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Best Safety Glasses (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

Safety Squints Are Not Enough

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BY/ LAST UPDATED ON November 12, 2021

Safety glasses or goggles might not be as sexy as a cerakote titanium alloy 300-in-1 adventure-ready multitool, but a quality pair of protective eyewear is an essential piece of toolbox gear. Four and two-wheel wrenching presents its own set of safety threats, including boiling chemicals, chunks of rust and crud, explosive vapors, and unexpected projectiles all hellbent on inflicting permanent eye damage. And no, your safety squints are not enough. Choosing from thousands of different types and styles can leave you seeing double. Tints, shades, and coatings add protection for specific tasks like torch welding. Dust-rated goggles are well suited for bodywork and Bondo dust. We got our hands on a bunch of safety glasses and checked them out to help you pick the right glasses for you.

Best Overall

Pyramex Intruder

Summary

Easy to wear ultralight wraparound safety glasses with one-piece lens, built-in side protection, and minimalist style.

Pros
  • Super comfortable
  • Economically priced
  • Wide range of lens tints
  • Available in different sizes
Cons
  • Style appeal is subjective
  • No prescription lens option
  • Some prefer full-frame
Best Value

Nemesis V30

Summary

Popular series of protective eyewear with a flexible frame and wide range of lens tint and shades at a reasonable price point.

Pros
  • Elastic neckband included
  • Nearly unbreakable
  • Light and comfortable
  • Wraparound lenses
Cons
  • Sporty style not for everybody
  • Lenses attract fingerprints
  • Limited side protection
Honorable Mention

Bouton 5900

Summary

Traditional full-frame safety specs with metal-reinforced construction and built-in ventilated side-impact protectors.

Pros
  • Time-proven safety record
  • Excellent durability
  • Side screens reduce dust
  • Classic design and style
Cons
  • Heavier than frameless types
  • Retro style might not be you
  • Higher price over frameless
Best Safety Glasses (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

How We Tested

Choosing the best safety glasses starts with what kind of work you’re doing. Working in, on, or around cars or motorcycles presents dangers including but not limited to flying particles, heat, unexpected projectiles, scalding liquids, sharp cutting tools, acids, chemical gases, explosive vapors, and more. Unless your car has lasers, ANSI Z87.1 protective eyewear is what you need.

Lens tints and shades, coatings, impact resistance, dust protection, splash resistance, side shielding, ventilation, and prescription lenses are essential factors and comfort counts. No one wants to wear safety glasses or goggles that dig into the side of your head, crush your nose, or give you a headache from poor quality lenses.

We already had a few go-to favorite safety specs in the toolbox. We picked up a bunch of new contenders, from traditional full-frame and ultralight one-piece to over-the-glasses visitor specs and wraparound goggles. Old-school full-frame specs with side shielding are a personal preference, but the ultralight Pyramex Intruders changed our mind about protective eyewear.

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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Best Safety Glasses Reviews & Recommendations

Lightweight construction and minimalist style earned the Pyramex Intruder our best overall for general use. The one-piece lens features integrated nose pads, and the wraparound design brings the hinges and temples together as side shields for a secure and comfortable fit. Our set of amber lens Intruders scaled in at just over 20g and were so unobtrusive that we honestly forgot we were wearing them even with the improved low light visibility.  Unlike some of the more extreme or retro safety spectacles, the no-nonsense Intruder design is a clear case of form and function working together.


The reasonably priced Intruder is available in over 20 styles with a range of lens tints and coatings, including diopter readers and padded foam versions. Regular size Intruders are one size fits most, and the Mini Intruder shrinks things down for kid-sized heads. The best kind of safety glasses are the ones you want to wear, and the comfortable Intruder makes eye protection easy. It’s worth noting that the appeal is subjective to personal preference. The lack of a full-frame and prescription variants also steer some customers away.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer Part Number: S4130S
  • Lens Color: Amber 
  • Safety Rating: ANSI Z87.1 

Pros

  • Super comfortable
  • Economically priced
  • Wide range of lens tints
  • Available in different sizes

Cons

  • Style appeal is subjective
  • No prescription lens option
  • Some prefer full-frame

Lightweight, economical, and available in a wide range of sizes, frame colors, and lens tints, the flexible and nearly indestructible Nemesis V30 is one of the most popular safety glasses out there. Our Nemesis V30 specs scaled in around 25g without the included neck strap and carried a Z87+S rating. The S stands for Special Purpose and refers to the coated lens, which has a distinct blue mirrored dark grey color that knocked out sun glare with authority. The mirror finish looked super cool, but the coating got covered in fingerprints every time we even thought about removing them. Now you know.


