Searching for the best women's sunglasses of 2021? We hunted through hundreds to find and test the best 15 currently available. We paddled lakes, played in parks, drove long distances, and went for hikes and runs in various weather and conditions. We wore them during midday in a high mountain town, around dusk walking directly into the sun, and on both snow and water adventures. We checked their fit on different face sizes, their ability to stay put and keep us protected, and gauged their likeability and style across preferences. No matter your personal fashion or face shape, we've lined up some of the best sunglasses for your lifestyle and budget.Related: The Best Sunglasses for Men of 2021
The Best Sunglasses for Women of 2021
|Price||$249.99 at Amazon|
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$240.00 at Backcountry
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$143.20 at Backcountry
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|Pros||Great contrast, comfortable, easy style to love||Outstanding coverage, great lenses, stylish, flexible bows||Great lens quality, excellent gradient, very comfortable, versatile style, good case||Protective lenses, good contrast, secure fit, versatile use across lighting and activities||Secure fit, great lenses, padded frame, excellent coverage|
|Cons||A bit small, translucent frame magnifies light, expensive||Oddly specific fit, mirror coating is difficult to clean||Not polarized, may be loose on top of head||May be tight, mirror lenses collect smudges, case is a poor cleaner||May be tight, style doesn't work for everyone|
|Bottom Line||These are great quality sunglasses with excellent contrast and a superb face feel||The particular fit of these glasses is a huge hit for many in regards to comfort and fashion||Excellent quality shades that are protective and stylish, offering top-notch quality for a reasonable price||A sporty yet chic pair of cute, comfortable shades that can keep up with you from casual brunches to afternoon hikes||A blend of sporty and stylish, these secure fit shades offer great protection and great value|
|Rating Categories||Maui Jim Honi||Vuarnet Legend 02||Ray-Ban Erika||Smith Caper Chromapop||Native Eyewear Acadia|
|Lens Quality (30%)|
|Style And Versatility (20%)|
|Frame Quality (15%)|
|Specs||Maui Jim Honi||Vuarnet Legend 02||Ray-Ban Erika||Smith Caper Chromapop||Native Eyewear Acadia|
|Lens Tested||Blue HCL Bronze||Pure Brown Gold Flash||Grey Gradient||Opal Mirror ChromaPop||Brown|
|Visible Light Transmission (VLT)||12%||11%||Not specified||15%||13%|
|VLT Protection Index||Cat 3||Cat 3||Cat 3||Cat 3||Cat 3|
|HEV/Blue Light Protection (claim)||"HEV reduction"||97% HEV blockage||None||None||94% HEV blockage|
|Infrared Protection (claim)||None||95%||None||None||"up to 4X more than regular polarized lenses"|
|Neutral/Contrast||Increased contrast||Increased contrast||Neutral||Increased contrast||Increased contrast|
|Lens Material||SuperThin glass||Mineral glass||Polycarbonate||Carbonic||Crystal carbonate|
|Protective Coatings||Anti-reflective, anti-scratch, hydroleophobic||Anti-reflective, mirror||None||Anti-reflective,hydroleophobic resistance, mirror coating||None|
|Can take prescription lens?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Case Included||Yes; rigid triangular collapsible case, microfiber cleaning cloth||Yes; neoprene bag, microfiber cleaning cloth||Yes; semi-rigid snapshell case and microfiber cleaning cloth||Yes; microfiber bag||Yes; semi-rigid zippered shell, microfiber bag|
Best Overall Sunglasses for Women
The Ray-Ban Erika are an excellent quality pair of women's sunglasses. Their lenses are crisp and clear, offering an ideal balance of protection in bright light while still being usable and pleasant to wear in lower and medium lighting. Though many pairs we tested have gradients, the Erika sets the bar for what a gradient should be. They're dark and protective on top, without being too dark for lower light and they transition smoothly to a lighter shade on the bottom without totally losing their protection. The glossy fronts and flexible, metal bows feel comfortable, familiar, and secure on the head. At just 22 grams, they're fairly lightweight, even though their medium-large lenses and width offer above-average coverage and a style our entire panel of testers loved.
