Do you need designer sunglasses to protect your eyes?

by Jack Smith

A friend recently showed me her designer sunglasses. They were really nice but I told her I could never justify paying so much for sunglasses because I would inevitably sit on them. To my surprise, she agreed and said she wished there was another option but that she just cared so much about her eyesight that she always bought designer sunglasses. I was shocked, she really thought the only way to get good eye protection was to pay exorbitant prices. This article is for her and for any readers out there who are confused about how to protect their eyes from the sun.

The first thing to understand is that the sun is very damaging to your eyesight. In recent years everyone has started to wear a little more sunscreen because they are more aware of the risks of cancer but our eyes are also at risk. UV rays from the sun penetrate the eye throughout the day unless we do something to protect them. UV damage increases the risk of macular degeneration the number one cause of blindness from aging. Eye cancer is also a high risk from UV rays and short term blindness is also a possibility. When I was learning to kitesurf I was looking in the sky at my kite, when I moved the kite I was staring directly at the sun. It only took me a few sessions to realize how much damage I was doing to my eyes. 

While being outside in the sun is the main danger there are other times when you are at risk as well. The reflecting sun off your car windshield, off the snow, and off the water are actually even worse for you. In these conditions, you are getting double the exposure because you are receiving UV from the sun and the reflection. 

This means you need to wear sunglasses the majority of the time that you are outside and the sun is shining. As a general rule, if you are squinting you should be wearing sunglasses. Buying sunglasses is not straight forward. You can pay between $5 and $5000 depending on a variety of factors. The biggest factor that impacts price is the brand and this has nothing to do with sun protection. An expensive pair of sunglasses may have no UV protection at all. Of course, you may trust some brands more than others, and paying more for a brand that you trust may make sense for you.

The most important thing is that your sunglasses say that they are blocking 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. To add this technology to sunglasses is incredibly cheap so most sunglass manufacturers include it anyway. This means you should not need to pay too much to get protection. If you bought sunglasses and now think they don’t have any protection you can bring them to your local optician to have a UV coating added. Some people choose dark lenses or polarized lenses for extra protection. These things have no impact on UV protection and should not be bought for this reason. Polarized sunglasses are useful for reducing glare and are good for driving.

One of the easiest ways to help block UV rays is to buy a bigger pair of glasses. If you choose a nice pair of glasses with UV protection but the lenses are very small then the rays will still be hitting you from the sides. Choose larger frames to protect your vision properly. 

It is easy to find sunglasses with great UV protection so you should not feel the need to pay a lot of money for them. Although this is true, don’t fall for a simple UV sticker on a pair in your local market. Buy your glasses from a reputable seller to ensure you are properly protected.

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