How Did Protective Functions in Eyeglasses Actually Come About?

What began in 1924 with the first pair of sunglasses is now standard UV protection in every ZEISS lens.

18 October 2021

Today, protection against ultraviolet radiation (UV radiation for short) shouldn’t just be a given for the skin but also for the eyes. We would like to give you an insight into how the protective function of spectacle lenses has developed – from the first ZEISS UMBRAL sunglasses to the current ZEISS UVProtect technology.

Looking back

As early as around 4,000 years ago, the Inuit living in the Arctic had to contend with the problem of glare caused by the sun’s rays reflecting off ice, snow, and water. In response to this, the Inuit invented “snow goggles” by carving slits into bones. This story that has been passed down from history points to an initial function of sunglasses, which were developed much later: protection against glare.

Later, scientists realized that additional protection against harmful invisible radiation was also essential. This was also the case at ZEISS: By adding the UMBRAL sun protection lens to its product range in 1924, ZEISS introduced the first uniformly tinted sunglasses for everyone – with and without an optical effect. These lenses protected the eye from blinding daylight, which severely limits visual acuity and thus orientation, and offered the first protection against portions of UV radiation.

How did the first “sunglasses” come about?

Various trends in the 1920s drove the development of UMBRAL lenses. These included a steady growth in mobility and increasing health awareness in the population, along with the trend towards more recreational sports. Sunglasses were the optimal solution for reducing glare in sports, for example. Being able to see sharply and without glare always was a real sporting advantage.

Compared to competitor products, a unique feature of ZEISS lenses was that the tint remained uniform over the entire lens surface. Since lenses with a corrective effect usually have a different strength between the edge and the center, this was an absolute novelty at the time.

The lenses then became more aesthetic and innovative based on various developments – such as anti-reflective coating or due to intelligent materials later, which led to the first self-tinting lens at ZEISS in 1970.

Clear lenses provide the same UV protection as sunglasses

The issue of eye health and hence also protection against UV radiation remained a key factor in all developments. UV radiation can cause lasting damage to the eye and contribute to the clouding of the crystalline lens, for example. With the standard introduction of ZEISS UVProtect technology in 2018, ZEISS enabled the same high level of UV protection that is standard in sunglasses to be provided in clear lenses. This means people wearing glasses now have the option of protecting themselves from harmful UV radiation no matter the time of day – even if they don’t have sunglasses with them.


Today, every ZEISS lens, whether tinted or clear, provides full protection against UV radiation.

Portrait Maria Conrad
Press Contact Maria Conrad International PR: Eyeglass Lenses, Coatings and Materials

ZEISS Vision Care

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