How to Pick Good Sunglasses
An ill-fitting pair of sunglasses can let UV rays seep onto your skin and into your eyes.
“I look at something that fits the face well,” says optometrist Fraser Horn, OD. “I don’t want it up touching the eyelashes, but I also don’t want it pushed way out. And I want something that lines up with your brow.”
Sunglasses that wrap around your eyes can help block stray UV light. It can also keep out sand and allergens. Those things aren’t good for your eyes, either.
These reduce glare at the beach, in the snow, or out on the water. But polarized lenses don’t take the place of UV protection.
Many people see more clearly through them. But they can make it harder to see things like some screens on computers, smartphones, or dashboards.
Darkness and Color
Just because a lens is almost black doesn’t mean it’s blocking UV light. So again, read that label.
The pupil, the black dot at the center of your eye, controls how much light gets into the back of your eye. When you wear darkened lenses, the pupil opens more to let in more light. If your sunglasses aren’t rated to block UV rays, you could be letting more UV light into the back of your eye.
What’s best: Shatterproof glass? Plastic? Some new-fangled polycarbonate material? Again, it’s a matter of personal taste. How well they help you see matters a lot, too. With some lenses, especially the more curved ones, you can get some distortion. But that’s not always the case.
“If you’re stopping by the gas station on the way to the lake to pick up sunglasses, you’re more likely to have something of lesser quality,” Horn says. “But something that’s more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean that it has great image quality.”
Sunglasses for All
When you’re picking out your new shades, remember this: Get some for the kids you know. And be sure they wear them, sunny or not.
A 2014 survey by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that only 32% of parents make their kids wear sunglasses that are rated to block UV light.
“Whenever you’re thinking, ‘Hmmm, I should be using sunscreen,’ you should be wearing sunglasses,” too, Bishop says. “As a parent, you should be aware that [kids] start accumulating that sun damage just as soon as there’s exposure. Kids wearing sunglasses is an important thing.”
Plus, it's a pretty cool look.