Are you shopping for your first blue-blocking glasses? Or maybe you are looking for another pair? This is the ultimate guide to help you select the perfect blue-blocking glasses for your unique needs!
I, Andrew Latour, guest writer for Alexfergus.com, have been wearing blue-blocking glasses for over 5 years. I've amassed many pairs of glasses.
In fact, blocking blue light became my first introduction to understanding how the light in my environment affects my health. Since then I have been obsessed with getting natural sunlight, red light therapy, and controlling the light that enters my eyes for optimal circadian rhythm and sleep.
Let's first take a step back and explain what I'm talking about:
Blue light is everywhere and does affect your body's biology. In fact, blue light, after entering your eyes, tells your brain it's daytime. Common sources of blue light are television screens, tablets, smartphones, and artificial light.
You can imagine that getting that impulse at night, when you should be asleep, isn't the best for your health. Many studies do, in fact, show that blue light exposure is detrimental to your health (7; 8; 9)
That blue light is part of the "light spectrum". That light spectrum contains all the colors of the rainbow, as well as ultraviolet and infrared, which are invisible to the human eye. We're mostly focusing on the colors blue and green in this article because that light directly affects your sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
But let's return to my story:
What happens when you stay up late playing videogames or watching TV without blue-blocking glasses for years? I became obese, pre-diabetic, lethargic, poor workout recovery, and had frequent sicknesses.
Lack of sleep is also correlated with increased hunger hormones, and I can tell you that is very real! (1) It quickly creates a downward spiral for health. So blue-blocking glasses are always on my list of top biohacks that truly deliver the best bang for your buck.
Shortly after the craze of blue-blocking glasses took off in the biohacking community, it was realized that blocking green light was also an important part of improving sleep. Why? Because even green light also has an effect on stopping melatonin production and increasing alertness.
So both blue and green light triggers our body’s natural response to recognizing daytime. If we are exposed to these lights at night, then it could disrupt our circadian rhythm.
So, biohackers started blocking and reducing green light with red-tinted blue-blocking glasses. For the purposes of this article, when I talk about blue-blocking, it could also include reducing or blocking green light as well.
You can see to what extent both light types affect melatonin below:
Figure 1. Diagram of the Blue Light Hazard Spectrum and Melatonin Suppression Spectrum. You can see the melatonin suppression curve extends into the green spectrum as well, but to a lesser amount than blue. (2; 3)
Unfortunately, blue and green light is practically inescapable in the modern world. Most lights have been “upgraded” to energy-efficient fluorescent or LED lights. Although the lights are white, there are large peaks of blue light emitted by these artificial light sources.
In addition, our television screens, smartphones, and computers are likely using a similar spectrum with high amounts of blue light.
Often, the best way to avoid artificial blue light is simply to wear blue-blocking glasses over your eyes to protect you from the many sources in the environment.
Now that you understand the problem with blue light, let's consider why not all blue-blocking glasses are created equal:
As much as the hardcore biohackers will tell you to wear the darkest possible red glasses to improve your sleep, I am a practical engineer at heart.
Like most health interventions, the most effective blue-blocking glasses are the ones that you can be compliant with! If a diet is too restrictive, then people won’t be compliant and can’t get the benefits of the diet.
So if a pair of blue-blocking glasses restrict too much light and is an uncomfortable fit, then you probably won’t wear it.
Not only is the tint of the blue-blocking glasses important for your particular environment, but the fit of the glasses is very important. Glasses are not a “one-size-fits-all” type of thing and unfortunately many early blue-blocking glasses brands launched with only one size and style.
For me, the wrong fit can lead to more detrimental issues than it is worth, and many people don’t realize how important the fit and style is.
A poor fit can cause:
Figure 2. The wrong fit can cause pain and discomfort. You might find yourself constantly rubbing or adjusting the nose and temples.
Get a good fitting pair:
So how do you find the perfect pair of blue-blocking glasses for your particular needs? We can find many health-influencers and brands that recommend their favorite blue-blocking glasses but rarely do they talk about the important aspects of selecting glasses for someone’s individual needs and head size.
For that reason, I'm sharing what I have learned when shopping for blue-blocking glasses over the past 5 years, and what you need to know when shopping for your own pair.
