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Stylin' Shades: Choose the Best Sunglasses With UV Protection for You

Summer's not over yet! There's still time to enjoy swimming, picnicking, and spending lots of time outdoors. You know how important it is to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays. But after you slather on the sun block, make sure to protect your eyes too. Slip on a good pair of sunglasses and you'll be ready to hit the sand.

Go for Maximum Protection

For expert advice on the best way to prevent sun damage to the eyes, we went to Dr. Michael Johnson, a VSP doctor at Eagle Vision Eye Care in Sacramento, CA. Dr. Johnson said, "Many people don't realize the importance of protecting their eyes from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Although you can't see it, you should always protect your eyes from overexposure to UV radiation. Even on a cloudy day, UV light from the sun can cause sunburn on the cornea of your eyes. It can also cause blurred vision, redness, and irritation."

Over time, exposure to UV rays can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and in some cases even blindness. That's why it's so important to wear lenses with maximum UV protection every time you go outside. Before heading outdoors:

  • Make sure your eyewear provides 100% UV protection from both UVA and UVB rays. You can get lenses with UV coating, and polycarbonate lenses have built-in UV coverage. Certain contact lenses also provide UV protection.
  • Consider photochromic or polarized lenses. Photochromic lenses, like Transitions® lenses, change from clear to dark automatically when exposed to UV rays. Polarized lenses reduce or eliminate glare and reflections from the sun. You can have coatings added to both lenses to block 100% of UV rays as needed.
  • Go online to check the UV index in your area. Visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's SunWise Program for the latest UV index information.

Don't Forget the Kids

Children and teens also need to protect their eyes from the sun. Dr. Johnson explained, "We get 75-80% of our UV exposure before we turn 18, so it's especially important that kids wear sunglasses from an early age." Here are some tips for buying kids' sunglasses:

  • Look for a UV protection sticker. Then you'll know the glasses will actually protect your child's eyes and aren't just toy sunglasses.
  • Choose lightweight, impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses for extra active kids.
  • Select polarized or dark lenses that block about 75-80% of light—you shouldn't be able to see your child's eyes through the lenses.
  • Buy wrap-around frames that block rays coming in from the side, and a strap to help keep sunglasses on.

Stylin' Shades: Choose the Best Sunglasses for You

You want sunglasses that are fashionable—but they should also provide maximum UV protection for your eyes and fit your lifestyle. Dr. Johnson offers these tips for finding the right ones for you.

  • Go for big frames. Larger frames and wrap-around styles provide extra UV protection by blocking rays that come in from the side.
  • Think about lens color. You may want to go with gray or green lenses because they're neutral and don't change color. If you want to see more contrast, choose brown. Just keep in mind that brown may distort colors a bit.
  • Consider your lifestyle. If you're active in sports, your VSP doctor can help you select glasses and lenses that can protect your eyes and help optimize your performance.
  • Ask about polarized or photochromic lenses. Talk to your VSP doctor about the advantages of these lenses and whether they're right for you.