Back to Living Real Change

4 things to consider when choosing sunglasses

More than a fashion statement, sunglasses are essential to protecting your eyes. Without them, ultraviolet rays can damage the eye’s lens and cornea, which can lead to cataracts or skin cancer on the fragile tissue around the eye.  Tabitha Fuller, a licensed optician in the office of Jackson Giles, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Piedmont Physicians Group, shares her tips for choosing the safest, most effective sunglasses.

1. UV protection

Sunglasses should have 100 percent protection from both UVB and UVA rays.  Although UVB is known to be more harmful to skin and eyes, doctors suggest to avoid both types of rays. The lenses should also block UV wavelengths up to 400 nanometers.

UV protective sunglasses with scratches should be replaced or repaired, as the damage to the protective coating can let in UV rays. UV protection is especially important for children and teens. “The eyes of people under 18 absorb more UV rays than adults do,” says Fuller. “Eighty percent of one’s lifetime exposure to UV rays happens before the age of 18.”

2. Size

Larger frames cover a greater area of the face, thus providing more protection for the skin and eyes. Sunglasses with wraparound lenses can be beneficial for blocking rays coming from the sides.

According to Fuller, correctly fitted glasses are one of the most important aspects of choosing sunglasses. “You want to have a close fit to the face,” she says. “Ideally, you want wraparound sunglasses to block out as much light as possible.”

3. Color

Because the UV protective coating is clear, darker lenses are not necessarily more beneficial than lighter lenses. However, the tint of the glasses can be more suitable for certain settings. While gray-tinted glasses reduce overall brightness without color distortion, amber lenses work best in conditions with lower light settings and can enhance depth perception.

Your preference of tint, however, might be more related to your eye color. “Blue-eyed people who have higher sensitivity to light tend to lean toward gray lenses because they block out more visible light,” Fuller says, “Brown-eyed people tend to lean towards brown lenses so they don’t have to take their glasses on and off as frequently.”

4. Quality

Sunglasses that provide no UV protection can actually make eyes more vulnerable to damage. The dark lenses without UV protection block visible light, which makes the pupils dilate. Without UV protection, even more harmful UV rays can enter the eyes through the dilated pupils, even if you feel like you are protected. “Polarized sunglasses offer the greatest UV protection, blocking out all horizontal UV rays,” Fuller explained.

If you frequently find yourself squinting from glare – maybe from skiing, driving, or fishing – polarized lenses might be helpful for you. These lenses can reduce the light reflecting on surfaces like snow, the road and water. Follow these tips to ensure you buy sunglasses that best protect your eyes and if you have any questions, an ophthalmologist or licensed optician can help.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.


Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online

Piedmont App

Download the Piedmont Now app

  • Directions
  • Indoor Hospital Navigation
  • Find & Save Physicians
  • Online Scheduling

Download the app today!

Get the Piedmont Now on Google Play Get the Piedmont Now on iTunes App Store