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7 things you need to know before buying sunglasses this summer

Let’s face it: You’re neither a hermit nor a vampire, so when you leave your home, you’re walking straight into UV radiation.

Protecting your skin from sun damage is a no-brainer. But “your eyes can definitely get sun damaged as well,” says Dr. Brian S. Boxer Wachler of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Beverly Hills.

Choosing sunglasses — the right sunglasses — is about much more than just about looking cool on a hot day. “People should think sunglasses are like sunscreen for your eyes,” Boxer Wachler said. Here are some buying tips:

Read the label

“UV ultraviolet radiation is what causes most eye problems… we see it in people when they have really not been diligent about wearing sunglasses," Boxer Wachler said. He added that eye sun damage can cause a variety of problems, including cataracts, cancers and even causing the whites of people’s eyes to become chronically bloodshot. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends buying sunglasses labeled UV400 or 100% UV protection.

Dodge the glare

Whistler II Surf Sunglasses. Also good for whitewater kayaking, windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing. ($109, silverfish.com)
Whistler II Surf Sunglasses. Also good for whitewater kayaking, windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing. ($109, silverfish.com) (Silverfish)

“Polarized sunglasses cut down glare from other surfaces,” Boxer Wachler said. This is equally important if you’re into surfing, boating, fishing, snowboarding, skiing or just driving on a sunny day. Make sure the label says “polarized” before you buy.

Catch more UVs

Maui Jim Haleakala, Canoes and other styles (about $229 and up, mauijim.com)
Maui Jim Haleakala, Canoes and other styles (about $229 and up, mauijim.com) (Maui Jim)

“Wrap-arounds are preferable to sunglasses that just go straight across and leave a big opening on the sides where a lot of sun sneaks in around the frame,” says Boxer Wachler. Not your style? Try (currently trending) oversize glasses..

Shatter-proof

“Sports protection for eyes is very important,” Boxer Wachler said. “You can experience trauma to the eye by an elbow or hand… from a minor irritation, to getting poked, to a cornea abrasion, to optic nerve damage…where you can go blind in the eye.” Impact-resistant materials including polycarbonate and Trivex sold at the David Kind eyewear shop in Venice, Calif., can protect eyes from fast-moving objects in general.

Price isn’t everything

Privé Eyewear, the Godfather, the Madam ($29.95, priverevaux.com)
Privé Eyewear, the Godfather, the Madam ($29.95, priverevaux.com) (Privé Eyewear)

“We found no correlation with UV protection and price,” Boxer Wachler said. Just remember Rule No. 1: Choose glasses offering UV400 or 100% UV Protection.

When you’re driving…

Remember the photo that went viral a few years ago, after publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, of a career truck driver with striking sun damage on the left side of his face? That effect, from driving into the sun’s harmful rays all day, is more common than you might think. “I see more left-sided cancer and cataracts in patients as well,” Boxer Wachler said, adding that his research found that front car windshields generally had decent UV protection but that side windows blocked only 71% of rays. He recommends a clear, UV protection window tint for side windows in addition to wearing wrap-around sunglasses while driving.

Got color?

Ray-Ban Blaze Clubmaster in several colors including dark violet ($195, ray-ban.com)
Ray-Ban Blaze Clubmaster in several colors including dark violet ($195, ray-ban.com) (Ray-Ban)

Tinted glasses are not necessarily related to UV protection, but choosing glasses with a tint can help those who need clarity, especially in low-light conditions. “I know people who do target or competitive shooting at gun ranges,” Boxer Wachler says. “They use yellow and orange sunglasses because it can improve contrast.”

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