the special filters in these types of sunglass lenses.”

  • How should I clean sunglasses?

    There are two different strategies that Layman recommends for cleaning your sunglasses. The first is with gentle dish soap and lukewarm water. First, rinse the lenses to remove any particles that could scratch them. Then, massage a drop of soap on each lens, rinse, and dry using a microfiber cloth. Don’t use a paper towel, as the fibers can scratch your lenses.

    If you’re on the go, you can also use disposable lens cleaning wipes. The same lens wipes that clean your glasses can also clean your phone, tablet, and computer screen, removing bacteria, dust, dirt, and germs and shining up the glass without scratching it.

    “Make sure you clean every part, including the nose pads and the ends of the temples that rest behind your ears,” Layman cautions. “Also, clean the area where the edge of the lenses meet the frame — dust, debris, and skin oils frequently accumulate here.”

  • How can I tell if a pair of sunglasses will fit comfortably?

    It can be difficult to tell if your sunglasses will be comfortable if you don’t have a chance to try them on in person. If you have a favorite pair of glasses already, you can start by checking their measurements, though as we noted above, this isn’t a guarantee that another pair with the same measurements will have the same fit. A visit to your eye doctor will also provide accurate frame and lens measurements.

    “Your sunglasses should sit comfortably on your face without creating pressure on either side of the head,” says Layman. He recommends that your glasses sit in the middle of your face, “no higher than your eyebrows,” and match the width of your face at the temples without digging in. The arms should fit securely and comfortably around your ears and not slip out of place when you move your head.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Rena Behar is a freelance writer who has regularly covered travel gear and various other products for outlets, including Wirecutter, Reviewed.com, Consumer Reports, and more. For this article, she read through multiple reviews and roundups of the best sunglasses to determine quality and interviewed Dr. Robert C. Layman, president of the American Optometric Association.

Up Next: The Most Comfortable Sandals for Women

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