If you’re not using them to hide your identity from the paparazzi, you’re wearing shades to protect your eyes from the sun, and to let you better enjoy the outdoors. So how do you choose the best shades for you? Here are six tips from the experts to help guide you.
Remember this one thing
The staff at pharmacies, or that 2-for-$20 kiosk at the mall, are not trained to help you choose the right sunglasses. So the only way to get answers to important shade-related questions like: “Are these lenses polycarbonate?” is to shop in a store that specializes in selling sunglasses, or a store with a trained optician on staff.
“The most important thing to know when shopping for sunglasses is the primary activity or sport you’ll be using them for,” says Colin Smith, the Tech Guru over at Oakley, maker of cutting-edge sunglasses for over 25 years. “That will help to greatly narrow down your choices.” So which shades are for which activities? Here are some examples:
Driving: “You’ll want a grey or green lens,” says Tom Clayton, President of Europtik, US Distributor of Polaroid Sunwear. “They’re great all-purpose lenses, and are the best at keeping colors natural.” Which is why the military specs gray or green for their glasses.
Golf: Go with a brown or bronze lens. It’ll filter out the harsh blue wavelengths and enhance the greens. “This creates greater contrast and better depth perception around the greens,” says Clayton. They are also a good choice for skiers.
Boating/Fishing: You’ll want a lens that blocks a lot of the blue from the sky and water, so choosing a brown or bronze will work well here, too. “That will also allow you to spot features in streams like logs where the fish hide,” says Smith.
But the most important thing to look for in any of these lenses, and a must-have according to both Smith and Clayton, is polarization. Which brings us to…
Stop the Glare.
What is “glare”? Basically it’s light hitting your eye horizontally. In 1929, Dr. Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid, invented the first synthetic polarizing material that blocked out this light. Polarized lenses will block all of the glare created from light bouncing off things like buildings, cars and water. Which is a huge benefit to wearers where glare is prevalent, like driving, skiing or when fishing.
But be aware, there are cheaply polarized glasses out there. How can you tell if the glasses you’re looking at have truly polarized lenses? Polaroid’s Clayton has a way to test them. “Put on one pair and hold another pair of the same glasses (or glasses you know are polarized), in front of you. Slowly rotate them. If, when they are roughly perpendicular to each other, the lenses appear to turn completely black, they’re polarized.”
There are two things sunglasses can, and should, protect your eyes from: Ultra Violet rays and, if worn for sport, impact.
You may think that those cheap shades you bought on the street are protecting your eyes because they “Block 100% UVA and UVB”. But there are actually three types of UV that can damage your eyes: UVA, UVB and UVC. And UVC is the worst. Polarized and polycarbonite lenses block all three.
So do more expensive glasses offer better protection? Not really, according to Clayton. “A high percentage of fashion sunglasses are not polarized and are made with plain plastic lenses,” he says. “Buying by price does not guarantee better protection.”
If you plan on wearing your glasses for sports or any activity like mountain biking or skiing where they may be hit by flying rocks or debris, you’ll want lenses made of impact-resistant, shatter-resistant, polycarbonate. And the bargain glasses won’t have them.
Wear Your Coat.
There are several coatings available that can add benefits to your shades. Clayton suggests an anti-glare or anti-reflective coating. “It’ll prevent light coming in from behind from reflecting back into your eye.”
Smith recommends getting lenses with a mirrored coating for further reducing glare and also likes lenses with a photochromic coating if you tend to go from bright light to shade and back, say while playing golf on a course with a lot of trees. It reacts to UV and adjusts the amount of tint up or down depending on the light. And if you plan on sweating a lot or being in a wet environment, look for shades with oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings. They repel oil and water, respectively.
None of these things will matter if the glasses don’t fit right or are uncomfortable. So try them on. Are they lightweight? Do they fit your face well, or are they too tight? Are the lenses clear and distortion-free? All of this is important when making your final decision and buying the perfect glasses to wear during your summer activities.