In the world of eye protection, not all sunglasses aren’t created equal. There’s actually a huge gap in pricing between designer brands from luxury labels and the more practical sunglasses from indie manufacturers. Then you have the many sizes, shapes, tints and materials that sunglasses come in, you might have a migraine figuring out which is best for you.
Here are some of the most important things to look out for when shopping for your next pair of sunglasses.
The first thing you need to look out for is ultraviolet light (UV) protection. Before parting with your cash, check if the pair you’re getting provides 100% UV A and UV B protection. The price of the shades isn’t really indicative of the UV protection. Some of the cheap sunglasses you see on display in pharmacies could even be better than the expensive ones.
- Accounts for 95% of all UV radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface.
- Less intense when compared to UV B, but 30 -50 x more prevalent.
- Has the same intensity all year.
- Has been linked to the development of skin cancer, some types of cataracts and speeds up photoaging (looking older than your biological age).
- More intense than UVA rays and the main cause of sunburns and cancer.
- Very hazardous to the eyes, especially when amplified and reflected off white surfaces such as snow (glare).
- Varies in intensity and is stronger in the summer months between 10 am and 4 pm but can damage skin and eyes all-year round.
The lens you choose can literally make or break your eyes, so you have to choose wisely. Don’t buy sunglasses with obvious vision distortion or when the discoloration level is too high as this can interfere with your activities. And please, don’t ever buy knockoffs!
- If you want high quality, distortion free lenses, choose optical glass. This material is super durable and scratch resistant, but is a little bit on the pricier side of things and doesn’t fare well on impact. Because the lens can break or spider, optical glass isn’t recommended for active sports.
- Polycarbonate plastic lens are great for active people because they’re virtually indestructible. Light and scratch resistant, it’s 50 x more impact resistant that optical glass and offers a high level of distortion-free, optical clarity. The only downside is that t’s not as scratch resistant as optical glass or NXT.
- If you want top of the line specs, NXT Polyurethane is the lens for you. It combines all the benefits of optical glass with the performance of polycarbonate plastic. Extremely lightweight, impact resistant, scratch resistant and provides superior optical clarity. The only issue is the price.
- Acrylic lenses are cheap and is best only for casual sunglasses or as a fashion accessory. You can skip acrylic if you want to.
Sunglasses come in many shapes and frame materials, so choosing a pair for what you plan to do is critical. Factors include comfort, safety and functionality. Frame materials have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Plastic – Plastic frames are generally the cheapest and can be made out of a variety of materials, from acrylic to polycarbonate. Knockoffs and convenience store sunglasses are usually made out of plastic.
Polycarbonate – Ultra tough plastic that has pretty good impact resistance, but is rigid and uncomfortable. Sunglasses that take a beating are usually made out of polycarbonate, such as safety glasses and shades for kids.
Acetate – A flexible type of plastic that’s stronger, lighter and more durable than polycarbonate or acrylic. Since the colors and textures are embedded on the acetate frame itself and not painted on, the frame lasts longer.
Nylon – The go-to frame for sports enthusiasts because the frames are lightweight and durable. Very resistant to changes in temperature and is both flexible for comfort and rigid for safety.
Metal – One of the most common materials used in making sunglass frames. Malleable and resistant to corrosion, metal frames are easy to customize for different face shapes. More expensive than plastic, but less durable and not recommended for sports.
Titanium – If you want a classy classic, get a titanium frame. These frames are very durable, scratch resistant and uber expensive. Usually found on high-end, luxury sunglasses.
Where to Buy
You can either go to an eye clinic and consult with an optometrist or go to an online store that carries a wide range of women’s and men’s sunglasses. Just remember to get sunglasses that have 100% UV protection and that wrap around your face to cover not just your eyes, but also the skin surrounding it.