Sunglasses are one of the few items that can simultaneously help protect your health and serve as a stylish accessory. As tempting as it is to buy a pair based solely on how cool they make you look, it’s also a good idea to check their tag and make sure they actually offer your eyes some protection.
Not only do sunglasses make it easier to see by reducing brightness, they also protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays, which can cause permanent damage to your macula (the back of your eye, which helps transmit images to your brain) as well as the development of cataracts, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Here’s what to look for when purchasing a new pair.
UVA and UVB protection
Yes, there are two types of ultraviolet rays, and our eyes need protection from both. Not only is it important to find a pair that blocks UVA and UVB rays, Cheryl Khanna, M.D., an ophthalmologist at the Mayo Clinic says that they should block 99 to 100 per cent of these rays. This information should be printed either on a sticker on the lens of the glasses, or on their tag.
Size and fit matter
Sunglasses fashions come and go, but when it come to protecting your eyes, the bigger the lens, the better, Khanna says. She suggests opting for close-fitting sunglasses with wide lenses that protect your eyes from every angle — or wraparound sunglasses, if you are so inclined.
But darkness doesn’t
You’d think that the darker the lens is, the more protection it offers, but Khanna says that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, the lenses’ degree of darkness have nothing to do with the sunglasses’ ability to block the sun’s harmful rays.
Pay attention to colour
Having said that, different lens colours can achieve various effects. For example, Khanna says, going with a grey-hued lens will help you with proper colour recognition. However, if you have macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, you’re going to want to try and find amber or brown lenses, as they can help improve colour contrast, according to ophthalmologist Rishi Singh, M.D of the Cleveland Clinic. If you have to pick between the colour of the lenses and the extent of UV protection, Singh advises opting for the pair with the best UV coverage.
And according to Khanna, you’re going to want to find a pair where the lens are perfectly matched in colour and free of distortions and imperfections to ensure the protection is consistent.
They don’t have to be expensive
You may think that the most expensive options offer the best protection, but Singh says that’s not necessarily the case. Pay attention to the quality of the sunglasses and whether or not they’re effective against UVA and UVB rays. If they’re reasonably priced, think of it a bonus.
Don’t forget the kids
Not only do children look adorable in sunglasses, they also need them as shields for their young little eyes. In fact, according to Singh, babies as young as six months should start wearing sunglasses. Keep in mind that eye damage is cumulative, so the earlier you can protect their eyes, the better.
Contact lenses with UV protection aren’t enough
Even though some contact lenses now come with built-in UV protection, Khanna says that that’s not enough. Instead, wear a pair of sunglasses over the contact lenses to better protect your eyes.