The Only Thing That Matters When Buying Sunglasses

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Whether you’re buying $100 sunglasses from a high-end department store or $10 sunglasses from your local drugstore, there’s just one thing you need to keep in mind: Make sure they block 100 percent of ultraviolet rays.

“Usually there’s a little sticker or a tag, something that says they’re [providing] 100 percent UV protection. That’s what you want to see before you buy them,” says New Jersey-based ophthalmologist Brenda Pagan, MD,  a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “They don’t have to be expensive to work well, but make sure there’s that sticker or label. If you don’t see the label, you shouldn’t be buying it — you don’t know if it works.”

Beyond that, it doesn’t really matter whether your shades are dark or light, or tinted a certain hue — amber, green, or gray lenses may help increase contrast in certain conditions, but one color isn’t more protective against UV rays than another. And keep in mind that bigger sunglasses are better, since they provide more protection for your eyes, Pagan tells Yahoo Health. 

UV protection is vital with sunglasses because without it, your eyes can develop problems in just a few hours. One condition that’s particularly common in the summertime is photokeratitis, which is sunburn of the cornea. “It’s very painful … it makes you sensitive to any light whatsoever,” Pagan explains. 

Cataracts, eye and eyelid cancer, and damage to the retina are also risks if you don’t protect your eyes adequately, she says. 

And even though contact lenses provide some degree of UV protection, Pagan says its still important for wearers to don sunglasses. “The problem is [the lenses] only cover a small area of your eye in the front, not the whole area — the eyelid and the area around it, and the whole eyeball,” she says.