Though the particular Grey Gradient lenses we tested aren't polarized, the Erika come in a wide variety of colors — in both lenses and frames — many of which are polarized. The flexible metal arms add comfort on the face but are a tad bit loose for securely wearing on the top of your head. The grey lenses appeared more of a purple hue, though we found ourselves enjoying the extra style and contrast it provides. Though a bit pricey, these shades delivered a top-notch performance across the board for less than many others
Read review: Ray-Ban Erika
Best Bang for the Buck
Native Eyewear Acadia
Threading the needle between fashion and function, the Native Eyewear Acadia are a great value. They have large lenses that bring exceptional clarity and contrast to your vision. Their snug-fitting frames and face-hugging base curve bring the lenses right up to the face, creating some of the best coverage of any pair we tested. Embedded Cushinol nose pads and bow grips seem to fade into the feel of the frames when dry, activating their impressive holding power at the first hint of sweat. Built for performance, the Acadia have just enough flair and intrigue to not leave style in the dust. They also come with one of our favorite zippered cases.
This particular style isn't universally loved, however. They have a specific shape and fit that's difficult to pin down into easily definable characteristics. Rather than falling neatly into fitting wider or narrower faces, the fit, feel, and style was — for our testing team — quite personal and subjective. You just have to put them on and judge for yourself. A few women found that the particular style of wrapping bows on the Acadia puts them too close to the faces and too tight, while others loved the security and feel. At the end of the day, if these shades feel good and are to your style, it's hard to understate their terrific value.
Read review: Native Eyewear Acadia
Best on a Tight Budget
Shady Rays Classic Timber
The Shady Rays Classic Timber are straightforward unisex sunglasses, with a well-executed wayfarer style. Their polarized lenses give comfortable protection in both bright light and high glare situations. The woodgrain pattern on these plastic frames steps them up just a notch above other similar styles when it comes to their appearance. They're a comfortable width for most heads, with a unique combination of a smooth exterior with just a hint of a matte finish to add extra grip when you need it most. Our lead tester has put their extensive "Live Hard Warranty" to the test several times over the years, adding even more value to a single pair of shades that can be easily replaced when they get lost or broken.
If you're on the hunt for super trendy shades, the Classic Timber are a bit of a safe bet and not overly trendsetting. They also come with just a thin microfiber bag for a case, making us even more glad they have such a comprehensive coverage plan. Since we've been wearing a pair of these glasses for years, we've seen the woodgrain patterning start to rub off over the ears, but it takes a long time to get to that level of wear. All in all, the performance, style, and first-rate replacement program of these unisex shades make them an excellent value buy.
Read review: Shady Rays Classic Timber
Best for Trail to Town Transitions
Smith Caper Chromapop
The Smith Caper are an admirable pair of sunglasses in both performance and style. They fit very securely on the face, with snug bows, rubber nose pads, and a head-hugging form. This level of stability makes them a reliable set of shades for life on the go — whether that's hiking up a mountain or peering over the edge of a canoe. The Chromapop lenses we tested add just a hint of increased contrast without distorting colors. Their higher Visible Light Transmission (15%) make them easy to wear without obscuring your view in lower light situations, while their polarization and mirror coating both cut out distracting glare from other surfaces, making them a great choice for super bright days.
The snug fit of the Caper was a bit too snug for some of our testers — though this wasn't based on head size, but rather the particular shape of the skull and where the bows ended up hitting above the ears. Some of our widest-faced testers loved wearing them all day, while some with slender faces found them to squeeze after a few hours. The mirror lenses we tested, like most mirror lenses, show smudges easily. And the simple microfiber bag case these sunnies come with is too shiny, making it almost stick to the lenses without really cleaning anything off of them. A regular microfiber cloth does the trick, but you'll have to provide your own. At the end of the day, the fit, protection, and stylish fashion of these shades make them our favorite for grabbing brunch in the morning and hitting the trails in the afternoon.
