What Are Safety Glasses Made of?

Posted by Bridget Reed on

Since we were kids, we’ve been asking questions (mainly “Why? Why? Why? Why?”). Our curiosity naturally makes us wonder how the coolest stuff is made. 

Take safety glasses. While you’re hiding out behind an obstacle at the paintball range contemplating the fact that a thin piece of (probably plastic) is the only thing protecting your eyes from a high-velocity paint bullet, you may wonder how reliable that plastic actually is. 

Never fear: the team at Stoggles is here. We know some stuff, especially about safety glasses. We’ll talk about how safety glasses are made, why the materials are so protective, and what you need to look for when you’re shopping for safety specs. 

What Are Safety Glasses?

Good question, because honestly, if you’re placing your eyes at risk, won’t your regular eyeglasses keep your eyes safe? Short (and long) answer: probably not, and trust us, you don’t want to risk it.

Safety glasses are made similarly in structure to regular glasses, but they’re made with specialized materials to make them more durable and protective. Safety glasses protect your eyes from a myriad of potential vision hazards. We’re talking UV rays, strikes, scrapes, burns, splashes and spills, and even blue light from your favorite devices. 

Your regular glasses aren’t made to withstand these eye-hazard scenarios, but safety glasses are. 

What Makes Safety Glasses…Safe?

If you’re issued safety glasses at work, they need to meet OSHA requirements, and OSHA gets their requirements from ANSI. Think of these two agencies like a slightly-less cool Batman and Robin duo. ANSI makes the standards and testing, and OSHA adopts them and implements them — High five for teamwork. 

If you’re shopping for a pair of safety glasses to use at home or for sports, having that ANSI certification isn’t a bad idea, it’s a really smart idea. Here’s why:

The ANSI Standard

There are different ANSI eyewear standards depending on the exposure risk to your eyes. For instance, if you work around airborne pathogens, you’ll likely be required to wear safety goggles that are custom-fitted to your face to protect your eyes. 

However, the ANSI Z87-1-2020 certification is the industry standard for impact resistance, a critical feature for all safety glasses. Looking to get your specs certified?

Your eyewear must pass these two epic tests:

  1. High mass impact test. In this test, a weighted ball bearing is dropped on the glasses. If the glasses shatter or break, the manufacturer has to go back to the drawing board and find a better solution.

  2. High-velocity impact test. For this test, a ball bearing is fired at the safety glasses at high speed, and the glasses cannot shatter or break (paintball bullet protection guaranteed). 

Thinking about your regular eyeglasses and sunglasses, it’s pretty clear they wouldn’t be able to protect your eyes under these circumstances. What materials can pass these tests? Let’s find out. 

What Are Safety Glasses Made Of?

The material with which your safety glasses are made may not include unicorn hair and magic, but that doesn’t mean they don’t possess some serious other-worldly powers. Any material that can survive a weighted, high-speed impact without shattering is impressive, to say the least. 

Safety glasses often have lenses and frames made from the same material, but sometimes, the material varies from lens to frame. As such, we'll break down our inspection of materials into two parts: lens material and frame material. 

Safety Glasses: Lens Materials

The most obvious part of any pair of glasses is arguably the lens (the part that covers your eye). Safety glasses have lenses that don’t shatter, scratch, or break. 


Glass was voted “Least Likely To Be In Safety Glasses” in its high school yearbook.

Still, we must hand out an honorable mention. This material shatters and breaks, making it not ideal for safety glasses. Still, some forms of shatter-resistant glass can be used to give your glasses better durability. 

Glass has amazing optic qualities, but it’s prone to fogging and incredibly heavy. Nobody wants a pound of foggy glass sitting on the bridge of their nose while they attempt to put together a new Ikea bedroom suit — because you never want glass breaking a few millimeters away from your eyes. Shatter-resistant glass is more of a thing you want to have but never want to need to have. 


This type of plastic lens is lightweight, but that’s just about all they have going for them. Nylon safety glasses are simply too fragile to withstand heavy impacts. They might only last a few weeks in a high-risk work environment like a construction site.


Another plastic lens type, CR39, is ideal for everyday eyeglasses and readers. However, it’s not strong enough to make reliable safety glasses in most cases. CR39 is only slightly tougher than glass, so it can shatter pretty easily when dropped or hit by a fast-moving object. No good.

On the other hand, polycarbonate is shatter-proof with an ANSI Z87-1-2020 certification. It’s not only tough, but polycarbonate is incredibly optically clear. It basically gives a whole new meaning to “crystal clear.”

Seriously — we can’t obsess about polycarbonate enough. Not only is it super shatter-proof, but it’s incredibly optically clear. How’s that for a Venn diagram of A+ qualities?


We’ll call this the O.G. of safety glasses materials. Polycarbonate was developed during the space race in the very late 1950s. It’s lightweight, incredibly durable, and inexpensive to produce, making it the go-to for safety glasses worldwide. 

In addition to providing clear optics, you’ll get the benefit of natural UV protection, something other materials can’t offer.


Originally created for military aviation, this type of polymer (aka plastic) provides excellent optical clarity and durability… but you’ll pay for it. This material isn’t very popular because it’s more expensive to produce. It’s better than cheap types of plastic, more durable, and remarkably clear, but if your glasses are ever damaged, you might have to sell some plasma to replace them. 


