The sun is shining and we’re ready to let you know about what you need to know about what to look for in your next pair of sunglasses.
Everyone should have a good go to pair of sunnies. They protect your eyes from UV, wind, and dust. They make it visually more comfortable by reducing eyestrain from glare and bright sun. We’ll do our best to guide you through the features that go into the right sunwear for you:
UV 400nm protection or more - this is usually standard in sunglasses, but important to double check. Sunglasses sold over-the-counter will have a “UV400” label. The sun exposure that can cause harmful damage to skin and eyes is Ultra-Violet radiation at a range of 400nm or more.
Almost always go polarized - we recommend this for all of our clients. Polarization is a layer on your lenses that block glare which is a result of light scattering on a cloudy day and reflection from water and snow on the ground. The only reason we say we almost always recommend polarization is that there are a few people out there who can feel dizzy or disoriented with it, which we suspect you’ll know who you are already. If you don’t, then an easy test is to pick one up and look through it yourself. The other potential downside of polarization is that you have to tilt your head to see your cellphone. This may be a good thing to keep you from texting and driving.
Color tint does make a difference - this is one of the most underestimated features people consider when they’re handpicking their sunglasses. We’re all for making sure the lens tint compliments the eyewear itself. Here’s a quick reference to the good/bad of each option:
Grey - this is great choice for anyone who are sensitive to lights. It’s a neutral color so it doesn’t affect color perception. The downside is that grey tends to be on the darker side of tints, which is a nuisance when you’re driving in overcast or dawn/dusk conditions.
Brown - a good in-between tint that performs well for the majority of wearers. It’s dark enough to cut down light intensity, but not so dark that it’s hard to see in low light settings. The drawback is that brown tints mildly effect color vision, especially if you are red/green color deficient. Be warned!
Green/blue - these are great options for our avid golfers and fishers. It’s a light tint, so it doesn’t make everything feel dark. You can easily track a golf ball travelling 300 yards (that’s how far you hit right?) against the blue sky or fish moving under water. We don’t recommend this tint for our blue eye, light sensitive clients as it’s on the light shade side of the spectrum.
Rose and Orange - great tints for our outdoor athletes. The tint is just enough to take the edge off the intense sunlight reflection, while allowing someone to see as close to their naked eye would see. There’s definitely a skewing of color perception, and as these are the lightest tint on the spectrum they are not for our light sensitive faint of hearts.
Mirror tint - this is for the people who want a specific look with their sunnies. It can compliment the look of an eyewear when paired correctly. There is a visual benefit to people who are light sensitive as the tint acts as a mirror and reflects additional light helping with our photosensitive friends. The downside of mirror coats, other than looking like a potential creeper, is they show finger smudges easily.
Gradient tint - a great option for those who tend to move in-/outside frequently throughout the day including those who work courier and construction. The darker tint on the upper 1/3 of the lens will help with sunlight from above, and the clear lens on the bottom 1/3 helps with seeing paperwork and digital devices.
What about Transitions?
We get this question often, and it’s a good one. Transition or more accurately known as Photochromic tint and is a convenient option for those who prefer not to carrying a second eyewear with them. We recommend this to all of our kids. It adds a boost of UV protection in their lenses, which is important as kids tend to be outdoors more than adults (hopefully!). Also, children tend to forget to switch their eyewear before they rush off to play outside.
We always recommend to all of our clients that, if they can afford it, to invest in a separate sunglass prescription. Photochromic tints are convenient, but we find the tint is on the lighter side and despite the improvements in the technology the wearing off time can be annoyingly slow. The other disadvantage is that the technology does not work when you’re driving in a vehicle as the windshield blocks the UV needed to activate the lens coating. We have clients who get around this by sticking their glasses out their side window every now and then.
We can have fun in the sun, but let’s do it with some protection.
About the Author Dr. Steve received his Doctor of Optometry at the University of Waterloo. He serves as the owner and full-time eye doctor of Inglewood and Ramsay at Respect Eyecare. His special interest is in contact lenses and dry eye syndrome.