Read review: Smith Caper Chromapop
Best for Bold Style
Costa del Mar Fernandina
For those with slender and smaller faces, the Costa del Mar Fernandina are phenomenal. Many of our testers have always wanted to find a pair of aviators that look awesome, but continue to come across styles that are too large or not quite right for their faces. Enter the Fernandina, with their slightly squashed shape that works on more face shapes. The dark, polarized lenses and mirror coating provide superb protection in the sun. While nose pads are notorious for getting caught in the hair, the intensely squishy pads on these easily bend and are even made to pop out (and then easily back in again) under pressure. These shades fit firmly and securely on even our smallest-headed tester, with a sturdy build that can keep up with steady wear.
The only area in which the Fernandina really let us down is when heading directly into a low-hanging sun. At this angle, the rays of light seem to reflect around inside the Green Mirror 580P lenses we tested, creating an illuminated layer in the lens itself, making it difficult to see with clarity. Those with wider faces lamented the narrow build of these Small frames, while those with slender faces found them unicorns among women's sunglasses. Any time we wanted to feel bold, fashionable, and downright cool, we put on the Fernandina.
Read review: Costa del Mar Fernandina
High Value Fashion
The Sunski Dipsea offer up some sweet style narrow-framed style and can fit more readily into a modest budget. Though the rounded lenses clearly bring a certain aesthetic to the wearer, we're impressed at how universally adored these turned out to be. They best fit those with narrower faces, but we still found plenty of love with our wider-faced testers too. Weighing just 19 grams, they're impressively lightweight, adding to the comfort found in these very flexible frames. Their brown lenses add a hint of contrast and are light enough to work well even on overcast and partly cloudy days.
These shades aren't quite dark enough to be our favorite on bright days, though. And while their narrow frame is bendy enough to fit an astonishing variety of head sizes, they seem to look best on smaller-faced folks. Their flat shape and small lenses also don't offer the most coverage for challenging conditions. Still, for a comfortable, stylish set of specs, we love the feel, look, and price of the Dipsea.
Read review: Sunski Dipsea
Why You Should Trust Us
Our main tester for women's sunglasses is Senior Review Editor, Maggie Brandenburg. Maggie has been wearing glasses since she was 4 years old and knows what makes a pair of frames the right fit and the right look. She's obsessed with protecting her eyes, as she's been working in sunny outdoor environments for over 15 years, from being a kayak guide in the Caribbean and leading students snorkeling along the Equator to backpacking the sunny Sierra Nevadas and researching wildlife on the African savannah. Maggie has been our lead sunglasses tester — from running and paddling to summer vacations and gardening — since 2018.
We spent hours researching the most promising pairs on the market before choosing these 15 for head-to-head testing. Over the past few years, we've taken test pairs all over the world and in every kind of environment. We've driven across the country and back, went out to brunch, paddled across lakes, napped on beaches, and hiked up peaks, all to help hone in on the best sunglasses for your lifestyle and budget
Related: How We Tested Sunglass for Women
Analysis and Test Results
To thoroughly analyze contenders, we divided our assessments into six separate metrics. By combining the outcomes of tests in each metric, every pair of women's sunglasses ends up with an overall score that makes them easily comparable. Here we tease apart each metric and discuss the top contenders in specific areas.
Finding a great pair of women's sunglasses doesn't have to cost a fortune. While, in general, clearer, more protective, and better-contrasting lenses cost a little more, there are plenty of high-performing shades that buck this trend.
