There’s nothing quite like ripping your loyal iron steed on a gorgeous day.
With cool air rushing through your lungs with vitality, and the sun kissing your face with energy…until it burns your face.
If you’ve ever had your nose and cheeks hard-roasted through your motorcycle helmet, you’ve probably asked yourself, do motorcycle helmets have UV protection?
Read on to find out.
Here’s the Answer to Whether Motorcycle Helmets Have UV Protection:
Any plastic or glass from a helmet or visor will block UV type A; only a helmet face shield or visor that specifies UV blocking ability blocks type B. If you’re concerned about UV exposure, be sure to use a UV protective face shield.
Do I Need to Worry About UV in Bike Helmets?
Unless fitted with a UV-resistant visor, helmets don’t protect eyes and skin from the UV type B rays that cause harm. Helmets are designed to protect motorcyclists from head trauma during impact at high speeds; UV-resistant helmet upgrades are available for those that aren’t already.
Any moto-maniac can tell you how badly you can burn on a bike, right through your full-face helmet, even in the wintertime.
Some riders will cover their bodies head to toe in protective gear, only to have that sliver of face-melt stripped across their helmets at the end of their riding session.
It’s even worse for fans of the opened face helmet, or even some of the trending throwback-modern lids with old-school, narrow chin bars.
If even a strip of the face is exposed and vulnerable, a rider will know. Hence the interest in and necessity of UV-resistant visors.
I have one of those old-school/new-schools I mentioned earlier. I rock UV protective goggles with it, and they do wonders for facial protection, but the only thing saving the bottom of my chin is my beard.
Cheeks, nose, and lips are often exposed through a full-face visor unless the visor is UV protective; these are sensitive areas to burn.
Even tinted visors don’t necessarily have UV protection.
Unless your helmet specifies that its visor is protective against UV or specifies an SPF rating, your face is susceptible to sun-burning through your helmet’s visor.
I’m skeptical of a helmet that doesn’t mention SPF at all if the UV protection is vague.
It only takes a few minutes of intense sun exposure to form melanoma. Moto-maniacs spend 10s of hours in the sun, in the middle of the desert, or on the top of mountains; that’s why a UV protective helmet visor matters.
And don’t think for a second that this only applies to riders who ride in the summer months. The sun is still the sun in the wintertime, and its UV rays shine down upon your brow even from behind winter clouds.
I make it a habit to carry sunscreen in my saddlebags and a tube of UV-resistant lip balm in my riding vest pocket. If you’re not interested in a UV protective visor, anti-UV sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses are a good substitute for keeping your eyes, nose, and cheeks safe from sun damage.
Related: How To Wear A Helmet Without Messing Up Hair (Explained)
How Do I Know If a Helmet Visor Has UV Protection?
A visor intended to protect from UV will detail the type of UV protection it provides and what type of UV it protects against. In some cases, the labeling of a UV protective visor will even provide a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) rating.
The sun’s rays naturally emit multiple types of UV rays. According to some research, extended exposure can result in macular degeneration, an eye disease that reduces vision.
Ultraviolet rays can also cause cataracts, making it even more important to check the packaging of your UV protective visor to make sure it protects against type B UV rays.
UV rays are categorized into types A, B, and C. UV A rays are virtually harmless, except in intense, prolonged exposure circumstances.
Also, all plastic and glass protect against type A rays, so a helmet visor that announces its defense against type A UV rays like it’s accomplishing something is misleading.
The ozone takes care of the harmful type C rays for us—it’s the B rays that both get past the ozone layer, get through standard plastic, and could cause burning, cataracts, and melanoma.
IF you’re in the market for a UV-resistant visor and don’t see a specific SPF rating, make sure the label specifies that it’s resistant to harmful UV rays or type B.
Related: How Do Helmets Protect Your Head? (Explained)
What Is the Best Type of Visor for UV Protection?
Any visor that specifies an SPF rating is the most trustworthy. Helmets with built-in, drop-down UV protective visors spare the hassle of meddling or keeping track of sunglasses, or alternating between day and night face shields, as you can flick the UV shield up with a spin of a switch.
That way, when the sun comes up, you flick down your visor, and when the sun sets, you to flick it back up.
That said, there are myriad helmets of this style now, and they all differ from one another. When buying a helmet with an integrated UV-protective visor besides the SPF rating, there are multiple things to consider.
Luckily for you, we’re about to shine some light on UV-resistant helmet shopping.
