Sunglasses are a must-have accessory for men and women, but do your stylish shades actually protect your eyes? Despite what many think, the average pair of frames won’t do much to guard against vision damage; they shade your eyes, but most mass market sunglasses don’t provide much UV protection. This leaves you at risk of photokeratitis (essentially sunburn in your eyes), vision loss, and even cataracts and macular degeneration.
Before you hit the beach this summer, then, it’s time to give your glasses the once over. If you’re not positive they provide real protection against UV rays, it’s time to trade them in for something a little sturdier and that will give your eyes the protection they deserve.
The Basic Rule: Don’t Trust The Tint
Most accessories guides focus on the style benefits of sunglasses – pair them with a beanie or baseball hat and they work year round. Unfortunately, in emphasizing the style elements of sunglasses, these guides tend to overlook the safety factor, so here’s what you need to know: a dark tint doesn’t mean better protection. In fact, sometimes they can be worse for your eyes.
Rather than opting for dark tinted glasses, which cause your pupils to dilate and take in more light, look for wrap-around styles that keep light out from all angles. If your dark tinted lenses cause your eyes to dilate but the frames let light in on the side, you’ll end up with far too much exposure, and the damage that comes with that.
Read The Labels
If you aren’t supposed to buy the darkest lenses, what should you look for when buying sunglasses? Start by reading the labels. You want glasses that are rated for 100% UV protection with glare-reducing, polarized lenses. This type of full protection will help reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, both of which can be exacerbated by excess exposure to sunlight.
Check The Environment
You should always wear sunglasses, even on cloudy days, but some environments are more hazardous for your eye health than others. If you’re at the pool or the beach, for example, the glare off of the water can magnify the sun and increase the risk of eye damage. This is the same reason you should wear sunglasses in the winter – because the snow reflects the sun back into your eyes.
Stay In Style
Just because you’re focused on function when choosing sunglasses, doesn’t mean you need to give up your style. The first step, though, is to identify quality sunglasses that provide full protection, and then select from among them. You don’t have to spend a lot, even on trendy frames, as long as they provide proper UV protection. You can absolutely get UV protection on a budget.
As for frame styles, wraparound frames provide the greatest degree in protection, but they’re not the only option. Still, it’s best to opt for larger frames – oversized, rectangular sunglasses are trending this summer, as are overstated cat-eye frames. Meanwhile, if you do opt for a smaller frame, then you should always opt for a wraparound option because the main lenses won’t provide sufficient protection alone.
Sunglasses can add flair to any outfit, but they are, first and foremost, a functional item. Like regular glasses, then, find the pair that meets your needs first and then find the frames that fit with your style – because proper eye protection is always fashionable.