It is acknowledged that sunglasses as a fashion statement is actually a thing (a la countless Hollywood celebrities that seemingly shield themselves from non existent sunlight 24/7) but every time you rock your favourite shades before heading outside, there should be more at play than just looking cool! To get the complete picture we must start at the beginning.
That big fiery ball in the sky we call the sun, produces harmful UVA (short) and UVB (long) rays, which can do serious damage to our eyes and skin if the right protection isn’t used. This can cause:
- Cataracts – clouding of the eye lens, which can result in vision reduction.
- Retinal problems – the retina is the layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye, sensing light and sending images to your brain. The most severe retinal disorders can lead to blindness.
- Tissue forming over the surface of the eye – this can result in blurred vision.
- Macular degeneration – a painless eye condition that results in central vision loss, usually in both eyes. Reading becomes strenuous, colours appear pale and people’s faces become hard to recognise.
- Cancer – it’s a pretty grim situation by this stage, but the earlier the stage of the cancer when it is diagnosed, the better.
Three things to remember if nothing else are (1) you want sunglasses with 99-100% UV protection (2) a good fit for your particular face shape is more ideal (3) darker lenses do not necessarily mean better protection.
First, make sure your shades have 100% UV protection to filter both UVA and UVB rays—this is the most important thing you can do to save your eyes. Standards for eye and face protection may vary slightly around the world but as a rule of thumb your sunglasses should block 99% to 100% of harmful UV light as a minimum requirement.
The next point to note is that the ‘one size fits all’ approach isn’t ideal when it comes eyewear – see our Fit Guide article for more on that subject. If your sunglasses are not a good fit for your particular face shape this can allow some UV rays to slip through the cracks and still cause some damage. You can further protect yourself with oversized and wraparound frames that offer more coverage to protect the soft tissue around your eyes (which can also help prevent wrinkles).
Finally, there is a common misconception that the darker the tint of the lenses, the better the protection the sunglasses offer. This is not necessarily true. See-through/ clear lenses can also provide protection from harmful UV rays believe it or not. You also have the option of choosing polarized lenses, which make it easier to see in very bright conditions and can keep eyestrain at bay. But even polarised lenses that are known to be brilliant for glare reduction from reflective surfaces such as water or snow do not automatically offer more protection.
Keep in mind that your eyes will benefit from protection from the sun all year round, even on cloudy days (90% of the time in UK). This is because the clouds only partially reduce UV light, by about 10%. So the next time you consider purchasing a pair of sunglasses remember not to focus solely on the name of the designer. Make sure to also pay attention to the other points that really matter.
* Panda sunglasses are produced using polycarbonate lenses that provide 100% UV protection.