Sunglasses need to be more than just fashion accessories, an eye expert advises.
“Think of sunglasses as sunscreen for your eyes,” said Dr. Dianna Seldomridge, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
“Your eyes need protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays, just like your skin,” she explained. “Make sure your eyes are protected year-round. Harmful UV rays are present even on cloudy days.”
You should choose sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation from the sun. You may be confused by labels that say the sunglasses provide 100% protection from UVA/UVB radiation, while others offer 100% UV 400 protection. Both will block 100% of the sun’s harmful radiation, the academy said in a news release.
If you’re skeptical of the UV protection label on sunglasses, take them to an optical shop or an ophthalmologist’s office, Seldomridge suggested. Most have a UV light meter that can test the sunglasses’ UV-blocking ability.
Consider buying oversized or wraparound-style sunglasses. The more coverage they provide, the better they protect your eyes, she said.
An important note: Dark lenses don’t block more UV rays than lighter lenses.
And you don’t have to pay a lot to get sunglasses that provide good eye protection, Seldomridge said. Less expensive ones marked as 100% UV-blocking can be just as effective as those that cost more.
Consider polarized lenses, which reduce glare from reflective surfaces (such as water or pavement). This doesn’t provide more protection from the sun but can make activities like driving or being on the water safer or more enjoyable.
Don’t forget sunglasses for your children, Seldomridge advised. Their eyes are just as susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays as yours, and it’s a good idea to get them into the habit of wearing sunglasses at an early age.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has more on eyes and sun safety.