This 3-pack of black frame blue mirror lens Nemesis V30 is only the beginning. The more pairs you buy, the more you save. Some folks use the Nemesis V30 as casual sunglasses, which is exponentially better than using regular shades as safety glasses. Choose Nemesis and safely embrace your inner Bret Hart or “Macho Man” Randy Savage. It’s obvious that the sporty style and minimal side protection aren’t for everyone. There are also claims of the lenses being a fingerprint magnet.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer Part Number: 14481 
  • Lens Color: Blue Mirror 
  • Safety Rating: Z87+S 

Pros

  • Elastic neckband included
  • Nearly unbreakable
  • Light and comfortable
  • Wraparound lenses

Cons

  • Sporty style is not for everybody
  • Lenses attract fingerprints
  • Limited side protection

Distortion-free vision and proven protection make the Bouton 5900 a durable choice in safety eyewear. Old school style might now be your thing, but our inner nerd has been a longtime fan of these traditional safety spectacles. Our favorite feature is the hinged steel mesh side screens that keep crud and dust out but lets fresh air in. The rugged frames make for long-lasting protection, and the thick polycarbonate lenses are anti-scratch and anti-fog coated.


Wire core flat temples and a molded-in nose bridge keep the glasses firmly in place, and the 5900 meets ANSI Z87.1 high impact requirements. The unisex design hadn’t changed all that much when we repurchased our first pair in the Nineties, and it hasn’t changed since. It doesn’t need to. Bouton 5900 eyewear is available in clear, smoke, or infrared shade three shown here. One size fits everybody that digs classic looks and safety. The cost of styling is apparent here as these are attached to a healthy price tag. The additional weight of looking good may also be an issue when hanging these from your ears.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer Part Number:‎ 249-5907-400
  • Lens Color: Clear 
  • Safety Rating: ANSI Z87.1

Pros

  • Time-proven safety record
  • Excellent durability
  • Side screens reduce dust
  • Classic design and style

Cons

  • Heavier than frameless types
  • Retro style might not be you
  • Higher price over frameless
Second Best Traditional Safety Glasses
MAGID Y50
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The Magid Glove and Safety Y50 is a premium quality choice of safety glasses with classic style. The lightweight nylon frame is tough on the outside and a softer inner rubber compound runs from just behind the hinges to the temple tips for comfort and grip. Permanently mounted clear polycarbonate side shields do not interfere with peripheral vision and sit just far enough away from the temples to allow fog-reducing airflow with no compromise in protection.


The hard-coated, scratch-resistant amber lenses improve definition and contrast in low light situations like in a garage or under a car but are not recommended for bright situations. The Y50 is also available with clear, smoke gray, or blue blocker lenses. The Magid Y50 is close enough to the Bouton 5900 that we found a new favorite. The Y50 2-pack has a new home in the toolbox after a few garage sessions and the included protective pouch doubles as a lens cloth. Of course, the styling is taste-dependent, and not all users will appreciate it. The easily-scratched lenses and a few too many users report fog issues to ignore.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer Part Number: Y50BKAFA-2
  • Lens Color: Amber 
  • Safety Rating: ANSI Z87.1

Pros

  • Good side protection 
  • Classic styling 
  • Amber lens improves definition and contrast 

Cons

  • Style isn’t for everyone 
  • Lenses scratch easily 
  • Fogging is a somewhat common issue 
Best Diopter Safety Glasses
3M Nuvo Reader
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If there’s a pair of reading glasses on your desk, then these 3M Nuvos are an excellent addition to your toolbox. The polycarbonate lenses have built-in magnifying diopters for seeing clearly in close quarters with your nose on an oil pan. The Z87+U6 rating means grinding off rust with confidence and maximum protection from ultraviolet light. The Nuvo frame features an integrated brow bar and permanent side shields for added protection from flying debris.