The Native Acadia have excellent lenses in a snug frame that provides great activewear function without sacrificing fashion — all while costing less than most of the rest. The Shady Rays Classic Timber are another pair with great value. The classic wayfarer style is comfortable with good quality lenses we love and a replacement program that makes them an even greater value. While the Ray-Ban Erika are a bit pricier, they still come cheaper than many others, were our favorite to wear, and scored the highest in our tests.
Lens quality is the single most important aspect of any pair of glasses. To test this, we considered a wide range of attributes. We compared our lineup of sunglasses side-by-side in bright and harsh lighting, noting clarity, contrast, and color distortions. We also checked each pair for back reflections, that annoying phenomenon of seeing your face reflected back at you.
The Maui Jim Honi have some of the most protective and pleasant to look through lenses. They're a great shade of brown with just a hint of color and contrast enhancement. The Vuarnet Legend 02 lenses are another of our favorites. Though they're not polarized, they're a superb shade with excellent mirroring, making them protective and comfortable. The Ray-Ban Erika are another pair with excellent lenses. The Grey Gradient we tested also aren't polarized but are a clear, contrasting shade of blueish grey with precisely the gradient transition we love.
Both the Smith Caper and Native Acadia have lenses we love as well, with color-enhancing shades of brown and protection that's comfortable and clear to wear. We love the Costa Fernandina Green Mirror mirror lenses as well, though they're a little difficult when looking directly across the horizon into golden hour lighting. The Shady Rays Classic Timber and Le Specs Armada each have good quality grey lenses. The Shady Rays are polarized while the Le Specs have a gradient. We also appreciate the contrast and protection of the brown Suncloud Loveseat lenses.
Our entire panel of testers evaluated every pair of sunglasses in our lineup to assess comfort. We noted where each pair touched the face and if it was distracting. We checked which are adjustable and how well that adjustability lets each wearer dial in their unique comfort needs. We also considered rubber cushioning and special nose pads and wore every pair for hours to see if they squeezed or fell off.
At the top of the list are the Ray-Ban Erika. Combining a nylon front that's the right shape to rest comfortably on the face with metal bows that are flexible enough to offer versatility of fit and security, they are truly a joy to wear. Our entire team of testers loved the feel of these sunglasses. The Maui Jim Honi frames have perfectly placed embedded nose pads, flexible hinges to accommodate a variety of sizes of heads, and a shape that's easy to forget you're wearing. The Smith Caper are also impressively comfortable, with a more snug fit and fully rubber nose pads to keep them securely in place.
The Costa Fernandina are surprisingly comfortable and secure — especially for a pair of aviators — though they fit narrow heads the best. The Shady Rays are an excellent version of the classic wayfarer style — easy and comfortable to wear in just about any casual situation. The Suncloud Loveseat and Sunksi Dipsea are both lightweight and well-balanced, fitting both snugly and comfortably. Even the oversized SojoS Vintage are impressively comfortable for such a large pair of glasses with obviously oversized lenses.
Style and Versatility
While there's no true test for what's "stylish", we asked our panel of testers which sunglasses they preferred. We noted trends — where they existed — of pairs that were well-loved or those that weren't. We assessed which are best for certain face sizes and which are just great all-around glasses. We also considered their versatility across different activities, checking to see if they stay put when sweaty or if they just become annoying.
Though the majority of our panel of testers have never been big "aviator people", all of us adored the Costa Fernandina. They have slightly thicker bows with a splash of pattern and shorter lenses with a shape we found attractive. Wearing these shades made us feel significantly cooler and more stylish than we otherwise would.
The Ray-Ban Erika and Maui Jim Honi are also well-loved styles across all who tried them on. Both of these shades look good on a wide variety of face sizes and shapes. Even the Smith Caper, though slightly sportier in their appearance, were a crowd favorite look, with enough security of fit to back up their use even across active endeavors.
Though their style and fit are less universally loved, the Vuarnet Legend 02 were a big hit for those they fit well. The Sunski Dipsea and Le Specs Armada each bring their own unique style to the table that certain folks loved. The woodgrain pattern of the Shady Rays gives them a leg up in the looks department, especially if you love the wayfarer style. Though perhaps less than expected, we also enjoyed the look of the Sungait Designer Gradient and Wowsun Polarized Gradient — though they have other attributes we're less fond of.
