Sunglasses or Sunscreen?

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When it comes to sun protection, the importance of sunglasses is often kept in the dark.

Did you know that the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light can cause cancers of your eye surface or eyelids? Not only that, prolonged exposure can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration (the leading cause of vision loss among older adults).

“Many people are shocked to find out that skin cancers can grow on the surface of your eyes,” says Dr. Carol Karp, an ocular oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute who specializes in cancers of the eye surface.  “It’s important to use sunglasses to protect your eyes.  Sunglasses are just as important as sunscreen. In fact, picking the right pair can protect your eyes from both long and short-term damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun."

Here are some tips to guide your selection of the proper shades.

A higher price does NOT = more protection

When available, request the lenses be tested for UV protection. Lenses should offer 100 percent of both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection.

Contact lenses are not enough

Although contacts do offer some UV protection, you still need sunglasses to block out harmful sunlight.  Sunglasses protect the entire ocular surface and lid skin.

Go for substance over style

Fashionable or not, your shades should cover the entire eye area and wrap all the way around to your temples. This stops the sun’s rays even from the side and may reduce the drying effect of wind.

Polarized lenses are a good choice for comfort

Polarized lenses help to minimize glare, just confirm that they contain UV protection

Lens color matters

A brown tint to your lenses improves contrast and depth perception, while gray is considered a true color – meaning it does not distort other colors.

Antireflective (AR) coatings reduce the mirror effect

Can you see your cheek in the glass? Do others see room light reflections in your lenses instead of seeing your eye?  If reflections annoy you, this feature helps to eliminate them.

Fit your lifestyle

Are you an outdoorsy adventurer, a beach enthusiast or a casual backyard gardener? No matter your activities, your glasses should fit your preferences. Consider polycarbonate as the best lens material because it protects your eyes with a very strong, shatterproof material, yet is thin and light.

If you have kids, follow these guidelines to buy them sunglasses as well. Children's eyes are less capable of filtering these high-energy rays, especially younger children, so they should start wearing sunglasses outdoors as early in life as possible.