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Made to shade: A safe-sunglasses guide


Shopping for shades this summer? Then do your eyes a favor—and look beyond the cool factor.

Too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can seriously damage your eyesight. UV rays can contribute to macular degeneration—a leading cause of blindness—as well as cataracts. They can even cause skin cancer around your eyelids.

Shading your eyes can help protect your health. But not all sunglasses are created equal. Some give you more sun protection than others. So how do you pick out a pair that can do the job?

4 tips to choose the best sunglasses

For safer shades, don’t lose sight of these four tips:

  1. Make it 99 to 100 percent. The most important thing to look for when selecting shades is a label clearly stating the sunglasses provide 99 to 100 percent UV protection. They should block both UV-A and UV-B rays. If there’s no label, leave them on the rack.
  2. Trust the label, not the tint. Very dark lenses might make you feel like a Hollywood star. But don’t assume they block more UV rays—check the label. Amber or green lenses can work just as well as gray. But gray tints are the least likely interfere with your color vision.
  3. Go big. Opt for oversized or wraparound styles—the bigger, the better. Smaller shades let UV rays leak in from the sides.
  4. Don’t go for broke. You don’t have to shell out big bucks to protect your eyes. When it comes to UV protection, less expensive pairs can be just as safe as pricier ones.

Be smart about fun in the sun

So you found a pair of sunglasses that suits your style and safety? That’s step No. 1. Now make these steps a habit each time you head outdoors:

  • Don’t leave home without them. Wear your sunglasses anytime you’re outside, even when it’s cloudy. Clouds don’t block UV rays.
  • Know when extra care is called for. UV rays are at their most intense in summer and at high altitudes. And they can be especially strong when reflected off water, sand or snow. Always wear sunglasses in these conditions.
  • Top it off. A wide-brimmed hat can cut in half the amount of UV rays that reach your eyes. Wearing it with your shades is best.
  • Mind your meds. Some medicines can increase your sensitivity to light. Ask your doctor what you need to do protect your eyes and skin.
  • Help kids cover up. Kids’ eyes need sun protection too. So be sure they wear UV-safe sunglasses and hats whenever they’re outside.

What about contact lenses? Some protect against UV rays. But even with them, shading your eyes with sunglasses and a hat is still a good idea.

Beat the heat

Temperature rising? Check out these hot-weather safety tips to help protect you—and your family—from a heat-related illness.