Below you can see all remaining sections of this article:
In this blog post I'll be covering:
Ready? Let’s get started to finding the perfect pair of blue-blocking glasses! The first subject is that of different tints:
When people talk about blue-blocking glasses, tint is usually the first thing they talk about. Tints are the primary focus of companies to claim that certain color tints are better than others.
I don’t think there is one perfect tint, but there are different blue-blocking glasses tints for certain contexts and needs. I've divided all tints into 4 categories:
Figure 3. General blocking capabilities for all 4 lenses. Clear block the least blue light, yellow slightly more, orange blocks the whole blue spectrum, while red can block all blue and green.
These are the 4 primary categories of blue-blocking tints. The color of the tint is the quickest way to determine the amount of blue or green light being blocked by the glasses.
However, every brand will have a different spectrum of blue/green light that is actually blocked or reduced. This is why it is important to know the actual spectrum of light transmitted through the glasses and not just the color of the tint.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t disclose their light transmission spectrum; so that is why you can follow our guidelines below, and Alex will be testing some brands in future posts with his spectrometer.
Let's consider these 4 categories of tints in more detail:
Clear tinted blue-blocking glasses can only block or reduce a small amount of the blue light spectrum.
There are two primary methods that clear blue-blocking glasses work. They can do this with an anti-reflection coating which reflects some blue light away. This gives the glasses a blue reflection even though the lens itself still appears clear. The second way is with a slight pigment or tint, so up-close to the glasses you might still see a yellowish hue, especially in some forms of lighting.
In reality, the term “clear blue-blocking glasses” is a misnomer since there has to be some subtle way of actually absorbing or reflecting some blue light. It is all an attempt to create an optical illusion to reduce blue light while still remaining mostly clear.
Different brands will have many different techniques to try to reduce blue with clear lenses. So, there are a wide variety of brands with different blue-blocking spectrums, leading to inconsistent results. From my perspective reducing some blue light is better than none, so we do the best we can when we need clear blue-blocking glasses.
Figure 4. This clear lens has minimal color distortion, but in this lighting, we can see a very subtle yellow hue.
Clear tints are best used in the daytime while working indoors or on the computer. They are often marketed as “computer glasses.” During the day, our eyes and brain do need blue light to stay awake, alert, and happy (6).
So clear blue-blocking glasses can be a helpful way to reduce the harsh peaks of blue from screens and artificial lighting during the day but still allow some through as our body requires.
I also find my clear blue-blocking glasses are useful in professional and social settings where I don’t want to draw any extra attention to myself wearing tinted glasses. I find the clear glasses (I don’t normally wear glasses) help me look more distinguished and mature, so I have worn them to business meetings and conferences.
Ultimately clear lensed blue-blocking glasses are a very subtle way to block blue light, but they won’t be useful at night when we want to make sure we fully block blue light. Clear glasses are great for daytime usage to reduce eyestrain or discomfort from artificial lights.
Since clear glasses only block or reduce part of the blue light spectrum, they won’t give us the sleep or circadian rhythm benefits that are often talked about with blue-blocking glasses. This makes for some misleading advertising and confusion if companies claim sleep benefits from clear blue-blocking glasses. If you are looking for blue-blocking glasses for nighttime or sleep, then skip to the Orange and Red tint sections.
But let's wrap up and consider the pros and cons of clear glasses:
Pros of Clear Tints:
Cons of Clear Tints:
Similar to the clear tints, yellow tints block or reduce part of the blue spectrum. They block much more blue light than the clear tints so are better for people with more severe eyestrain indoors or computer vision syndrome. There is a big variation between different brands in terms of how much of the spectrum they actually block.
For example, my Gunnar brand glasses reduce 65% of blue light up to 450nm, while brands like BluBlox will block 100% of blue light up to 450nm. Both are in the yellow category, but there is a big difference in the blocking spectrum. The Gunnars will be a more subtle yellow hue, while the BluBlox are a deeper yellow color.
Figure 5. A yellow tint has a more dramatic color change with better blue-blocking capabilities than clear lenses for daytime.
The yellow tints are the go-to blue-blocking color for daytime usage. They ensure that a larger amount of the blue light spectrum is actually blocked or at least significantly reduced. In white LEDs and computer screens, the peak wavelength is about 460nm, so we want our blue-blocking glasses to significantly reduce this unnatural peak. This can help with computer vision syndrome, eye strain, and headaches when working indoors and on computers in the daytime.
