One of the most frequent questions we hear in the Coleman Eye Center optical shop is, “Do I really need to pay a lot for my sunglasses? Don’t my dollar store shades work just as well?”
What is a “good” pair of sunglasses, anyway? Are they really that important? Let’s look at a few things you’ll want to know while searching for your perfect set of summer shades.
Two things to consider when buying new sunglasses are the level of UV protection and quality of polarization your sunglass lenses provide. It is true–all sunglasses are NOT created equal! Over time, exposure to the sun without adequate protection can increase the risk of cataracts, eye cancers, and other eye diseases. Your eyes can even get sunburned!
UV Protective Lenses
The most important thing is to be sure your sunglasses offer enough UV protection. Ultraviolet Radiation from the sun can cause damage to your cornea, which is the transparent layer covering the front of your eye. UV filters have numbered ratings. The higher the number, the better. The highest level and best quality UV protection available is UV 400.
The UV protective coating applied to the lens is clear, so the shade or darkness of the lens does not indicate the level of protection. In fact, dark sunglass lenses without any kind of UV protective coating may even be more damaging to your eyes. Your eye’s natural response to darkness is for the pupil to dilate in order to allow more light to enter. A dilated pupil without any UV protection could allow even more damaging UV rays to reach your eye than not wearing any sunglasses at all.
As you can see, quality UV protection is very important. However, UV protection alone does not really impact glare resistance. For that, you need a good quality polarized lens.
Bright, reflected light that bounces off of surfaces creates what we know as glare. A polarized lens uses a special filter that, microscopically looks like miniblinds on a window. Sunlight reflection (or glare) is typically horizontal light waves. The polarized filter, which is sandwiched between a front and back lens, only allows vertical light waves to enter. By blocking those horizontal waves, glare is reduced.
People who spend a lot of time around water, snow, or metal especially may benefit from good quality polarized lenses. However, anyone who is bothered by glare can benefit. Polarized lenses reduce eye strain and allow for clearer, crisper vision. As a result, the eyes are more comfortable. For this reason, polarized lenses are also good for driving.
A higher quality lens uses a better polarizing filter, which produces a better polarization effect. This allows for better visual perception and less overall eye fatigue. That is why quality sunglasses may come with a higher price tag. A less expensive polarized lens may not offer enough glare protection, and also may not be UV protective. A high quality polarized lens virtually eliminates glare and also blocks harmful UV rays.
Why wouldn’t everyone choose polarized?
There are certain instances in which polarized lenses may not be the best option. The polarized filter could make it difficult to see certain electronic devices, such as phones, computers, and gas pumps. Polarized lenses are also not recommended for pilots, because they may not be able to see their instrument panel clearly.
Does lens color matter?
As mentioned earlier, the darkness of a lens does not indicate its protectiveness. Tint color is a preference, but people choose certain colors for specific reasons. A gray lens is best at reducing brightness and gives the truest color perception. A brown or amber colored lens is a color contrast lens, which may enhance depth perception and be better for low light situations.
What else might impact my vision?
And of course, don’t forget your annual eye exam! To ensure you’re getting the best possible vision outdoors or anywhere, be sure to schedule a visit to your eye doctor! Even a small amount of correction to your vision could create sharper, clearer vision.
Even if you need prescription lenses, we have your sunglass needs covered. We can make prescription sunglasses in polarized or non polarized, even if you need a bifocal or progressive lens. Do you prefer the mirrored look? No worries! That option is available in prescription as well.
Also, a properly fitted frame makes a difference in sun protection as well. An experienced optician can help with that!
While sunglasses can be a fun and fashionable accessory for summer, they actually do play an important role in your eye health and safety. We hope you find this information helpful when choosing the best pair of sunglasses for your fun in the sun!