The Nuvo’s retro style is a clear plastic nod to the Ray-Ban Olympians Peter Fonda wore in Easy Rider, and while the diopters might look like they’re stuck on somehow, the lenses are a one-piece design. The Nuvos come in especially handy when consulting the mighty factory service manual. Peering down through the diopters takes a little getting used to, but it’s easier than switching over to reading glasses all the time. Nuvo readers are available with 1.5, 2.0, or 2.5 diopters. The reader lens does obviously limit these somewhat. It’’s also worth highlighting that the nosepiece can be uncomfortable and the hinges are a weak point you'll need to watch out for.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer Part Number: 91192-00002T
  • Lens Color: Clear 
  • Safety Rating: ANSI Z87.1

Pros

  • Diopter lens replaces reading glasses 
  • Offers impact and UV protection
  • Various lens intensities are available 

Cons

  • Lens limits to those with reading glasses 
  • Nosepiece may be uncomfortable 
  • Hinged joints break easily
Best Over Prescription Glasses Safety Glasses
Uvex Ultra-Spec 2000
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Extended lens wraparound safety glasses like the Ultra-Spec 2000 are also known as visitor specs since they fit over most prescription glasses frames worn by a workplace or factory visitor. Adjustable length temples make for a custom fit, and vented side shields keep out crud but let air flow through for comfort. The one-piece polycarbonate lens is available in two different bonded coatings and its Ultra-Dura hardening adds scratch protection, and Uvextreme fights lens fogging.


Four lens tints add versatility. Clear is the overall performer, amber adds low light contrast, gray reduces sun glare outdoors, and orange blocks out blue light wavelengths. We picked up a pair with Uvextreme coating in amber for summer garage action.  The one-piece wraparound specs are heavier than others, but the  Ultra-2000 is an excellent choice for prescription glasses wearers, garage visitors, or anyone else that prefers a wraparound design. The primary drawback is that they don’t work well with all forms of hearing protection. Also, fitment varies with different prescription glasses frames and the lens does tend to collect scratches easily. 


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer Part Nu​mber: ‎S0290X
  • Lens Color: Amber 
  • Safety Rating: Z87.1+ 

Pros

  • Adjustable length 
  • Vented sides keep air flowing 
  • Wrap-around design offers a secure fit 

Cons

  • Limited fit with hearing protection 
  • Fitment varies with glasses frames 
  • Lenses scratch easily
Best Safety Glasses for Sun Glare
3M Solus 2000
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The Solus 2000 series features a lightweight frame with a soft rubber nose bridge and ratcheting hinges that give each temple a few inches of vertical adjustment for a customized fit. 3M took a more celestial approach to safety glasses naming conventions than some of its more fearsome sounding competitors. The aptly named Solus is available in several lens tints and time-proven 3M Scotchguard coatings.


These Solus 2000 specs have a gray and red frame with red mirror lenses and anti-scratch coating. The lenses knocked out sun glare and added definition during outdoor use, and unlike some of the competition’s mirror finish, the anti-scratch treatment fought off fingerprints like a boss. 3M recommends its versatile Solus series specs for everything from automotive repair to casting concrete, so find a tint and coating combination that works best for you. The obvious limitation to outdoor use isn't all one should be aware of as they can be a bit difficult to adjust properly, and fogging is an issue for some wearers.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer Part Number: S2024AS-RED
  • Lens Color: Red Mirror 
  • Safety Rating: ANSI Z87

Pros

  • Comfortable and customizable fit 
  • Highly resistant to scratches and fingerprints 
  • Red tint cuts down sun glare, optimizing outdoor performance

Cons

  • Limited to outdoor use 
  • Can be difficult to adjust 
  • May fog easily

Our Verdict on Safety Glasses

We’ve gone through countless pairs of Bouton 5900 specs at work and home but discovered some new favorites writing up this review. The ultralight Pyramex Intruder and full-frame MAGID Y50 found a new home in the toolbox. Safety glasses and goggles are a small part of the automotive personal protective equipment arsenal. The manufacturers in this review are safety suppliers to the world. If you find a set of specs you like, take a look at that company’s PPE lineup and gear up!