If you can tolerate some color distortion and want to optimize eye health, then the yellow glasses are the best for daytime blocking. As mentioned above, many brands can have widely varying blocking spectrum.
For example, the Gunnar yellow-tinted glasses which only reduce blue light by 65% are great for gaming, color fidelity, and causal blue blocking. However, for people with higher blue light sensitivity or digital eyestrain, a deeper yellow tint from BluBlox may be more suitable.
Similar to the clear category, yellow tints are still not ideal for the sleep benefits from blue-blocking glasses. They are the best option for daytime to block or reduce the harshest part of artificial blue light from indoor lighting, but still allow some blue through that is needed during the daytime to stay awake and alert.
Pros Of Yellow Tints:
Cons of Yellow Tints:
Orange tinted blue-blocking glasses are the original “blue blocker” style. That is because the orange color has the potential to block 100% of all blue light wavelengths. Many brands achieve at least >98% blocking of blue light, which is quite good.
We know that artificial blue light at night can be the main component of shutting down our body’s natural melatonin production. So orange blue-blocking glasses are still one of the best options to promote good sleep habits.
Amongst different brands, I usually find most orange blue-blocking glasses will block >95% of blue light, and many orange tints will reduce some green light as well.
Figure 6. Orange tints can block the entire blue spectrum and reduce some green light as well. They are the most functional and versatile for nighttime, but might not be enough green blocking for some people.
Orange blue-blocking glasses are the simplest application, we wear them in the evening and nighttime up until going to sleep. Often the rule of thumb is to put them on after sunset, or at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.
With orange blue-blocking glasses we obviously have drastic color distortion and low visible light transmission. This means it is fine for wearing around the house before bed, or even some casual social settings. Colors will be dramatically altered so it likely won’t be able to be used in any kind of graphic design or artistic setting.
These glasses should not be worn while driving at night, operating machinery, or any activities that require good visibility and color recognition. Doing so could create an unsafe condition, and there are international standards for nighttime driving to have a minimum visible light transmission and ability to distinguish colors.
Pros Of Orange Tints:
Cons Of Orange Tints:
Moving on to the last category - red-tinted glasses:
Red tinted blue-blocking glasses quickly became the hot topic for hardcore biohackers. With the desire to block both blue and green light at night, red tints are the only way to truly block all of the potentially circadian-disrupting light at night.
These tints are usually a very deep orange/red, or truly just red appearance. The only light that can transmit through these lenses is yellow, red, and sometimes just a hint of longer-wavelength green. Of course, you should always check the transmission spectrum to make sure it truly blocks the blue and green light that it claims, some red glasses could let a little bit of blue slip through.
Like all of the other tint types, different brands have different targets around how much green light should be blocked. Some brands like BluBlox and Ra Optics block all blue/green light up to 550nm and still allow some long-wavelength green light through.
These glasses will have a deep orange/red tint to them depending on the lighting.
Figure 7. Red tints are the most dramatic and will block practically all blue and most green light. They are best for serious sleep-hacking circumstances but might be too restrictive by blocking a lot of light.
Red tinted glasses are best for hardcore sleep-hacking, quickly improving sleep quality, insomnia, travel, jetlag, and time-zone shifting. Often, they are recommended to wear at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.
By blocking all blue and green light, these can quickly prove their effectiveness in helping people go to sleep sooner.
I personally keep my glasses by the bedside, and put them on after I get in bed. These glasses restrict a lot of light transmission, by nature of blocking all blue and most green light.
Not only should such glasses not be used for nighttime driving; they often block so much light that it could be cumbersome to do simple tasks around the house. The red-tinted glasses that block only up to 550nm will be better for practical purposes than the ones blocking up to 570-580nm.
Pros of Red Tints:
Cons of Red Tints:
I hope you now have a much deeper understanding of different lenses. So let's switch to the second topic, that of analyzing different frames:
After identifying the blue-blocking tint for your particular need, it is time to look at the types of frames that are available!
This is an important and often overlooked part of the blue-blocking glasses experience. The frame materials will determine a lot about the quality, fit, eye coverage, and style of the blue-blocking glasses.
