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With the spring of 2007 in full bloom and the dog days of summer looming on the horizon, now may be the perfect time to pick up a new pair of sunglasses. But in our quest to scoop up the latest designer frames or the hippest wrap-around reflective shades, safety often takes a backseat to style. It is easy to forget that the most important job of our sunglasses is to protect our eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Thankfully, it is pretty easy to find a pair of sunglasses that looks good and protects your eyes — no matter what your budget is.
When shopping for shades, the most important thing to look for is the level of UV protection offered by the lens. The safest bet is to buy sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection, or UV 400 protection. That means that the glasses protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB radiation. Most expensive sunglasses offer this level of protection on all models. However, there is a wide selection of glasses for $29.99, $19.99, and even $4.99 that provided 100% UV protection.
That being said, you shouldn't confuse lens quality with UV protection. While a pair of $5 sunglasses may protect your eyes just as well as a $200 dollar pair, the quality of the lens may differ widely. Generally, when you buy a more expensive pair of sunglasses, you will be getting a higher quality lens that will provide a clearer, sharper, more pleasing image with less distortion.
Finally, if you are concerned about the level of UV protection of your current sunglasses, or a new pair that you just bought, most optometrists can test the UV protection of your sunglasses for free in a matter of seconds.
To help make the experience of buying a pair of sunglasses a little less confusing, here's the truth about some of the most common myths about sunglasses:
Myth #1: Sunglasses with 100% UV protection are expensive
False: You do not have to pay a premium for proper UV protection. While more expensive sunglasses may offer more stylish frames, higher quality lenses, sharper images and less glare, it is very easy to find inexpensive glasses that offer 100% UV protection. The TODAY show purchased several pairs of glasses for $19.99 at a national sporting goods store. When tested, they lived up to their claim of 100% UV protection.
Even two pairs of $5 glasses from a Times Square souvenirs shop also made good on their 100% UV protection claim. However, one of the $5 pair of sunglasses had a “100%” sticker on the lens and turned out to not offer the advertised level of protection. So if you do buy an inexpensive pair of glasses, you might want to have them tested by an optometrist.
Myth #2: Lenses with darker tints are more protective than lenses with a lighter tint
False: The tint of the lens has nothing to do with the UV protection of the glasses. A clear lens with no tint and 100% UV protection is better for your eyes than dark, heavily tinted sunglasses without UV protection. In fact, dark lenses without adequate UV protection are actually worse for your eyes than not wearing glasses at all, because the dark tint causes your pupils to become dilated, thus exposing your eyes to more harmful UV light.
Myth #3: You should have UV coating put on your lenses for extra protection
False: If your glasses already have UV protection, they do not need to have added protection put on them.
Myth #4: Photochromic lenses don't block out UV rays as well as regular sunglasses
False: As long as they offer 100% UV protection, photochromic (such as Transitions-brand lenses) lenses provide the same level of UV protection as regular sunglasses.
Myth #5: Polarized, anti-glare lenses are all you need to protect your eyes from UV rays
False: While polarized and anti-glare lenses may offer better image clarity, a more comfortable viewing experience and give you better vision when driving or playing sports, they have nothing to do with UV protection. That being said, most polarized lenses also offer adequate UV protection. Again, if you are in doubt, have your sunglasses checked by an optometrist.
Myth #6: Lens color is important when it comes to blocking UV rays
False: Just like lens tint, lens color has nothing to do with protecting your eyes from UV rays.
Myth #7: Yellow- or amber-tinted “Blue Blocker” lenses offer more protection than regular sunglasses
False: While some experts argue that the so-called “Blue Blocker” lenses block additional light waves that are harmful, research has yet to prove this for certain, and “Blue Blockers” are currently viewed by most experts as a personal preference choice.
Myth #8: Children don't need sunglasses as much as adults
False: Children often spend even more time in the sun than adults, and need proper UV protection just as much. It is also far more common to find cheap children's sunglasses that do not provide adequate UV protection. Always have your children's sunglasses tested for proper UV protection.
Myth #9: You don't need sunglasses on a cloudy day
False: UV rays are just as potent on a cloudy day as they are on a clear day, and proper eye and skin protection is always needed.