Ultraviolet and You (Part 2): You Gotta Wear Shades

Posted on June 20, 2012 · Posted in Eye Health, Eyeglasses

Remember Timbuk3?  In 1989 hit “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”, the phrase “I Gotta Wear Shades” was uttered ten times.  Very profound considering the risks created by cumulative ultraviolet (UV) light exposure discussed earlier.  In all fairness, the song wasn’t totally educational (and the video budget was highly suspect):

I’ve got a job waiting for my graduation
Fifty thou a year — buys a lot of beer
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better

Function and safety, unfortunately, tend to take a backseat to fashion in the selection of sunglasses, but it’s enitrely possible to have your cake and eat it, too.  What should you look for?  Make sure your prospective sunglasses:

  • block 99-100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.  This rating should be on a tag or label.
  • block 75-90% of visible light.  This generally won’t be on a label, but a quick test is to try the sunglasses on and stand in front of a mirror.  If you can easily see your eyes, too much visible light is getting through.  Look for darker lenses.
  • are uniform in tint.  You don’t want the lenses to be darker in some spots than others.
  • are free of distortion.  Hold the glasses up and away from you.  Now look at a vertical line like a window, picture, or mirror frame across the room through the lenses.  Slowly move the sunglasses across this vertical line and look for any waviness or curves (lens distortion).

Assuming you’ve found a pair that satisfies all the above, now’s your chance to have fun: selecting lens color. You might be surprised to know that the lens color really doesn’t matter from a UV protection standpoint.  This protection comes from the lens material itself; tint mainly serves one’s comfort.  Many eye care professionals promote a grey or grey/green lens as this tends to avoid problems with color recognition that can occur with other colored lenses, but the different tints can offer advantages in different situations.

Of course, your eye care professional(s) will be able to walk you through these important considerations, including proper sizing/coverage, and assist in the decision making process.  But one decision is clear: for the health of your eyes, “you gotta wear shades”.