Simple and complex borosilicate glasses were irradiated with single and double ion beams of light and heavy ions over a broad fluence and stopping power range. As a result of the heavy ion irradiation (U, Kr, Au), the hardness was observed to diminish and saturate after a decrease by 35 ± 1%. Unlike slow and swift heavy ion irradiation, irradiation with light ions (He,O) induced a saturation hardness decrease of 18 ± 1% only. During double ion beam irradiation; where glasses were first irradiated with a heavy ion (gold) and then by a light ion (helium), the light ion irradiation induced partial damage recovery. As a consequence of the recovery effect, the hardness of the pre-irradiated glasses increased by 10–15% depending on the chemical composition. These results highlight that the nuclear energy loss and high electronic energy loss (≥4 keV/nm) result in significant and similar modifications whereas light ions with low electronic energy loss (≤1 keV/nm) result in only mild damage formation in virgin glasses and recovery in highly pre-damaged glasses. These results are important to understand the damage formation and recovery in actinide bearing minerals and in glasses subjected to self-irradiation by alpha decays.