Usually, frames are made from the same material as the lenses, but there are always outliers. For instance, sports frames are sometimes made from nylon material, so they can bend while you flex your sports skills.

Frames can also be elastic, which is common on parts of safety goggles or face shields. These types of frames may even be treated with an antiviral coating to help protect against germs.

Polycarbonate frames are the most common because of their durability and lightweight comfort. But why all this attention to your glasses? It’s because your vision is that important. 

Vision Basics

Your vision is complicated and intricate, but here’s the CliffsNotes version of how it works. 

Light is collected from your cornea. With the help of your pupil and lens, the light is adjusted, metered, and sent to the retina (located at the back of your eye). Within the retina are retinal cells, which take the light collected by the cornea and send it to the brain via the optic nerve. 

The brain then interprets the light as your vision. Voila! It all happens in nanoseconds, and this detailed process makes up what is arguably the most complex of your five senses. 

Unfortunately, vision can be easily damaged because retinal cells (the cells responsible for vision) don’t regenerate. That means when they are damaged or destroyed, part of your vision is lost forever. For this reason, vision protection is complex. 

The Stats

“I’m super careful,” or “I don’t do anything dangerous,” or “Danger is my middle name” are the famous last words of someone who was not careful and did do something dangerous and is now sitting in the ER with an eye injury. Why? They refused to wear safety glasses. Don’t be that person. 

The fact is that eye injuries are real and extremely common. There are more than 2.4 million eye injuries per year. Roughly 800,000 of those occur on the job, but the remainder happens right at home or during sports or recreational activities. 

The most common types of eye-related injuries are:

  • Strikes
  • Scrapes
  • Burns
  • Lacerations
  • Splashes and splatters
  • Chemical exposure 
  • Dust 
  • Impact from debris

There is a silver lining, though. Eye injury experts say that 98% of all eye injuries are completely preventable by wearing proper safety glasses. The takeaway: show up and suit up (with safety eyewear). 

Here’s what your safety glasses should have to protect your eyes properly. 

Polycarbonate Protection

Polycarbonate frames and lenses are most common for a reason: they work really, really well. Safety glasses should protect your eyes and remain comfortable enough that you’ll actually wear them. Polycarbonate checks both boxes. 

In addition to impact resistance, Stoggles has a few other features to keep your eyes stay safe (and comfortable):

Side and Top Shields

Your regular glasses don’t connect with your eyebrows or your temples, leaving little gaps where debris could infiltrate and strike your eyes. Side and top shields help prevent those gaps and give your eyes 360-degree protection against intrusion — kind of like a shield against your eyes’ enemies. 

Anti-Fog Coating

Foggy glasses are a pain. Constantly removing them to wipe down condensation doesn’t make your safety glasses very safe. In fact, it puts your eyes at risk.

When you remove your glasses, your eyes are at risk of whatever you’re protecting them from. You’re also taken off task. That’s a pretty big deal, especially if you’re working with power tools or laser beams or toddlers running with scissors. 

Blue Light Blocking Technology

What’s all the buzz about blue light? It’s powerful, similar to UV rays, and coming at you in virtually all directions. From the sun to your smartphone, blue light finds its way to your eyeballs and can cause everything from eye strain to majorly disrupted sleep cycles.

Protect your eyes from blue light (and the massive headaches that can come along with it) by getting safety glasses that offer built-in blue light-diffusing technology. At Stoggles, all of our eyewear comes standard with this feature, so you can trust your eyes are safe whether you’re learning the latest TikTok dance phenomenon or impressing your neighbors with your lawncare abilities.

UV Protection

UV light is hard on your eyes, and we 0/10 recommend applying sunscreen anywhere near them. Instead, opt for safety glasses that offer UV protection. Stoggles are made from lightweight, durable polycarbonate, which is naturally UV blocking. That means you get UV protection without any tinting. That, friends, is a superpower in itself. 

Serious Wearability

Let’s be honest. You aren’t going to wear safety glasses (no matter what the risk) if your glasses aren’t comfortable or attractive. We aren’t here to scold you; we’re here to agree with you. At Stoggles, we combine form and function, so you never have to choose safety over style or compromise your eye health for comfort. 

Our eyewear collection is available in numerous frame styles (even retro-trendy cat-eye), colors, and sizes so that you can get eyewear that’s just as unique as you are.

Stoggles: Safety and Style Are What We’re Made Of

Safety frames and lenses are often made from lightweight, durable, and dependable polycarbonate, but Stoggles added a style-specific spin that you’ll only find, well, right here. 

With UV protection, blue-light blocking technology, and the most important safety features you need to protect your vision, Stoggles are simply the smart choice. 

Stoggles are the solution for keeping your eyes safe and your style on point. 



ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020: Current Standard for Safety Glasses | ANSI

1910.133 - Eye and face protection. | Occupational Safety and Health Administration

How the Eyes Work | National Eye Institute

800,000 Eye Injuries Occur Annually, 90% are Preventable | EHS Today

polycarbonate | chemical compound | Britannica

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