Sunglasses are the ultimate accessory for summer, both as a fashion statement and a health necessity. That’s right— UV protection is key for eye health, so if you thought your sunnies were just for looks, you’re wrong. I’m all for what’s good for you also being super fashionable, so pay attention to these five sunglasses myths to make sure you’re actually protecting your eyes with the frames you choose.
Just in time for National Sunglasses Day on June 27, Dr. Justin Bazan, optometrist and medical advisor to The Vision Council, filled me in on the facts regarding sunglass wear and how to protect your eyes because there’s a lot of misinformation out there. There’s also a lot of history behind sunglasses that I had no idea about, and it was fascinating to learn about what I’ve been wearing on my face for years, with no real clue behind the reason why or the origin of them.
According to Dr. Bazan, “Sunglasses became popular as a fashion accessory in the 1950s. Before then, they were mostly used for the military,” he said. “The first pair of sunglasses, however, dates back to prehistoric times. These glasses did not have lenses, but were made to act more as ‘visors for the eyes.’”
Fascinating stuff, right? I honestly had no idea. And learning this really has me wondering if I’ve been wearing sunglasses correctly or not. Check out the most common myths, and get the story straight once and for all.
Myth 1: All Lenses Protect Your Eyes
"Just because the lenses appear darker, doesn’t mean they offer better protection! Wearing sunglasses with dark lenses without adequate UV protection can actually be worse than wearing no sunglasses at all because they cause the eye’s pupil to dilate, which then increases retinal exposure to unfiltered UV light."
So how do you know if you’re actually getting protection or not?
"If you purchase your glasses from a reputable retailer—an optical shop, a department store, a credible online source, a drug or grocery store—the glasses with UV protection will have a sticker, tag or label indicating their UV protection. There are rules and regulations in place to ensure that these glasses are in fact UV-protective."
But, if you’re in love with a set of frames and don’t know whether they’re good for your eyes or not, there’s good news. "Almost any lens can be outfitted with a UV-protective lens (either with or without a prescription), so if you find a pair of frames you love, an eye care provider can probably take that frame and outfit you with the correct lenses."
Myth 2: Lens Color Matters
“Lens color is also a matter of preference. In fact, your lenses can be perfectly clear yet provide complete UVA/UVB protection. Lens color is really a matter of comfort. In bright sun, a darker lens may offer more comfort, whereas a lighter colored lens may be more appropriate for a cloudy day. Fashion also plays a part. Rose tinted lenses, yellow lenses and brown lenses have all had their day as fashion trends. At the end of the day, what matters in terms of healthy eyes, is the sticker, tag or label that indicates UVA/UVB or broad spectrum UV protection.”
Myth 3: You Don’t Need Sunglasses When It’s Cloudy
“It’s a great idea to have more than one pair of sunglasses so that you can be comfortable in all weather conditions. When it’s cloudy outside, dark sunglasses may not be as comfortable as a lighter tint. It’s important to remember that the tint of the lens is not the protector—it’s the UV treatment that is added to the lens during the manufacturing process.”
Myth 4: Polarized Lenses Are Better
“Lens treatments, such as polarization, are all beneficial in different ways, and whether they work better for your lifestyle is really dependent on the activities you are engaging in while wearing sunglasses.
Polarized lenses work to reduce glare and increase contrast, so they are great for winter sports where the sun reflects off of the snow and ice. They are also great for summer beach activities, where the glare of the sun coming off the water may be distracting or may hinder your vision.
If you are planning to use your digital device outdoors, however, you may find that polarized lenses make seeing your smart phone or tablet screen very difficult.”
Myth 5: Expensive Sunglasses Are More Effective
“High cost doesn’t always mean good protection! You don’t have to pay a premium to get proper UV protection. But be sure to purchase sunglasses at a reputable dealer—no street vendors, please!”
So, make sure your sunnies have UV protection, and celebrate National Sunglasses Day with safety and style!
Images: Getty (2), Giphy (4)