If you’re a regular reader of the Eyesthetica blog, you probably remember us mentioning the importance of shielding your eyes from the sun’s UV rays to reduce your risk of eyelid cancer, pterygium, cataracts, and other complications. One of the best ways to protect your eyes is by wearing sunglasses when you go outdoors.
However, not all sunglasses are created equally.
In this post, our doctors discuss whether cheap sunglasses — the kind you can grab at a gas station or drug store — offer adequate protection from the sun’s rays.
Cheap Glasses Can Do More Harm than You Think
In truth, cheap sunglasses can actually do more harm to your eyes and vision than not wearing any protection at all. Cheaply made sunglasses trick your eyes and expose you to dangerous UVA and UVB rays.
Here’s how: Think about when you walk outside on a bright day without sunglasses. Your natural inclination is to squint to cut off the amount of light that gets into your eyes.
But when your surroundings get darker, such as when you walk into a dark room or put on a pair of dark lenses, your pupils dilate (i.e., get wider). This lets more light into your eyes, and on a sunny day, that light includes UVA and UVB rays.
Not only do cheap glasses fail to offer adequate protection, they actually make you even more susceptible to damaging sun rays, putting your health and vision at risk.
What to Look for When Shopping for Sunglasses
You don’t need to spend a fortune to find quality sunglasses. There are plenty of safe options that can be found for less than $20. The key is knowing what to look for when you shop for glasses.
First of all, look for shades that are clearly labeled as blocking 95 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Glasses marked “UV absorption up to 400 nm” are safe.
Wraparound glasses offer the most protection because they block sunlight from getting in the sides of the eyes. But if wraparound glasses aren’t your style, choose an oversized pair.
The color of the lens doesn’t matter. Glasses with gray, green, or amber lenses can offer sufficient sun protection (just check the sticker or tag for the proper label).
Finally, understand that polarized lenses don’t reduce UV exposure; they only reduce the glare coming off water or pavement for better visibility.