Choosing the Right Sunglasses

by James Florence


There are several factors to consider when purchasing a pair of sunglasses, including UV protection and frame style. Photo: 20 / 20 Optometry of Silicon Valley (2013)

Sunglasses aren’t merely a fashion statement—in fact, a good pair of shades can mean the difference between healthy and unhealthy eyes. While most people know that sunglasses protect the eyes from harmful UV rays, many don’t realize the extent to which they prevent ocular injury and illness. Quality sunglasses will combat everything from cataracts and glaucoma to macular degeneration and photokeratisis (snow blindness). Here are some factors to consider when shopping for a new pair:

UV protection
The number one thing to look for in a pair of sunglasses is adequate UV protection. Many people don’t know that UV pertains to two types of light rays: UVA (the more prevalent and deeply penetrating) and UVB (the more intense and harmful to the skin). Any pair of sunglasses will absorb some UV rays, but only sunglasses that are specifically manufactured to meet high standards will absorb them all. Before making a purchase, check the label for the following features:

  • Lenses block 99 to 100 percent of UVB and UVA rays
  • Lenses meet ANSI Z80.3 blocking requirements
  • UV 400 protection

A variety of styles
When shopping for a pair of sunglasses, you’ll likely find various styles and specialized features. Polarized lenses reduce glare by filtering out sunlight that’s reflected off water and pavement, which is why they’re popular with drivers of cars and boats. Skiers and snowboarders favor lenses that block blue light, as it tends to make faraway objects more visually distinct, particularly in snow or haze. Another popular choice are photochromic lenses, also known as “transitions” because of the way the tint of the lenses transitions in response to changing light conditions. In regard to frame style, most optometrists recommend wraparound sunglasses because they protect the eyes from sunlight at all angles, including the sides.

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