Sunglasses are much more than fashionable accessories--they’re absolutely essential for eye health, whether you’re a trendsetter or not! The ultraviolet (UV) light blocking properties of sunglasses help your eyes see better in bright outdoor light, while shielding them from both short- and long-term damage due to UV radiation. Nobody wants to experience vision losses, retina damage, cataracts, macular degeneration, or other comparable issues. These are exactly the sort of problems that can develop without proper UV eye protection--regardless of age or geographic location.
With that in mind, how do you know you’re getting the best UV protection from a pair of sunglasses, and is there any lifetime on their effectiveness? Let’s take a look.
What to look for when buying
Not all sunglasses offer the same level of UV protection. Pay close attention to how they’re labeled and only purchase ones that are specified “100% UV Protection” or UV400. Either one indicates that the sunglass lenses absorb a full spectrum of UV light wavelengths (UVA and UVB)--thereby permitting less UV light to reach your eyes. Most countries require the UV protection of sunglasses to be demonstrated to certain standards for manufacturers to apply these labels to their products.
In addition to the lenses, make sure the frames fit your face, providing coverage for the browline and temple, as well. With this in mind, you’ll still have plenty of choices as far as style, price point, color, and polarized or standard lenses.
How long will they work like new?
Most consumer products--from clothing to electronics and gadgets--have certain lifetimes. It’s only valid to wonder whether sunglasses lose their UV-blocking power over time; and if so, how quickly? While we don’t yet have a definitive answer, researchers are currently working to develop more accurate, realistic testing protocols for measuring sunglasses’ long-term UV protection. It’s also important to note that there are no uniform international testing guidelines. As a result, some consumers have a higher level of confidence than others that their sunglasses provide sufficient UV eye protection. This is especially true after months and years of use.
What can you do?
Your eyes are incredibly valuable, and you only get one pair--it only makes sense to do everything you can to keep them healthy and seeing clearly! Don’t wait for researchers to arrive at a definitive conclusion for how long sunglasses will protect your eyes; switch to a new pair every few years, making sure to buy according to the guidelines for best UV protection.