With the beginning of summer come hot, bright and sunny days when you will most definitely find yourself in need of adequate eye protection. But how can you find the best sunglasses with so many options to choose from?
“There are several factors to consider in addition to making a cool-looking fashion statement,” said Adam Gordon, O.D., clinical associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry and director of Cornea and Contact Lens Services at UAB Eye Care. “You want to look for a label on sunglasses that says ‘blocks 100% of UVA and UVB’ to know that you are buying sunglasses that actually protect the eye.”
Why is the label so important? Prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays has been linked to debilitating and sight-threatening eye conditions down the road — including cataract formation and cancer around the eyelids, according to the American Optometric Association. Sunglasses that block these harmful rays can help reduce the likelihood of these conditions.
In addition to the UV label, Gordon recommends large, dark, close-fitting frames that wrap around the eyes and head. While this often provides a fashionable element, it helps protect not only the eye, but vulnerable skin around the eyes. “Larger lenses provide better protection of the delicate skin surrounding the eyes, and limit light from entering the eye from the sides of sunglasses,” Gordon said.
He notes that polarized lenses are also recommended to avoid reflected glare, such as from cars or water. However, light or colored lenses may look stylish; but the darker the lenses, the better.
“The lenses should also be dark enough that, in bright sunlight, the wearer is still comfortable,” Gordon said. “We don’t want people still squinting or experiencing eye sensitivity if their lenses are too light.”
A helpful way to determine whether your sunglasses are dark enough is the mirror test. Simply look at yourself in a mirror with the glasses on. If you cannot see or can barely see your eyes through the lenses, the sunglasses are good to go, Gordon explains.
For children, the same rules to sunglass shopping apply. Infants and children are more susceptible to the sun’s UV rays since their eyes allow more light into the retina, making it vital to protect children’s sensitive eyes. For extra protection, Gordon also recommends children wear a wide-brimmed hat, which has been found to decrease UV rays by up to 50 percent.
When people are purchasing sunglasses, price is often a key factor. Gordon explains that you do not have to break the bank or visit a specialty shop to still get quality, safe sunglasses.
“Sunglasses that block ultraviolet light are available at many locations and at multiple price points,” he said. “As long as the label clearly states that the lenses block 100 percent UVA and UVB rays, it doesn’t really matter where sunglasses are purchased or how much they cost.”