Sunglasses have become such an important fashion accessory it’s possible to forget the important role they play to protect our eyes. You may be tempted to stock up on bargain sunglasses to match your bohemian top or pastel jacket, but is this wise? Is there a difference between quality and quantity when you are choosing sunglasses? Could you be compromising your eye’s health for a fashionable pair of cheap sunglasses? Did you know bargain sunglasses could do more damage than not wearing sunglasses at all?

Besides looking good, sunglasses should provide the following:
-Protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays – UV rays can damage the cornea, lens and retina of your eyes
-Protection from intense sunlight - When the eye is subjected to too much light, the iris naturally closes the pupil as far as possible. If that doesn’t reduce the light enough for comfort, we start to squint. Despite those natural defenses, a significant amount of harmful rays enter the eyes and reach the retina, creating damages to the ocular structures.
-Protection from glare - Surfaces, such as water or hot pavement, can reflect a great deal of light, causing glare. Good sunglasses, with polarization completely eliminate this kind of glare. Polarized sunglasses are specifically designed to cut the light bouncing off horizontal surfaces.

Your new cat-eye sunglasses are cute but do not offer protection from UV rays?

You may be putting your eyes at risk for the following:
-Premature aging of the retina and increased risk of macular degeneration, which causes permanent vision loss
-Pterygium or pinguecula (a growth on the clear covering of the white part of the eye)
-Photokeratitis (a temporary, painful condition which causes sun blindness due to sunburned eyes)
-Sunburn on the fragile skin around your eyes – we usually don’t put sunscreen on our eyelids!
-In the worse cases, cancer

So, your cheap chic sunglasses do offer UV protection, but how does that protection compare to a brand that specializes in protecting your eyes?

The answer is simple it is all in the construction of the lenses. A knock-off version of your favourite brand comes with plastic lenses, covered with a tinted film. Reputable brands use borosilicateglass or polycarbonates, which are optically accurate, do not distort shapes or lines and are impact and scratch resistant. The tint is part of the lens and doesn’t wear off or react to sun products.

You may not end up with a drawer filled with sunglasses to match your every outfit, but good news, you can have the best of both worlds with beautiful, fashionable sunglasses that look fantastic and protect your eyes from all the harmful elements. 

Helpful tips for buying sunglasses:
-Make sure that the sunglasses have a sticker or a tag that says 100% protection against UV rays or UV 400 nm
-Large oversized or wrap-around sunglasses will provide more coverage by reducing the amount of UV rays entering from the sides of the sunglasses. They can also help protect the delicate skin around your eyes.
-Choose sunglasses with polarized lenses
-Consult with your Optometrist and Optician on the best possible sunglasses for you and your specific needs

In addition to your sunnies, get even greater protection by using sunscreen and wearing a brimmed hat. 

Find your next pair of sunglasses at an IRIS store near you!