Nothing beats how sunshine feels on your skin, however, those UV rays can do long-lasting damage! This goes especially for your eyes if you don’t protect them properly. Finding sunglasses that actually block UV radiation is vital for the overall health of your eyes. In this article, we’ll show you how to select high-quality sunglasses with effective UV protection.
The Impact of UV Rays
Without proper protection from sunglasses and other eyewear, invisible ultraviolet radiation can increase the risks of:
- Cataracts – Clouding of the eye’s natural lens causing blurred vision
- Macular degeneration – Damage to the retina that can cause vision loss
- Corneal sunburn – Painful inflammation of the cornea
- Retinal damage – Harm to the light-sensing cells of the retina
- Eyelid cancer – UV exposure makes the thin skin of the eyelids vulnerable to cancer
What Are the Types of UV Rays You Should Be Aware of?
UV rays can bounce up under your sunglasses from reflective surfaces such as water, sand, or snow. This reflected UV ray amplifies the radiation, making it even more vital to wear protective lenses.
One solution is to wear prescription sunglasses. When shopping for online sunglasses, watch out for useful sites. Informative sites offer a wide selection of the best prescription sunglasses online. UVA, UVB, and UVC are the three types of UV radiation that the sun emits. When selecting sunglasses, consider protection against all these types of UV radiation for the health of your eyes.
The Sun emits Three Different Types of Ultraviolet Radiation
1. UVA Rays
Here are some characteristics of UVA rays:
- Penetrate deep into the eye
- Reach the inner eye, including the lens and retina
- Pass through clouds and glass
- Cause oxidative damage that can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration over time
2. UVB Rays
Here are some characteristics of UVB rays:
- Primarily affects the cornea (the outer layer of the eye) and the conjunctiva
- Overexposure can cause growths and cancers of the cornea and eyelids
- Linked to photokeratitis, also known as corneal sunbur
3. UVC Rays
Here are some characteristics of UVC rays:
- The most dangerous, but completely filtered out by the ozone layer
- Do not pose a risk from sunlight exposure on Earth
An Ultimate Guide to Selecting Sunglasses with Effective UV Protection
1. Lens Size and Shape
The physical size and shape of the lenses impact how much protection they provide. When picking the size and shape of your lens, you should keep in mind the following:
- Larger lenses and oversized sunglasses provide more coverage area to block UV rays from sneaking in around the edges.
- Small narrow lenses leave your eyes vulnerable at the periphery to indirect UV bouncing up from surfaces below.
- Wrap-around style prescribed sunglasses are ideal, as they seal against the skin to prevent stray rays from entering.
2. 100% UV Protection
The lenses must block 100% of UVB and UVA rays. Some cheaper sunglasses may claim to “absorb” or “resist” UV light, but only partially block it. Beware of vague wording on labels. Always look for the specific terms “100% UV protection” or “UV absorption up to 400 nm”.
This indicates the total blocking of UV wavelengths up to 400 nanometers, covering the UVA and UVB ranges. If the label or tag does not explicitly mention “100% UV protection”, it’s wise to assume the lenses do not offer full protection.
3. High-Quality Lens Materials and Treatments
The tint darkness or color shade of the lenses does **not** indicate how much UV radiation they block. Protection comes from specialized lens treatments and materials:
- Polycarbonate plastic lenses effectively absorb UV rays, in addition to being shatter-resistant.
- Photochromic lenses darken when exposed to UV rays, providing automatic protection by reacting to brightness.
- Polarized lenses also reduce glare from reflective surfaces. That said, we’d recommend that you check the ones you buy additionally have UV-blocking treatments.
You can do a quick “flashlight test” to get a sense of lens quality and what to look for. Hold a UV flashlight up to the glasses in a dark room. With this, lower-quality lenses will allow you to see the distinct shape of the bulb directly through them.
Good quality UV-blocking sunglasses should only allow diffused light to come through, but not allow you to make out clear details of the bulb shape. This indicates the lenses are adequately treating and deflecting the UV rays.
4. Scratch-Resistant Coating
UV-blocking lenses need a protective layer to maintain clarity over years of use and prevent pits that compromise protection. This coating plays a vital role in ensuring that your lenses remain clear and sharp throughout years of wear.
Other Factors for Picking Sunglasses
Beyond UV protection, here are some other considerations when selecting sunglasses:
1. Lens Color
Lens color affects contrast and depth perception but does not influence UV-blocking ability. Neutral gray, green, and brown lenses offer the best clarity and minimal color distortion.
Expensive designer brands don’t necessarily provide better UV blocking than affordable options. Focus more on lens treatments, certifications, and materials over cost.
3. Mirror Coating
A mirror coating significantly reduces reflection and minimizes intense glare. This improves visual comfort, particularly under bright lighting. Mirror-coated sunglasses can also be styled according to your preferences.
4. Impact Resistance
It’s important to opt for sunglasses that adhere to the FDA’s impact resistance standards. We’d recommend you prioritize or opt for materials like polycarbonate and specific plastics. These materials boast a remarkable shatter resistance, surpassing traditional glass lenses tenfold.
This extra layer of protection ensures your eyes stay safe in various situations, making your choice both stylish and secure.
When Sunglasses Are Not Enough
While quality sunglasses are important for daily UV protection, some situations call for more heavy-duty eye protection:
- Snowfields or beaches: UV rays reflect off surfaces like snow or water, amplifying exposure. Special sunglasses or tightly sealed goggles are needed.
- Tanning beds: produce intense UV radiation at close range. Require fitted eye shields to block rays.
- Arc welding: emits high levels of visible light and UV rays. Needs dark welder’s goggles to absorb radiation.
- Staring at the sun: is extremely dangerous and can cause solar retinopathy! Always use proper certified solar viewing glasses.
Keep in mind as well that sunglasses can lose their UV-blocking abilities over time. Replace old pairs that show signs of extensive wear and tear like pitting, cracking, or faded lenses.
Don’t compromise when it comes to protecting your eyes from sun damage. With this comprehensive guide’s tips for verifying complete UV protection and lens quality, you can shop confidently and find durable, stylish sunglasses to safely block radiation. Give your peepers the UV defense they need!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I trust every “UV protection” label on sunglasses?
A: Unfortunately, no. Some less reputable brands only block a portion of UV rays but still claim to provide “UV protection”. Always verify that your glasses offer 100% UVB/UVA blocking and not just a generic label.
Q: Which brands or types are recommended by eye doctors?
A: Ophthalmologists often recommend reputable brands like Maui Jim, Costa Del Mar, and Ray-Ban. Look for glasses with impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses and anti-reflective/scratch-resistant coatings.
Q: How often should I replace sunglasses to maintain UV blocking?
A: Over time, normal wear and tear reduces the UV protection sunglasses can offer. Experts recommend replacing them every 2-3 years of regular use to ensure your lenses continue blocking harmful rays effectively.