Summer's coming - are you shopping for some new sunglasses? It's definitely something that many people have been considering as the weather gets warmer. Sunglasses are not only a fashion statement, but they also serve an important purpose - protecting your eyes.
I recently sat down with The Family Handyman to educate them about polarized sunglasses. We had a deep dive into what it means for sunglasses to be polarized and what I look for when shopping. My tips were featured in this recent article.
If you would like to learn more about polarized sunglasses, here's a detailed transcript of our discussion:
What does it mean if sunglasses are polarized?
Polarized sunglasses are sunglasses with a special filter which blocks horizontal wavelengths of light. This reduces glare on bright, sunny days. In general, people are bothered by glare from sunlight bouncing off relatively flat, smooth surfaces, such as the hoods of other cars when driving, the ocean water when sailing, or snow when skiing. Polarized sunglasses, by blocking this glare, allow us to see details more clearly and get less eye strain. It can help us drive more safely or perform better at sports.
What is the highest level of polarized sunglasses?
While there are different price points for polarized sunglasses, they all have the same type of filter which blocks the glare effectively. Different "levels" of sunglasses (and different price points) have to do with the clarity of the lenses and quality of materials, not necessarily "level" of polarization. This is even more important when talking about prescription polarized sunglasses (which have someone's prescription glasses incorporated into the sunglasses).
Do you have any polarized sunglasses you recommend? If so can you provide the names and/or links?
What factors should somebody consider when buying a pair of polarized sunglasses? What elements should they look for? What elements should they avoid?
When shopping for polarized lenses and sunglasses, in general, one should stick to reputable brands. Don't go cheap on your eyes! While sunglasses are a fashion accessory, they also serve a very practical purpose - protecting your eyes. We are talking about your eye health and you only have 2 of them! I would avoid buying inexpensive sunglasses from the NYC streetcorner or your local pharmacy. Also, be careful if you are online shopping. There are many fake or counterfeit sunglasses being sold on the internet. I would avoid buying on ebay and be really careful of buying from 3rd party sellers on Amazon. You may end up with sunglasses that are not polarized or ones without UV protection - such sunglasses can potentially hurt your eyes!
What are the different types of polarized sunglasses? May you elaborate a bit.
Polarized lenses are available in a number of different colors such as gray, brown, gray-green, and rose. A relatively new option for polarized lens is a gradient color where it is darker on top and lighter on the bottom portion of the lens. The best thing to do is to try the lenses on to see which type is visually preferred by the individual.
Is polarized better than 100% UV protection?
"Polarized" and UV protection are two different things. You can have sunglasses that have both or just one of them. 100% UV protection is as it says - sunglasses that block 100% of both UVA and UVB light from getting to your eyes. This is extremely important to have in your sunglasses and I wouldn't get sunglasses without 100% UV protection. Increased UV light exposure is hypothesized to cause increased risk of many serious problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and eye cancer (melanoma). In addition, UV light exposure around the eyes and eyelids leads to more age-related skin changes, higher skin cancer risk, and wrinkles.
I recommend that you get sunglasses that have both 100% UV protection AND polarized lenses.
Are there different polarized sunglasses for different activities such as fishing, aviation, boating, etc?
Yes. Polarized sunglasses come in many different frame styles that are tailor-made for different sports and activities. For example, where I work in Greenwich, CT, many people who sail like wrap-around polarized lenses that provide increased protection from the sun and wind. However, when it comes to aviation, polarized lenses are generally not recommended since they can potentially interfere with reading gauges and instruments.