Q. I need new sunglasses. What should I look for to get the best eye protection without breaking the bank?
A. The right pair of sunglasses can protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays (UV) and high-energy visible (HEV) light—light from the blue part of the spectrum, implicated in cataracts and retina damage. You can find affordable and protective shades by following these tips:
• Evaluate claims. There are no federal standards for sunglasses, so labels are often inconsistent and confusing. A sticker that says “blocks UV” or “UV-absorbent” is meaningless because it doesn’t tell you how much UV is blocked. Choose sunglasses with stickers that claim to block a specific percentage of UV, such as “99% to 100% UV absorbent.”
• Don’t be fooled. Darker lenses don’t mean better UV protection. Unless darker lenses are fabricated to block UV, they can be more harmful than wearing no sunglasses. That’s because they cause pupils to dilate, allowing more UV light into the eyes. Lenses should be dark enough so that you can’t see your eyes when looking in the mirror, but light enough to see curbs, stoplights, and stairs.
• Hit the right price point. It’s possible to find great, protective shades in the $20 to $60 range. More expensive ones are not necessarily better.