Couple Wearing Sunglasses

Wearing quality sunglasses that block 99.9% of harmful UV radiation is key to long term eye health.

Did you know that spending $5 for cheap, trendy sunglasses may ultimately cost you more in the long run than going without sunglasses at all? According to ophthalmologists, sunglasses that don’t provide adequate protection from the two most harmful types of ultraviolet (UV) light “” UVA and UVB “” actually cause more harm to your eyes than if you are simply forced to squint. While all sunglasses offer some relief from visible light, the exposure to UVA and UVB from sunglasses that don’t block 98% to 100% of UV rays is detrimental to your eye health in both the short-term and long-term.

Dr. Bizer, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, explains: “Let’s suppose you put on a pair of very dark, inexpensive sunglasses. Your pupils open up dramatically, changing in size from half a millimeter to 5 or 6 millimeters. It’s an enormous increase, and now you’re allowing much more harmful light into your eyes than if you didn’t have on any sunglasses at all. Sunglasses without UVA and UVB protection simply filter out the ambient light and glare. They don’t do anything to protect your eyes.” The additional UVA and UVB exposure increases your risk for cataracts, macular degeneration, and even ocular melanoma “” a rare type of cancer of the eye.

Unfortunately, the non-prescription sunglasses industry is weakly regulated, and claims made in advertisements, such as “UV absorbing”, may mean absolutely nothing. “There’s no government regulating power for the classification of sunglasses,” says Donald D’Amico, chair of ophthalmology at New York Presbyterian Hospital. “As a result, some companies misrepresent how much protection their sunglasses offer.” What little authority the FDA does have in regulating UV protection is in its ability to uphold truth in labeling. Unscrupulous companies skirt these FDA regulations, however, by using non-quantifiable terms, such as “blocks most UV light”.

D’Amico, whose organization regularly issues statements about sunglasses and eye safety, recommends sticking with reputable, high quality brands. These would be names such as Oakley, Revo and Wiley-X, which are industry leaders and inarguably truthful in their advertising and labeling. When they state that their sunglasses block 99.99% to 100% of UVA and UVB light, they mean exactly that.

If you’d like to check the UV protection of your sunglasses, take them to your eye doctor who has the proper equipment to test them. Or better yet, purchase brands you can trust to begin with.  In fact, all of the brands of safety glasses and sunglasses sold by by offer 99.9%-100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection “” far exceeding their cheaper counterparts “” and many styles offer lenses with added protective coatings, such as anti-fog and scratch resistance coatings. All of these benefits combine to result in exceptional eyewear for healthier eyes.

It stands to reason that cheap sunglasses which don’t offer any of these benefits are easily damaged and will ultimately end up costing you more to continually replace them. Even a small scratch creates undue stress on your already overworked eyes. Sunglasses that are not fog and scratch resistant result in eye strain and fatigue as well, because even when these scratches and streaks are imperceptible to the naked eye, they’re present on the lenses of virtually every pair of inexpensive sunglasses. Additionally, each time you wipe them clean, the fibers from the cloth leave even more scratches and streaks. You may not see them because your eyes strain to correct for the imperfections, but this continuous refocusing unnecessarily tires your eyes.

In the end, high quality, reputable eyewear is healthier, and in most cases ends up saving you money in the long run, considering how many pairs of cheap sunglasses you’ll need to replace due to poor workmanship, streaks, scratches, and discomfort. While the initial investment might make you think twice, consider that a pair of durable, high quality sunglasses are unlikely to need replacing nearly as often as their inexpensive counterparts. They’ll outlive inferior products because you’ll know they’re worth more, you’ll look after them better, you’ll be less likely to lose them, and you’ll become so attached, you’ll never go back to drugstore sunglasses again.