What to Consider When Buying

More often than not, DIYers buy safety glasses as they need them. The result of doing so is often heading to the local hardware store and buying whatever's on the shelf. This hardly heeds the best results. That's exactly why we've put this buying guide together that will help you ensure you always have the proper eye protection at your disposal.

Types of Protective Eyewear

Safety Glasses

Safety glasses come in all kinds of types and styles, but their American National Standards Institute or ANSI rating is the primary consideration for eye protection. Look for at least an ANSI Z87 stamp molded into the glasses for basic impact resistance or a Z87+ for high-velocity impact. Additional alpha-numeric codes represent specific types of protection.

While safety glasses are essential to any general labor, they shouldn't be treated as the ultimate line of defense. They do only offer protection for the eyes, not the remainder of your face. That is why we want to talk a little about some other options to consider in this section, not just safety glasses.

Safety Goggles

Goggles that fit over eyeglasses are an inexpensive and effective alternative to prescription safety glasses. Depending on their rating and type, the larger lens coverage area and ventilation system give goggles the advantage over glasses for splash protection, chemical and organic vapors, dust, heat, and impact resistance.

In other words, you shouldn't solely look at safety goggles as something to wear over set prescription glasses. These are an excellent option to consider if you're working in particularly dusty areas, if you're handling chemicals, or just need a little more protection than traditional safety glasses offer.

Face Shields

Full or partial face shields can add another layer of safety but ensure the shield carries a Z87+ high-velocity impact rating like safety glasses or goggles. Thin transparent face shields might stop some projectiles, but a broken cutoff wheel or fan belt will slice through the shield like butter.

We know you're thinking that a welding helmet with a grind mode is a great choice for a face shield. It might be. It might not. Even if it's able to provide some clarity when using power tools, it might not shield you from much more than harsh light. You should make sure a welding helmet is rated to handle impacts before you lean on it for protection.

Safety Glasses Key Features

ANSI Rating

Frame design and trick lens shapes aren't all that separate safety glasses. The differences can be quite substantial, depending on the rating attached to the glasses. It should go without saying that you want to pick a rating that matches the abuse the glasses may encounter while in use otherwise, they can cause more harm than good.

We’ve already mentioned the importance of the Z87 rating but what it doesn’t cover is as important as what it does. Z87-rated eyewear does not protect against pathogens, microwaves, lasers, masers, or x-rays. Consult ANSI Z136.5 if your car has onboard laser weaponry or microwave thought disruptors.

Tints and Shades

Sure, safety glasses can leave you looking dapper if they match your attire and everyone on the job site will envy you. They're intended for work, though, so the shade is more purpose-oriented than style-driven. Like the ANSI rating, the shade of safety glasses you pick should complement the kind of work you intend to use them for.

Clear polycarbonate lenses filter 99% of UV radiation by nature of the material. Indoor lens tints like yellow, amber, and orange can improve low-light vision but are not recommended for outdoor use. Conversely, dark smoke or mirrored lenses can filter too much light for safe indoor use.

Bifocal or Prescription

Picking out a proper set of safety glasses when you wear prescription glasses presents a whole new setlist of challenges. So much so that it warrants a full-length discussion of its own. Still, we can take a minute to highlight some of your options here.

Safety glasses that come with prescription lenses are often the best choice, but they can cost hundreds of dollars and styles are limited. Bifocal reader lenses with built-in magnifying diopters are a viable and inexpensive substitute in some cases. Over-the-glasses visitor specs or wraparound goggles are the next best thing.

Benefits of Safety Glasses

Eye Protection

The most apparent benefit of safety glasses is also the most important. Choose protective eyewear rated and approved for the job at hand. Don’t count on your safety squints. The thing about safety is that you automatically think of the worst-case scenario. Strands flung from a wire wheel are nothing to take lightly, but they aren't the element that's most likely to ruin your day.