As I mentioned before, it is important to find a pair of blue-blocking glasses that is a comfortable fit and the appropriate style for you to enjoy and want to wear them often to get the optimal benefits. This section will make sure you understand your options.
Acetate frames are made from plant-based cellulose material. It is considered to be hypoallergenic so it is good for people who might have skin sensitivities to metals or cheaper plastics.
Acetate frames are often rolled and hand-finished and can be made into a variety of colors and shapes. They usually have a glossy, high-quality appearance. Because these are made from natural materials, slower to produce, and made into stylish shapes – they often can be of a higher quality and price than other options.
Figure 8. Typical acetate frames have a glossy appearance with stylish shapes and accents.
Acetate frames can be made into a variety of shapes and fits. They often have the nose-pad built into the frame itself (unlike metal frames that have adjustable nose pads). The nice thing about acetate is that with some heat, it can be bent and re-formed to adjust the fit. This can include making the arms of the glasses tighter or wider and adjusting the angle of the nose. This makes it one of the best options for making a personalized fit.
Pros of Acetate Frames:
Cons of Acetate Frames:
Metal frames can be very lightweight, thin, and stylish. There are a variety of metals from aluminum, steel, titanium, and more ranging in price and properties. Additionally, there are a variety of colors, coatings, and extra features added to make metal frames more interesting.
Glasses with metal frames can be made into sporty wrap-around styles or high-fashion accessories, making them one of the most versatile frame materials.
Figure 9. Metal Frames can come in high fashion (left), standard computer glasses (right), wrap-around (not pictured), and many more styles.
Metal frames are lightweight and thin, making them great for noses that are sensitive to too much pressure. Metal frames use adjustable nose pads that make them easy to make wider or narrower to sit on the nose. There is limited adjustability of the arms, so take note if the arms are pressing into the temples too hard. Sometimes there is adjustability near the hinges to widen the angle of the arms.
Pros of Metal Frames:
Cons of Metal Frames:
Traditional plastic frames are made by a high-volume injection molding process, meaning they can be mass-produced and cheaper than other types of frames. Like metal frames, there are several different types of plastics for different styles or brands.
TR90 is a very lightweight and flexible plastic, so can be made into comfortable and lightweight frames. Polycarbonate is the most common and cheapest plastic, but it is rigid and can break easier. Plastic frames can be made into a variety of different colors and can be made in glossy or matte textures.
Figure 10. Most safety-glasses styles are made in polycarbonate (left), or plastic can be made into standard computer glasses (right) in many shapes and sizes for a low cost.
All types of plastic frames are NOT adjustable (sometimes the nose piece or hinges are adjustable), so it is important that it fits well right out of the box. As we mentioned, TR90 is very lightweight and flexible, so it has better potential to naturally fit around the head without any adjustment.
Polycarbonate is also lightweight, but could be thicker and less flexible. If polycarbonate frames don’t fit well, they could cause discomfort around the temples, and the flexing of putting on and off the glasses could eventually lead to the arms breaking off.
Pros Of Plastic Frames:
Cons Of Plastic Frames:
Then there's the next topic of full coverage around the eyes:
In other words, is full eye coverage preferred?
Why do I ask?
Well, eye coverage is a big deal for blue blocking glasses! If you have a great blue blocking tint, but a narrow frame that doesn’t cover your field of vision, then you are letting a lot of incidental blue light rays come in from the sides.
However, many safety glasses and wrap-arounds aren’t very stylish, so in social settings a more stylish frame would be preferred.
Figure 11. Having more wrap-around is usually less stylish and worn less in public. While fashion glasses are stylish, they might let some blue light into your eyes around the sides.
Goggles and safety glasses will obviously offer the best eye coverage. They are naturally designed to cover high amounts of the eye and offer full wrap-around. Companies like Uvex and Dewalt have been making blue blocking safety glasses for many years.
These blue-blocking glasses weren’t originally intended for improving sleep, but for industrial safety applications like UV curing and dental UV light safety.
Blue blocking safety glasses are also made into fit-over styles. These are wide enough to fit over a preexisting pair of prescription glasses. This way you don’t need to alter your current prescription glasses if you just want to add a pair of fit-over blue blocking glasses at night.