A good pair of frames goes a long way toward making your sunglasses last. We poked, prodded, and pulled every part of these glasses, checking screws and wiggly bows. We examined them for scratches and assessed their flexibility. We also turned to the vast sea of testimonials online to see if we noticed any of the many issues we found reported there.
The Ray-Ban Erika have excellent quality frames that offer just the right level of flexibility and solidity. They feel good and easily stood up to all our testing without any harm. The Smith Caper and Native Acadia are also both solidly built, with plastic frames that flex, rubber pads to improve grip, and well-attached sections. Though we don't expect it from glasses with such thin wires, the Costa Fernandina are also impressively durable. They're reinforced in typical aviator weak points, like the bows and hinges. They also have unique nose pads that are extremely flexible and made to pop in and out of the frames easily, so they never get seriously tangled in your hair.
We also love the quality of the Maui Jim Honi. They only lose points due to their tendency to create a glare below the lens with certain angles of light. The Vuarnet Legend 02 are similarly good-feeling yet flawed. We picked up several scratches on the frames, where the black exterior coating fully rubbed off, exposing the white plastic underneath. The Shady Rays are pretty solid, though the woodgrain pattern has started to rub off slightly over our ears after several years of regular wear. The goodr Circle G, Sunski Dipsea, and Suncloud Loveseat are all made of flexible plastic, helping them to be more adaptable to the challenges of consistent use.
To evaluate coverage, we looked into all the base curve of each pair of glasses to see how well they hug the face or if they leave large gaps. We considered lens size and effectiveness. And we asked people with different face shapes to note where the sun could creep around the edges and creep inside.
The best coverage is found in glasses with large lenses that sit close to the face. Both the Native Acadia and the Vuarnet Legend 02 fit this profile. If coverage is your number one concern, these are the best of the best. The Suncloud Loveseat have a similar combination of larger lenses and a closer fit, but they're not quite as large and lose a little bit of coverage on medium-to-wide faces. The Ray-Ban Erika and Maui Jim Honi both combine more reasonably sized lenses with a close-fitting face-hugging curve, helping to keep the eyes decently covered.
Though they're a little flatter and with slightly smaller lenses, the Smith Caper provide a shape and fit that gives decent coverage. The Shady Rays Classic Timber and Le Specs Armada fit farther from the face but have larger lenses that also provide decent coverage. The SojoS Vintage sit even farther away but have massive lenses that offer a wide area of protection.
Not every pair of women's sunglasses we tested comes with a case. For the ones that do, we compared them to each other, considering protection and ease of use. We also considered any other accessories that come with each pair, like cleaning cloths and screwdrivers.
Many of the glasses we tested come with semi-rigid cases that offer excellent protection. The Native Acadia and Wowsun have zippered, clamshell cases with felt lining. The Maui Jim Honi comes with a trifold case that lays flat when empty. The Costa Fernandina are enclosed in a magnetic cork box and the Ray-Ban Erika live in a leathery snap shell case. Though not a semi-rigid case, the Le Specs Armada have a neat canvas bag with a top that opens by squeezing the two sides together. Most other pairs came with at least a microfiber drawstring bag and many also included a microfiber cleaning cloth. The Wowsun and Sungait both include a small screwdriver keychain. Only the Kaliyadi Semi-Rimless Polarized 3-pack came with no case at all, though they do provide a microfiber cleaning cloth.
There seems to be an endless sea of sunglasses out there to choose from and it can be difficult to evaluate the style and effectiveness just by scrolling through websites. We did our best to put every one of the sunglasses in this review to the test to bring you an accurate and thorough picture of which pairs perform the best and which will look best on your face.
— Maggie Brandenburg
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