They're cute and all, but do your sunglasses really have what it takes?

Meghan Overdeep
June 29, 2018
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These days, sunglasses come in all shapes, sizes and price points. And let’s face it, it’s a lot more fun to shop for fashionable shades than it is to shop for functional ones. Plus, nothing pulls a summer ensemble together like the perfect pair of sunnies.

We get it, we really do. But it’s important to remember that even with all the choices out there, sunglasses weren’t created to be worn as accessories. They serve a very real and important purpose: to protect your eyes from damaging UV rays. And, as is often the case, not all sunglasses are created equal.

“It’s a fashion choice for people when it comes to selecting the frame that works for them, as long as the sunglasses have 100 percent UV protection,” Dr. Deeba Chaudri, an optometrist at Cosmopolitan Eyecare in New York, explained to HuffPost. “The effectiveness is not related to the price point.”

While it’s good that it doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg (or eye!) to protect your peepers, experts still advise being cautious when purchasing bargain brands, as not all provide 100% protection from the sun. The quality of the lenses are what’s important, so cheaper frames are fine as long as they’re from a respected optical brand.

Dr. Andrea Thau, an optometrist based in New York and former president of the American Optometric Association, told Huffpost that the best way to find out if your sunglasses are the real deal is to take them to your doctor.

“You can determine if they are safe by bringing them to your doctor of optometry to have them checked during your annual comprehensive eye examination,” she said. “We have methods of testing their UV protection, and unfortunately, you can’t tell if they have UV protection from just looking at them.”

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As for UV stickers on the lenses, optometrists warn that they can’t always be trusted.

“Some sunglasses potentially have false UV labels,” Chaudri revealed to HuffPost. “You can ask an optician which sunglasses are specifically designed for UV protection and are rated UV400 or higher.”

According to the American Optometric Association, excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation in a short period can damage your eyes and sight, likely resulting in photokeratitis. Likened to a "sunburn of the eye," photokeratitis is temporary though painful. Symptoms include red eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, and more. Understandably, it’s something to avoid, so if you suspect that your trendy shades aren’t cutting it, bring them into your doctor. You won’t regret it!