Summer’s here and unfortunately so is UV radiation. You probably already got your sunscreen ready for the beach—or long hikes—but are your sunglasses ready for what the sun will throw at your eyes?
A good pair of sunglasses is more than just a fashion statement. It’s an effective way to protect your eyes from serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss.
But with different lens materials, coatings, tints, and what-nots, it may feel like a task to pick the right sunnies.
We’re here to help. We’ve put together this guide to make choosing the best type of sunglasses this summer a simple and easy affair. Let’s get right on to it.
The Sun, UV Rays, and Your Eyes
Like plants, trees, and all other living things on earth, you need sunlight to stay healthy. It gives you a quick boost of vitamin D and releases serotonin, a hormone with many functions in the body. Serotonin levels influence learning, memory, sleep, and mood.
But the same does not apply to your eyes. Exposure to sunlight can damage your eyes in more ways than one.
Short term, a day outside without sunglasses can cause swollen, sensitive eyes. Do this for a long period and you could be putting yourself at major risk for cataracts, macular degeneration, corneal sunburn, and even eye cancer.
The blame falls primarily on the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. These rays are of three types: UVA, UVB, and UVC rays, each with varying energy levels.
- UVA rays – These rays have the lowest energy levels. They easily get past your cornea and cause maximum damage to your lens and retina. Over time, UVA rays can lead to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.
- UVB rays – These emit more energy than UVA rays. They get absorbed by your cornea and are linked with photokeratitis (corneal sunburn) and pterygia (growth on the white part of the eye). They may also cause UV-related cancers around the eyelids.
- UVC rays – These emit the highest energy levels and have the potential to be the most damaging to your eyes. Thankfully, the ozone layer blocks nearly all these rays.
UV rays can cause damage even when the sky is overcast. They easily penetrate your eye tissues, increasing the risk of eye problems.
Can Sunglasses Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays?
Wearing sunglasses is a simple and safe way to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. But studies showthat only one in three people wear sunglasses in outdoor recreation spaces.
So, why are sunglasses a must-have, especially when it’s sunny outdoors?
Your eyes naturally filter out most UV rays. But some rays still manage to penetrate this filter and damage the delicate structures of your eyes.
That’s when sunglasses come to the rescue. To begin with, certain sunglass types are used to absorb or transmit specific wavelengths of light. Different lens materials and coatings help achieve this. This way, they allow the visible light to reach your eyes while blocking UV rays.
Sunglasses also use the principle of polarization to reduce glare. Polarized lenses block horizontally oriented light, allowing only vertically oriented light to pass through. This helps reduce glare, particularly on bright summer days.
UV-protected sunglasses offer further protection by completely blocking or reflecting both UVA and UVB rays away from your eyes.
Sunglasses also shield the sensitive skin around your eyes. Not to forget the physical barrier they offer between your eyes and the surrounding environment.
Tip: We wrote an entire post on the science of sunglasses. Check it out!
Buyer’s Guide: Best Sunglasses for Eye Protection
Price and style are generally the two main factors people consider while shopping for shades. But it’s important to make sun protection your priority.
The good news is that you won’t have to sacrifice style. Plus, you can find sunglasses with great eye protection at good prices.
Here’s how to choose the correct sunglasses for summer.
1. Look for 100% UV Protection
The first and most important consideration is 100% UV protection. Don’t get bogged down by the cost, color, or darkness of the sunglasses. These are not an indicator of their UV protection levels.
Your sunglasses should be labeled 100% UV blocking or UV 400 protection. These types of shades for eyes work by either blocking, absorbing, or reflecting UV rays. Wearing them during peak sun hours will significantly reduce your risk of UV-related eye issues.
2. Keep Quality in Mind
High-quality sunglasses provide clear and distortion-free vision. They don’t come with defects, such as tiny bubbles or waves, that scatter light. These types of sunnies are also scratch-resistant and don’t allow UV rays to seep through.
When looking through the lenses, check for any visible distortions or imperfections. Hold the sunglasses at a comfortable distance and slowly move them side by side, up and down.
3. Consider Polarized Lenses
Polarized lenses are all the rage these days. And for good reason. They let vertically polarized light pass through while blocking horizontally polarized light.
Polarized lenses don’t provide UV protection unless they also have a label like UV 400. But they reduce glare and can prevent eye strain and improve visual clarity.
4. Don’t Forget Tint and Color
Different lens tints and colors serve different purposes. Choosing the right tint and color for your summer sunnies can make a world of difference.
Gray or green tints are ideal for outdoor use as they offer natural color perception. On the other hand, brown or amber tints enhance contrast and are great for driving or playing sports. Yellow or orange tints improve visibility in low-light conditions.
5. Go Oversize
When it comes to sunglasses, bigger is often better. Oversize sunglasses offer greater protection from UV rays. And they also shield the delicate skin around your eyes.
Ensure that the sunglasses fit comfortably and don’t slide down or pinch your nose. Wraparound sunglasses are one of the best options to consider—they tick all the above boxes.
6. Don’t Overlook the Lens Material
Do you need sunglasses for sports? Or are you planning a beachside vacation? Think of your lifestyle and activity to pick the right types of lenses.
Sunglasses come with different lens materials, each with its own characteristics and benefits.
- Glass lenses – These offer excellent optical clarity. But they are heavier and more prone to breakage and so not ideal for sports.
- Plastic lenses – These are lightweight and more impact-resistant than glass lenses. Plus, they offer good optical quality.
- Polycarbonate lenses – Polycarbonate is highly impact-resistant. This is the best lens type for sunglasses if you’re seeking durability, clarity, and safety.
7. Consider Lens Coating
Lens coatings can improve the performance and durability of your sunglasses. Here are a few types of coatings to consider:
- Anti-reflective coating – This will reduce reflections on the lens surface. The result is better visual clarity and practically no eye strain.
- Scratch-resistant coating – This coating will make your sunglasses resistant to minor scratches and abrasions. It will also maintain lens clarity and longevity.
- Mirror coating – This will provide a reflective surface on the outside of the lenses, reducing the amount of light entering your eyes.
8. Check for Authenticity
Don’t buy your shades from just about any retailer. The global sunglasses market was worth $15.79 billion in 2020, and sellers of counterfeit or fake sunglasses are trying to capitalize on it. But while fake sunglasses may look as good as the designer eyewear they are based on, they often provide little to no UV protection.
Do your research and buy them only from a reputable source. This will ensure you are getting a genuine, high-quality product. Not to forget the benefits of a warranty.
But remember, a high price doesn’t necessarily mean superior quality. Just because a pair of sunglasses comes from a big designer doesn’t mean they provide enough sun protection—or are going to last more than a few summers.
At the end of the day, you can get authentic sunglasses with UV protection without burning a hole in your pocket. Or sacrificing style. There’s no shortage of high-quality options out there.
Keeping Your Eyes Healthy and Happy
Sunglasses exist so you can sit in the sun all day without worrying about UV damage to your eyes. But not all sunglasses are equal.
A pair of tinted shades might look fashionable, but without UV protection, wearing them is as bad as wearing nothing at all.
All the more reason to pick a high-quality pair of sunglasses with 100% UV protection. You can further opt for features like polarization and scratch-resistant coating.
In the end, don't forget that an eye health supplement can also help protect your eyes against oxidative stress induced by UV radiation.
Keep your eyes healthy and happy with natural eye health supplements.