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What is the darkest sunglass lens?

What is the darkest sunglass lens?

When choosing sunglasses, one of the most important factors to consider is the darkness of the lenses. The lens darkness determines how much visible light is blocked from reaching your eyes. With so many lens options on the market, it can be tricky to figure out which is the absolute darkest sunglass lens available.

Lens Darkness Ratings

Sunglass lenses are rated based on their level of light transmission. Lower transmission percentages mean less light gets through the lens, making them darker. The darkest sunglass lenses will have a very low visible light transmission percentage.

There are several rating systems used to measure sunglass lens darkness:

  • Visible Light Transmission (VLT %): The percentage of visible light that passes through the lens. A lower number indicates a darker lens.
  • Absorption %: The percentage of light absorbed by the lens. A higher number means more light absorption and a darker lens.
  • Tint Density: A measure of how much the lens tint reduces light transmission. Higher density = darker lens.

When comparing sunglass lens ratings, lower VLT% and higher absorption% and density indicate more darkness. Lens color isn’t always a reliable indicator of darkness, as newer technology allows for dark lenses even in light colors.

Darkest Sunglass Lens Colors

While ratings give the most accurate measure of lens darkness, certain lens colors typically offer greater light blocking. Here are some of the darkest tinted sunglass lenses:

  • Gray: From light to dark charcoal, gray lenses offer excellent glare reduction while maintaining color neutrality. Dark gray lenses can have a VLT around 10-20%.
  • Brown: Gradient brown lenses darken scenes less drastically than gray while blocking blue light. VLT is around 15-25% for darker brown lenses.
  • Green: Deeper green lenses boost contrast and depth perception. VLT is around 10-20% for very dark green.
  • Mirrored: Mirrored coatings on gray, brown, or green lenses make them appear nearly black while also reducing glare. VLT can range from 10-30% for darker mirrors.

Keep in mind lens material also impacts darkness. Glass lenses often offer better UV protection and crisper optics at the cost of added weight.

Darkest Lens Types

In addition to color, the lens technology itself plays a major role in blocking light. Here are some extra-dark sunglass lens types:

  • Polarized: Polarized lenses use a filter to block intense reflected glare. While available in various tints, gray polarized lenses are exceptionally dark with VLT around 10%.
  • Photochromic: Lenses that darken when exposed to UV light can have a VLT as low as 10% in bright sun. They also lighten when indoors for versatility.
  • Flash Mirror: A type of mirrored coating that reduces light transmission to around 10-15% and nearly eliminates eye strain in harsh light.
  • Double Gradient: Features gradient tint that is darker at the top and bottom to further reduce light penetration. VLT can dip under 10%.

Extra Dark Sunglass Brands

Many major sunglass companies offer extra dark lenses geared towards certain activities. Here are some top brands making the darkest sunglasses:

Brand Darkest Lens Type VLT %
Maui Jim Neutral Grey Polarized 9%
Costa Del Mar 580 Glass Polarized 12%
Ray-Ban G-15 Polarized 8-12%
Oakley Prizm Deep Water Polarized 10%
Randolph REACT Flash Mirror 16%

These brands engineer lenses using proprietary technology to maximize darkness and performance for activities like fishing, boating, and outdoor sports.

Darkest Lens Considerations

Going with the darkest sunglasses may not always be the best choice. Here are factors to keep in mind:

  • Darker lenses make it harder to see detail and can cause eye strain in low light conditions.
  • Extremely dark lenses not recommended for nighttime driving.
  • May need multiple pairs to accommodate different light levels.
  • UV protection still important for eye health regardless of darkness.
  • Lens quality affects clarity, durability, and scratch resistance.

Consider when and where you’ll be wearing your darkest shades to find the optimal balance of light blocking, visibility, and eye comfort.


The darkest sunglass lenses have a visible light transmission percentage of around 8-12%. Polarized gray, brown, and green lenses in this range offer maximum light blocking while maintaining color balance and clarity.

Photochromic and specialized lenses like Maui Jim’s Neutral Grey, Costa’s 580G, and Oakley Prizm also achieve extreme darkness through advanced technology. Randolph Engineering React mirrors are similarly ultra-dark. Matching lens darkness to your planned activities and environments is key.

While darkness reduces glare and eye strain, consider lens quality and reasonable visibility too. The optimal level of tint depends on the wearer and intended use. By understanding light transmission ratings and technologies that influence sunglass lens darkness, you can find your perfect pair of extra-dark shades.