How sunglasses protect your eyes

You wouldn’t go out in the baking sun without any clothes or suncream on. And yet, your eyes are up to ten times more sensitive to UV damage than your skin.

It makes sense: eyes have to be one of the most visible parts of organisms in order for you to be able to see. If they were on the back of your knees and always covered up, then they may be safe from damage, but they’d also be pretty useless.

So, the only alternative is that we need to take measures to protect our eyes from too much sun and UV exposure.

Excessive exposure to UV light can damage the structure of the cornea, lens, the retina and the surrounding eye tissue, leading to everything from macular degeneration and cataracts to corneal burns and pterygium, a growth on the white of the eye.

As opposed to staying out of the sun all your life—which can itself be bad for your eyes, not least because a moderate amount of light from the sun keeps them healthy—wearing sunglasses is the best way to reduce the chances of UV damage.

It’s easy to grab the best looking pair of designer sunglasses or pick up the cheapest shades from the supermarket. But it’s important to do your research to make sure they actually protect your eyes.

Some sunglasses do a much better job of protecting your eyes than others. So the question is, how do you know which ones will offer you the most protection? 

By the end of this article, you will know exactly what to look in a pair of sunnies so that they not only make you look good, but also take good care for your eyes too.

UV Coating

By far the most important thing to look for in your next pair of sunglasses is UV protection.

Opt for a pair that are labelled as having 100 percent UV protection. UV coating can be added to plastic sunglasses without a coating, but glasses made from polycarbonate already have UV protection built-in.

When we say 100 percent protection, we mean “100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB”, or “100% protection against UV 400.” This is especially the case if you are often in environments with a higher risk of UV exposure, such as at high altitude. As well as on those days and in those places where you would think UV exposure wouldn’t be a problem: research by the Met Office shows up to 80 percent of UV-A can come through clouds.

Mirror coating

Other than UV coatings, mirror coatings on sunglasses are another good option for protecting your eyeballs from UV light.

Mirror coatings are applied to the front of the lenses and work by reflecting light away from your eyes—just like a mirror. This can help prevent too many harmful UV rays from reaching your eyes, whilst also helping to reduce squinting and eyestrain.

Anti-reflective (AR) coating

Anti-reflective coatings, or AR coatings, are other type of optical coating that is applied to the surface of the lenses to reduce reflection.

AR coatings can help get rid of annoying and eye-straining reflections, while also allowing for a much clearer image by preventing light from reflecting off the back surface of your sunglasses.

Polarized lenses

Despite being all the rage, polarisation does nothing to bounce off UV rays or increase UV light absorption.

Rather, polarised lenses help filter out and block reflected light, for instance, in environments with a lot of water or snow, to make activities like driving and skiing safer.

Many polarised lenses come with a UV-blocking coating, however, it’s important to check the label to make sure they provide maximum UV protection.

Larger lenses

When it comes to choosing a pair of sunglasses, bigger really is better.

Larger frames that also sit close to your eyes and fit snuggly on your face are key to reducing the amount of light that reaches your eyes—including through the delicate skin around them—from all angles.

It’s a good idea to invest in larger rimmed frames if you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially around snow or water. You may want to consider wraparound sunglasses with complete UV protection. As a plus, this design can also prevent the wind from drying out your eyes.

Coloured tints

Today, sunglasses come in every single colour and tint you can imagine—some with useful properties that make them great for certain activities, and others that aren’t so useful.

For starters, lenses with a green tint can filter some blue light and reduce glare. They are a popular option because as well as being stylish, they offer the greatest visual acuity and highest contrast of any tint.

Yellow or gold tints, on the other hand, reduce the amount of blue light while allowing a lot of other frequencies to still pass through. Blue light can bounce and scatter off many surfaces, creating a kind of glare known as a blue haze. Yellow tints almost completely eliminate the blue part of the spectrum.

Amber and brownish tints can reduce glare and absorb some higher frequency colours, such as blue, along with some UV rays. While rose and purple tints offer high contrast against blue or green backgrounds—making them a popular choice for hunting and water skiing.

A great pair of sunglasses should eliminate UV rays, cover a good portion of your face, and eliminate or decrease the amount of reflected light.

It’s certainly possible to find sunglasses that have all of these essential features, all you need to do is a little research and make sure you’re buying from a trusted brand.

Find out more about how you can look after your eyes or book your consultation today by getting in touch with our team of eye experts.