Let’s start with the reason we’re all here today: UV protection.
Apart from the advantages against the intrusive glare of sunlight and headlights, you’ll want to make sure your helmet’s integrated visor protects against harmful UV rays.
Like there are SPF ratings, there are UV levels. UV400 is the highest level of protection; UV400 blocks out both UVA and UVB.
Research before you buy to make sure the integrated sun visor that comes in your helmet protects against harmful UV rays.
Visor Deployment Type
There are two types of integrated sun visors out there—analog or binary.
Binary refers to a UV-resistant visor that only has two positions: up and down.
An analog integrated sun visor lets you drop the visor down as little or as much as you want, adjusting it by hand.
Most riders will flick the visor all the way down when they want UV lens power and flick it back up when they don’t. For the riders who want that extra layer of UV control, read up on which helmets let you analog-set your UV visor; research to make sure you’re getting what you want.
It’s also a good idea to know how the visor is employed—while some UV-resistant visors are dropped manually, others utilize a spring system that deploys your visor with the press of a button.
More than a few of the helmets on the modern moto-market equip anti-fog face shields, but not all UV visors are created equal in this regard. Anti-scratch, that’s almost a given at this point, but anti-fog is something you need to look out for.
The sun still shines when it’s cold out.
If you’ve ever ridden the mountains in the fall, when the leaves are changing, you know how possible it is to need UV protection in places when it’s cold enough for your breath to fog up your face gear.
And, like we already mentioned, UVB rays are just as harmful in the winter as they are in the summer.
Look for integrated helmets that treat the sun visor with the anti-fog application. That said, the black hue on UV visors tends to attract and hold more warmth than clear visors; I’ve never had too much of a problem with condensation on my UV visors, even on ones that didn’t specify being anti-fog.
While some sun visors drop down to cover your whole face, others gnarly cover your eyes. It’s important to know what size visor you’re looking for before you drop three big-faced bills on an integrated helmet that doesn’t suit your needs.
There are multiple considerations when deciding how big of a sun visor you want—those attributes are:
- Nose shape
- Face shape
- Head shape
- Personal taste
Try on a few different helmets with different-sized drop-down, integrated visors to know what works for your unique shape and style.
UV-Protective Visor’s Location on Helmet
This one is a matter of taste and has more to do with your riding style and position than anything else.
Every integrated UV visor-equipped helmet puts its visors deployment switch in a different place.
Would you prefer to use your throttle hand or your clutch hand?
Is it easier for you to flick a switch down on the front of your chin bar or off to the side of your visor?
They tend to be on the left-hand side, as not to interfere with throttling, but I’ve seen a few that changed even that up.
I’ve also seen a few helmets with the UV visor switch behind the visor pivot points, something you’d have to get used to.
I’ve even seen a few helmets with their visor switch back behind the crown vent.
Whether it’s a push, flick, or slide, the location on the helmet of the UV visor switch is something to consider before buying an integrated helmet.
Related: Matte vs. Glossy Motorcycle Helmets? What You Should Know
Is 95% UV Protection Enough?
A shield with 95% UV protection is enough to protect your eyes as long as it blocks more UV than it does visible light.
If the visor or sunglasses blocks 95% of UV and 90% of visible light, you’re protected. If the visor allows 98% of visible light, though, it will cause damage, as your eyes need enough visible light present to adjust to the daylight.
If you are using a tinted visor that doesn’t offer UV protection, your eyes are deceived into dilating as if it’s dark out, letting more light as a reaction. This makes them more vulnerable to UVB damage.
Not only is the direct sunlight entering your dilated pupils, but UV rays are reflecting off of passing cars, trucks, metal, and mirrors.
Riding with a tinted visor that doesn’t offer UV protection may feel more comfortable. Still, it’s actually doing a disservice by misleading your eyes, putting them in a vulnerable position to be damaged by UVB.
What Are the Benefits of Having UV Protection in the Visor?
A UV-protection visor on your motorcycle helmet protects your eyes from harmful UVB rays, thus protecting the sensitive skin on your face from sun exposure. There’s research that suggests wearing UV-resistant eye protection reduces the risk of skin cancer and cataracts.
Helmet visors that protect motorcyclists from both UVA and those harmful UVB rays will keep springing up.
While most sunglasses sold in the United States offer at least some protection against UVB rays, that’s not yet the case with tinted motorcycle helmet visors.
Make sure your eyes are protected by doing the research and getting a helmet visor rated to protect against UVB.