Sunglasses shopping? How to pick the best pair for your peepers
Most people consider sunglasses an accessory. But unlike belts and watches, you should take more than style into account when choosing shades — consider your optical health. You slather skin with sunscreen, but your eyes also need protection.
Maintaining eye health
According to the American Optometric Association, UV rays can cause eye health problems like cataracts, cancer and photokeratitis, or sunburn on the eye. Some people might only think to wear sunglasses during the warmer months, but The Vision Council points out that UV light rays are present throughout the year and snow can reflect UV light so don’t forget to sport your specs in the winter, too.
If you’re picking a new pair, consider these factors:
Blocking UV rays. The AOA suggests sunglasses that block a minimum of 99 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation. Be vigilant when checking for UV protection, because no industry standard exists for labeling.
Properly made lenses. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends this test for ensuring the manufacturer made your lenses properly: Grab your pair and find a rectangular pattern, such as a floor tile. Hold the shades at a comfortable distance from your face, cover one eye and slowly move the lenses up and down and side to side. If the lines on the pattern remain straight, the lenses are made properly. If the line curves at all, try new lenses.
Polarized lenses. According to AAO, polarized lenses work well for driving and fishing because they reduce glare. The Sun Authority offers advice for testing the polarization of lenses. First, find a reflective surface or a computer. Hold the sunglasses straight in front of the surface or screen, then rotate the shades 60 degrees. If the glare diminishes from the reflective surface, or the lenses turn black in front of the computer screen, the lenses are polarized.
Lens darkness. The AOA suggests trying on sunglasses in front of a mirror. If you can easily see your eyes, the lenses are too light.
Price point. According to the AOA, some sunglasses cost more but provide poor UV protection and lens quality, while some cheaper pairs measure up well in those categories.
Lens tints. Various tints work better for different needs and environments, according to The Vision Council.
- Gradient tints: These lenses appear darker at the top and lighter toward the bottom, and eliminate glare from overhead while still allowing clear visibility when you look straight ahead or down.
- Double-gradient lenses: Lenses featuring double-gradient tints boast a darker color at the top and bottom and a lighter color in the middle. These cut glare from overhead and from reflective surfaces below, such as water or snow, but still provide clear vision straight ahead.
- Yellow or rose tints: These lenses work well for fog and haze because they increase color contrast.
- Brown, amber and copper lenses: Brown-based shades reduce glare and increase contrast, making them ideal for use while golfing or practicing water or snow sports.
- Gray or green-gray tints: Lenses based with a grayish color work well for driving because they cut glare while allowing you to see natural colors.