There are no rules with sunglasses, as they can be sported in all shapes, sizes and colors. Glancing through the decades, one can see sunglasses at the most prestigious high fashion show runways, all the way to casual scenes like the beach. Even high impact sports require some form of eye protection. Safe to say, sunglasses are a universal staple in fashion that can be spotted anywhere at anytime. Heck, even Corey Hart sang a song about wearing sunglasses at night. Countless number of people reach for them daily without giving much thought to the magnitude and the impact they have on our health and wellness. I am one of the many individuals who can openly admit that wearing sunglasses promotes good outdoor eye safety but beyond that I was uninformed on the topic. Just like our skin requires sun block, our eyes require a shield of protection from bright light. Did you know that our eyes have a limited tolerance to the sun? Damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation is cumulative and will add up with time.

It is for this reason one should search for the right quality of sunglasses. Thoughts that may circulate your mind are the elevating costs of a good pair of glasses these days. To that I reply with, it is usually the frames (and designers one at that) that add up at the register. So what do you search for when bombarded by hundreds of options? According to Iris.ca: “Sunglasses should have lenses that block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays and be made of material that allows optical quality viewing as well as is safe and impact resistant” (2015). Skincancer.org pleads consumers to: “check the tag on the packaging to ensure this” (2015). Additionally, “If there is no label, or it says something vague like UV absorbing or blocks most UV light, don’t buy them…” (2011). Remember that sunglasses are more then just a fashion accessory. They are a health necessity. For those of you who wear specialty contacts, yes you still need sunglasses because: “…UV-blocking contacts shield only the part of your eye under the lens. UV rays still can damage your conjunctiva and other tissues not covered by the lens” (allaboutvision.com, 2015). As for the glasses advertised and graded by the darkness of tint, those offer no UV protection- unless specifically stated on the label.

The more I research the further I realize that we, as human beings, cannot get away from exposure to UV radiation. Whether it is for our skin or our eyes, it is worth taking that extra step to double check the UV meter on your sunglasses. Just walk into your optometrist’s office or any specialized glasses store, many give you a free UV reading. Recently, what I was surprised to learn was that certain knockoffs and/or cheap pairs of sunglasses may actually do more damage to your eyes then if you forego them altogether. I say this because: “…the tinted lenses will relax your pupils, letting more damaging radiation hit your retina than if you were wearing no glasses at all” (nytimes.com, 2011). No UV protection in that equation equals more harm to your retina. To be safe, stick to eyewear from an established commercial chain and take a look at the sticker located on the front and/or the label attached. For those of you who wear regular glasses, those clip on shades are officially outdated, but better then nothing. Want to maintain your sleek appearance while looking fashionable? I am a firm advocate of prescription sunglasses. Stick with grey lenses as they do not distort color and remain fairly neutral. You should feel a sense of assurance that you are defending yourself from dangerous radiation, I know I do.

Sunglasses also aid to minimize intense glares and squinting. When your iris closes from too much sunlight, you naturally shy away. It is your body armoring itself. What you cannot prevent is wrinkles formulating when squinting. Still think you do not need to invest in sunglasses? The Robert Frith Opticians say it best: “No one is immune to sunlight-related eye disorders. Every person in every ethnic group in developed and developing nations alike is susceptible to ocular damage from UV radiation that can lead to impaired vision” (frithsopticians.co.uk, 2015). Have you seen people with yellow bumps or little growths on the whites of their eyes? That is just one of many side effects caused by too much sun exposure. Dailymail.co.uk says pinguecula is: “… caused by UV damage to the collagen in the conjunctiva (the clear coating on the white of the eye)” (2013). Although these growths are benign they can cause irritations, redness, dry eyes, etc. That is also hoping you get that particular long term side effect and not skin cancer on the eyelid.

Although this may be self evident, sunglasses are not just for the summer months. The nytimes.com confirms that: “Skiing on fresh snow, skating on reflective ice or hiking at high altitudes can be harder on your eyes than a day at the beach” (2011). If I have not stressed the importance of wearing sunglasses enough, and you are still not convinced, then at the very least go purchase a large brimmed hat. This allows you to block out and provide yourself with some form of shade. Overall, protection from the sun should begin as early as possible, especially for children who spend more time outdoors on a daily basis. No one wants to reach the point of permanent lesions and slow degeneration… while risking a cataract. Cherish your ocular tissues and protect your sight from the most harmful rays for the eyes. This is a hazard that is underestimated. Isn’t your sight worth protecting?

© 2015 Olivia Gudaniec

Model: Olivia Gudaniec
Photographer: Ken Schultz
Hair & Makeup: Tazeen Khan