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Cheapism: Keep an eye out for best budget sunglasses

May 28, 2014 at 12:45 PM ET

Shoppers who lust after the sunglasses that hide their favorite celebrities from paparazzi can easily find “designer-inspired” knockoffs. Those who prize function over fashion will be less satisfied with the selection at mall kiosks. Still, it doesn’t take movie-star spending power to afford heavy-duty sunglasses that will keep your eyes protected and your vision clear throughout your summer adventures — not to mention ward off ailments such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Here are four top picks from Cheapism.com for men and women.

JiMarti specializes in wraparound styles.
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JiMarti specializes in wraparound styles.

JiMarti sunglasses (starting at $10) stand out with a lifetime warranty against breakage, along with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The brand specializes in wraparound styles, which reviewers like because they shield the eyes from all angles. Many have mirrored or reflective coatings. (Where to buy

Suncloud Polarized Optics sunglasses (starting at $37) have polarized lenses, which are designed to filter out reflected light and reduce glare. This is a prime selling point for many consumers. Polarized sunglasses can be especially helpful when you’re driving or out on the water. These sunglasses feature a vast range of different tints and a lifetime warranty. (Where to buy

Black Flys and Fly Girls sunglasses (starting at $40) have cultivated a Southern California surf-and-skate image and a loyal consumer following by combining style and quality. Most models come in multiple colors and tints. Reviews suggest the frames may fit narrow faces best. (Where to buy

Sunbelt Optic sunglasses (starting at $22) are polarized and scratch-resistant and carry a lifetime warranty. Reviewers consider the sunglasses highly protective and many buyers say they’ve gone back for another pair. The brand offers an assortment of kids’ sunglasses in addition to its lines for men and women. (Where to buy

Materials such as polycarbonate lenses make these sunglasses more durable than most inexpensive sunglasses, saving money in the long run. Polycarbonate stands up to impact better than the CR-39 plastic commonly used for sunglasses. (The Food and Drug Administration mandates that all sunglasses pass a test for impact resistance but warns that they’re not shatterproof.)

The sunglasses featured here block 100 percent of harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, a notch above the minimum 99 percent recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Contrary to what it might seem, a darker tint doesn’t translate to better UV protection. Some consumers may simply like the look of one color or another, but be sure to consider how tinting affects the way the world looks beyond the lenses. For example, boaters and hunters rely on amber or blue-blocking lenses to increase contrast and render objects in the distance more clearly. Try looking at a traffic light through amber-tinted lenses, though, and you’ll see they aren’t such a good choice for driving.

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