Don’t throw away those cheap shades from the kiosk—they are just as good at protecting your eyes from UVA and UVB rays as their high-end counterparts, according to a study from University of California, Berkeley.
Just how cheap were the sunglasses that were tested? A mere $10. The catch: They all featured stickers that promised 100 percent UV protection. Next time you’re buying sunglasses—from the pharmacy or a designer—remember these signs of good shades.
Look for UVA/UVB Protection
This is the most important thing to look for, stresses Matthew Mast, an optometrist trained at Indiana University. Why? Long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight is linked to eye disease. Some sunglasses will advertise general UV protection, but you need to look for those that block 100 percent of UVA and UVB light rays. Some manufacturers’ labels say “UV absorption up to 400nm,” which also indicates 100 percent blockage. And remember—just because the sunglasses may be darkly tinted does not mean they block UV light. The tint has nothing to do with protection.
A lens that is larger or has a wrap-around style will block more light. Enough UV rays enter around ordinary eyeglass frames to reduce the benefits of protective lenses, warns Mast, so look for frames that will protect your eyes from all angles.
Sunglasses with a coating for polarization cut out a lot of the glare off of water and other surfaces. Though it's not totally necessary, it's useful for driving and other situations where you might get some reflection. And you don't want to be squinting.
Focus on Material
If you're not using your sunglasses in situations where something could hit them (ie. a tennis ball), don't buy lenses made from polycarbonate material, says Mast. The material, which is impact resistant, is not necessary and can even cause optical aberrations (blurring).
The good news: If you love a frame, but the lenses don't provide enough protection, you can always take the frame to an optometric practice and have the lenses replaced with polarized, UV-blocking lenses. Need a little guidance? Check out these sporty and stylish sunglasses.