Everyone wants a new pair of sunglasses to look great, but before settling on that new pair of shades, consumers should consider their eye health and how well those sunglasses protect against the sun’s harmful rays.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), six factors are most important when shopping for sunglasses:
- Protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays. First and foremost, look for a sticker or tag indicating that the sunglasses block 100 percent of UV rays (UV-A and UV-B). Only about half of those buying sunglasses check whether the lenses protect the eyes from UV light, according to a national sun safety survey by AAO. UV rays, which cause problems such as sunburn and skin cancer, also can cause short- and long-term eye damage such as cataracts and retina deterioration.
- Proper fit and facial coverage. The better sunglasses fit and the more they cover, the safer your eyes will be. Bigger is better, with oversize or wrap-around style sunglasses providing the most protection from UV rays and lessening the chance of small wrinkles developing around the eyes.
- Darker doesn’t mean better. Very dark lenses don’t mean they block more rays from the sun. Again, make sure the label indicates 100 percent UV protection. Dark lenses also may make it difficult to see things such as a vehicle dashboard or phone screen, causing unnecessary eye strain.
- Lens color doesn’t matter. Red, amber, green, gray: Lens color doesn’t dictate better protection from the sun, although some colors can increase contrast and be useful for certain outdoor activities.
- Polarization. Sunglasses with polarized lenses reduce glare at the beach, in the snow, or on the water, but polarization doesn’t take the place of UV protection.
- Cost. A high price tag doesn’t automatically mean sunglasses do a good job of protecting against the sun’s rays. And while inexpensive sunglasses picked up at a gas station aren’t likely to provide 100 percent UV protection, many styles of moderately priced sunglasses do protect well.
For more information on eye health and protection from UV rays, consult an eye care professional. Consumers can check the license status of an optometrist or ophthalmologist through the state Department of Consumer Affairs’ website at https://search.dca.ca.gov.