Working flat on your back is a great example of when safety glasses are essential but often overlooked. Flakes of rust, dirt, and debris are bound to fall straight into your eyes, and throwing on a set of safety glasses keep you moving along without having to stop and flush your eyes every 10 minutes or so.

Improved Vision

Seeing what you're working on can help prevent accidents and mishaps. Lens tint, UV and anti-fog coatings, diopter readers, and even prescription safety lenses can significantly improve vision indoors or out.

Being able to see better typically improves safety as well. There are situations where safety glasses can help you see but compromise some protection for quick tasks. An example of this would be welding-shade glasses that offer minimal protection but can prove useful when laying quick welds. However, they should not be viewed as an alternative or used in place of safety gear intended for more extensive projects.

No Monkey on Your Back

If you're in the trades, it goes without saying that safety glasses are a required piece of PPE while performing certain tasks. The job site may even provide safety glasses to ensure you have no excuse not to wear what you're required to.

What is often supplied to you is subpar and works just well enough to qualify as safety glasses. You may be tempted to skip past them whenever possible because of it. Investing in your own set and keeping it on hand is a way to ensure you don't get reprimanded at work or dealing with a potential injury because you felt safer going without the safety glasses that were provided.

Safety Glasses Pricing

The good news is that you don't have to spend a fortune on safety glasses, as they can be surprisingly affordable. There are plenty of high-quality safety specs like our best overall Pyramex Intruder that list for under $10, but be wary of cheap multi-pair deals and unsafe knockoffs in this price range. Moving to the $10-$20 price range will typically offer you high-quality full-frame, over-the-glasses or visitor specs, and safety goggles. Some multi-pair deals.  Specialized specs and prescription protective eyewear can cost more than $20, but multi-pair packs can add up to significant savings over a single pair price.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and safety glasses. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Buy in bulk. If you find a pair of safety glasses you like, then pick ‘em up by the dozen or more. The more pairs you buy, the cheaper they get.
  • Watch the lenses, man. Anti-scratch coatings only seem to apply while wearing safety glasses. Don’t put glasses lens down on a workbench or garage floor full of steel shavings or jagged rust.
  • Strap it down. Neck straps can help prevent lens scratches and time wasted searching the shop or garage for lost safety glasses. Some models come with straps. Others do not.
  • Double-duty. Safety glasses can double as sunglasses but not the other way around. Sunglasses won’t stop cutoff wheel fragments or similar high-velocity projectiles.
  • Wear them. It can be tempting to skip the glasses because they feel weird or fog up. They can only protect you if you're wearing them. Our advice on foggy or uncomfortable safety glasses — buy a better pair.

FAQs

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: When do I need to wear safety glasses?

The answer depends on the job. OHSA requires eye or face protection whenever a worker is exposed to “flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.” Z87+ rated eyewear won’t stop high-powered lasers but are A-OK for automotive and home repairs.

Q: Can I weld with safety glasses?

That depends on what kind of welding you’re doing and lens shade or IR rating. Welding or W shades 3-4 are OK for torch brazing, 4-8 for gas welding, and 10-14 and up for electric arc welding. Do not arc weld with anything less than shade 10.

Q: Can I get prescription safety glasses?

Yes, but expect to pay for it. Consider a pair of over-the-glasses visitor specs or goggles, depending on the work environment. A pair of tinted visitor specs and separate dust-rated goggles offer a more comprehensive range of eye protection at a more reasonable price.

Q: Will regular glasses or sunglasses protect my eyes?

Nope. Not from high-velocity impacts; they won’t. Get the proper protective eyewear for less than a sawbuck and see another day. Some outdoor safety glasses and goggles might double as sunglasses, but Z87 eyewear is not recommended for sports and recreation activities.

Q: Are goggles better than glasses for dust and liquid protection?

A larger one-piece lens offers more protection than smaller glasses, but not all goggles are better. Look for an alpha-numeric code stamp or marking on the goggles. D3 is liquid splash certified. D4 or D5 means protection against dust and fine dust, respectively.

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