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How to Pick Good Sunglasses

Here's tips for choosing shades that will protect your eyes from the sun's harmful effects.

Make Sunglasses a Daily Habit

Like sunscreen, sunglasses should be worn whenever you’re outdoors, year round.

"Just as we’ve learned that you can get a really nasty sunburn on an overcast, hazy day, you’re exposing your eyes to damaging UV rays on these days, too," Royal says.

Sunglasses are especially important for children, says Peter Kehoe, OD, an Illinois optometrist who specializes in children’ vision.

“UV eye damage is cumulative over a lifetime,” Kehoe says, “so it’s important to make wearing sunglasses a habit early in life. What’s more, children’s eyes are especially vulnerable because they’re still developing.”

Protecting your eyes from the sun begins with picking the right pair of sunglasses. Here’s advice from eye care experts.

Look for Complete UVA/UVB Protection

Choose sunglasses that provide full protection against ultraviolet light. Look for a label or a sticker that says one or more of the following:

  • Lenses block 99% or 100% of UVB and UVA rays
  • Lenses meet ANSI Z80.3 blocking requirements. (This refers to standards set by the American National Standards Institute.)
  • UV 400 protection. (These block light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, which means that your eyes are shielded from even the tiniest UV rays.)

 

Choose the Right Hue

The coating that blocks UV radiation is clear, so a darker lens isn’t necessarily more effective than a lighter one. But hue does play an important role in color perception.

Yellow or rose tinted lenses can make it difficult to distinguish changes in traffic lights. Gray, green, and brown lenses minimize color distortion, and are a better choice when you’ll be behind the wheel.

Opt for Polarized Lenses If You Spend a Lot of Time on Water

Polarized lenses reduce glare by filtering out the reflected sunlight that bounces off surfaces like water or pavement. They’re a good option for boaters or water skiers, and they can cut down on glare from flat, smooth surfaces like road pavement or the hoods of cars.

The downside: It can be difficult to read your cell phone, GPS device, or a liquid-crystal display on a dashboard or ATM machine with polarized lenses.

Be aware that polarization has nothing to do with UV protection. So check the label to make sure the sunglasses provide full UV filtering.

Consider the Quality of the Lenses

Eye care experts agree that price isn’t a gauge of UV protection. But very inexpensive sunglasses are likely to contain lenses that are stamped out of a mold rather than ground and polished, and that can affect optical quality.

“Consistency is a concern with lower-priced glasses,” says Kehoe, a past president of the American Optometric Association. “You might find one pair that offers great clarity and another that’s the very same brand and model and highly distorted.”

To test optical quality, the FDA suggests focusing on a vertical edge or line. Move your head back and forth, allowing your eyes to sweep across the lens. “If there is any wiggle in the line,” the FDA guidelines say, “then the lenses may have an optical defect and you should choose another pair.”

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