Pros Of Goggles/Safety Glasses:
Cons Of Goggles/Safety Glasses:
Similar to the safety-glasses styles, wrap-around glasses offer good blocking around the sides and peripheral areas. I also like wrap-arounds in general to reduce the frames creating a blind spot in my field of vision. Wrap-around glasses generally have more of a “sporty sunglasses” look, so aren’t as stylish or high-fashion as traditional frames.
Pros Of Wrap-Around Glasses:
Cons Of Wrap-Around Glasses:
Traditional frames and glasses have only slight curvature and minimal wrap-around. Most traditional glasses frames on the market can be made into blue-blocking glasses, making for the widest selection of brands, styles, frame materials, and fit.
This category has the best potential to find a style and fit for your particular need. These glasses are best for social and professional settings since they are more stylish than wrap-arounds or safety glasses.
Without the wrap-around, there is some peripheral blue light coming from the sides. In addition, I notice any blue lights from behind can create an “inner glare” inside the lens and reflect light into my eyes.
However, having better style helps improve compliance and improved airflow to the eyes, and indirect blue/green light on the eyes has less effect on circadian disruptions. So, it may be necessary and still effective for social situations.
Pros Of Traditional Glasses:
Cons Of Traditional Glasses:
As you might know, there's more to glasses than their tint, frame, and curvature around the face. Here's a few other categories that can make or break your choice in glasses:
The two main lens materials used now are CR39 and Polycarbonate (PC). That’s right, actual glass is very rare and has been mostly phased out in favor of the CR39 type plastic.
Many glasses use tints, anti-reflection coatings, and other special coatings to enhance the lens optics or usage. We mentioned earlier that most “clear” lenses are likely a combination of a very light tint or an Anti-Blue Anti-Reflection (AR) coating.
Figure 12. The lens on the left has a Blue Anti-Reflect coating on the inside, which can concentrate the blue light from behind the user back into their eye. The lens on the right has a Green Anti-Reflect coating, which you can see is softer and more diffuse, and green isn’t as harsh as blue for circadian rhythm. Taking note of the inner coating is especially important for non-wrap glasses.
Lastly, you might also want to get your blue-blocking glasses in a prescription style:
Many of the early blue-blocking options were only available in non-prescription glasses, but now there are many options if you need blue blocking coverage for your prescription needs!
Extras included in your glasses purchase are always nice and convenient. You might want to make sure you get a hard case or soft case for travel.
Usually, glasses will have a microfiber cleaning cloth to make it easy to clean. While often sold separately, other useful items include premoistened lens wipes or sprays and a tool kit for adjustments.
I always keep my glasses inside of a case to protect from damage and dust accumulation on the lens while not in usage.
And that's it: you've completely read the shopping guide to blue-blocking glasses!
Following this guide will give you an in-depth insight to find the perfect blue-blocking glasses for your needs. The questions you need to ask yourself before purchasing are:
Is that all?
Here's three Pro tips to get started:
Figure 14. Many affordable and effective blue-blocking glasses are commonly used by biohackers to improve their sleep and performance.
Figure 15. The dimensions on this pair of glasses is 54-18-140. The number is in millimeters (mm) and 54 is the lens width, 18 is the bridge width, and 140 is the temple (arm) length. Take note of these dimensions as you try on glasses in a conventional eyeglasses shop.
Figure 16. Holding my UVEX Skyper up to some pure blue and green LEDs. The blue light is totally blocked so well that it almost looks like those LEDs are “off.” The green LEDs are also drastically reduced, which is good. No change on the red light transmission.
There you have it!
Hopefully, you have been able to learn from my experiences with trying on different tints, frame materials, eye coverage, and overall fit of blue-blocking glasses! The key, as with any biohack, is finding something that fits your needs, lifestyle, and function while still getting the maximum possible benefit.
This is a guest blog post by Andrew LaTour. Andrew is a trained chemical and materials engineer, has many years of experience in biohacking, and runs the Gemba Red red light therapy company. Andrew learned about biohacking in 2015 while he was at a Raw Vegan retreat. At the time he was obese, pre-diabetic, and had chronic sinus issues. He embraced a biohacking methodology for the same reason that many people do, he was sick and tired of being sick and tired! Over the past years, he has revolutionized his health by dropping over 65lbs, regaining his energy, and improving his immune system. Check out Andrew's website for some great blog posts.
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