Not just eye candy: How to choose the best sunglasses to protect your eyes

July 26, 2017 | by Robert J. Marselle, MD

Catching yourself squinting in the sun? It’s time to head to your local mall or convenience store to pick up a new pair of sunnies.

Used for more than just looking good, sunglasses help protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that can damage the eye’s surface and bring on other diseases and complications like cancer, cataracts, glaucoma, and other short- and long-term eye and vision problems.

Choosing the right pair of sunglasses can be like trying to understand the nutrition label on the backside of your favorite snack. Can I wear these while driving? Are the lenses dark enough? Do they block UV rays?

According to a recent American Optometric Association study, 47 percent of consumers do not check the UV protection level before purchasing sunglasses.

Protect your eyes and take a closer look at what you are buying. Here are 5 tips to help you choose the best shades for complete eye protection:

  1. Look for UV protection. Don’t be deceived by color or cost. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or the price tag. Sunglasses that are labeled as blocking 99-100 percent of UV rays are the best sunscreen for your eyes.
  2. Choose sunglasses that wrap around your face. Wraparound sunglasses offer additional protection from the sun’s rays. Some studies have even showed that when enough UV rays enter around standard sunglass frames, it reduces the protective benefit of the lenses. A frame that fits close to your eyes and contours to the shape of your face will prevent exposure to UV rays from all sides, even from behind.
  3. Make sure your glasses block enough light. Sunglasses should screen out 75-90 percent of visible light. To determine if a pair is dark enough, try the glasses on in front of a mirror. If you can see your eyes easily through the lenses, they are probably too light.
  4. Check the quality of the lenses. Look for lenses that are not darker in one area than the other. To check for imperfections in the lenses, hold the glasses at arm’s length and then look through them at a straight line in the distance, such as the edge of a door. Slowly move the lens across the line. If the straight edge distorts, sways, curves or moves, the lens is flawed.
  5. Determine if the glasses have any special features. Just like cars, sunglasses have special features like polarized lenses, mirror coatings, gradients, photochromic lenses and impact resistance. For this reason, you should determine if you are purchasing sunglasses for everyday use or for a special sport or activity. An optician can help you decide which lens is right for you.

It’s never too early or too late to start protecting your eyes from the sun. 

How do you shop for sunglasses? Tell us in the below comments.

Read more tips to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.

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