Although the bard Corey Hart sang, "I wear my sunglasses at night," that probably isn't a stellar idea, unless you're dressed as Hart and it's Halloween. However, sporting shades during the day is a great idea no matter what the season. Excessive exposure to UV light (even as reflected by the sand or pavement) not only causes bug-eyed squinting, but can do serious damage to your eyes. Harsh sun rays can burn your eyes the same way the sun can cause, well, a sunburn. And, as sun damage continues, you can do some real harm to your eyesight without even knowing or feeling it.
But, like slathering on sunblock with SPF, you can easily protect your eyeballs from UV rays. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends wearing sunglasses as a preventative measure, provided they screen out 99% to 100% of UV light. But which are better? Do dollar store specs or designer lenses better protect the eyes? To clarify any shades of gray in the matter, here are some tips on how to pick your perfect pair of sunglasses:
Look for a UVA-UVB Protection Rating
Remember what we said about sunblock and SPF? Well, imagine going out — and staying out — on a bright day without any sunscreen. Unfortunately that's exactly what you'll do to your eyes if you overlook the levels of UVA and UVB protection from your sunglasses. Watch out for chic $5 shades from the convenience store, as many don't pack the protection you need. Some do however, so examine the sunglasses to ensure that they block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation; the label should read either "UV 400" or "100% UV protection." The pictured Smith Optics Men's Foley Sunglasses ($55.96 via coupon code "ALSPRING2" with $9.95 s&h, a low by $5) strike a balance between style and protectiveness, with both 100% UVB and UVA protection. When shopping on your own however, don't be fooled if the glasses merely say "UV protective." That's not good enough — and in fact, may mean they're no good at all.
For Maximum UV Protection, Try Wraparound Shades
Wraparounds are designed to keep the light from shining around the glasses frames and into your eyes. Studies have shown that enough UV rays enter around ordinary eyeglass frames to reduce the benefits of protective lenses, but large-framed wraparound sunglasses can protect your eyes from all angles. These classicly styled Electric Eyewear Women's Mayday Sunglasses in Tortoise Shell/Bronze ($76.99 with free shipping, a low by $3) are subtly tinted brown and will keep the sun out of your eyes from all angles.
For the Best Eye Protection, Get a Prescription Pair
The FDA regulates sunglasses to the extent that manufacturers who sell over-the-counter, nonprescription pairs can only claim they reduce eye strain and eye fatigue due to glare. Other labels that claim UV protection need proof and proper labeling. To find such a pair, opt for a prescription. You might find your perfect pair of sunglasses at Googles4U, where you'll save $5.95 on any prescription pair of sunglasses priced up to $19.95 via coupon code "1dglasses".
Pick Polarized Lenses
They're not as essential as UV protection, but many wearers prefer polarized lenses, which employ polarizing films to help reduce the glare when light bounces off water, highway roads, and other reflective surfaces.
Try Tapered Lenses
Many cheap shades have inferior optical quality. Good lenses require careful manufacturing control that includes "decentering," or tapering the lenses, whereas inexpensive plastic lenses will strain your eyes. You might not notice it at first, but after a while, subtle fatigue or even severe eyestrain and headaches can occur. The Oakley Men's Trojan Signature Sunglasses in Black/Matte Black/Grey (pictured) ($69.99 with free shipping, a low by $31) are a popular pair of curved-lens shades that also feature 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection.
But no matter where you shop, be sure that your new favorite pair of sunglasses not only suit your style, but protect your eyes from the harmful rays. And remember, if you can't find your perfect pair of sunglasses from the places we mentioned, sign up for an email alert to get notified about the latest sunglasses deals as they appear.