Happy National Sunglasses Day! That’s a real holiday right? It is for people in the optical world, I promise. Every June 27 we go to work bleary-eyed from staying up all night waiting for the sunglasses fairy to bring us the best new styles of the season. Oh man, I wish. Really, we use this day and the weeks leading up to it as a way to educate people on the importance of UV protection and proper sunwear. So buckle up people, because I am about to expound some passionate knowledge about something I love almost as much as Harry Potter: eyewear and eye health.
Please note: While I would typically put affiliate links to Amazon in this post for you to shop for eyewear, I am not going to do that. Just like Independent bookstores, independent opticals help communities thrive and provide eye care for people in need. Find one in your neighborhood. I bet you they have good stuff.
Sunglasses & Sunscreen
My favorite illustration of all time is one of this woman applying sunscreen. It’s a clear indication of the protective barrier that sunscreen creates, as shown under a UV light, but look what’s not protected: The eyes and the skin around them.
The Vision Council’s most recent VisionWatch survey reveals American adults experience symptoms – like sunburn on the eyelids (3.7 percent), sunburn of the eye (2.5 percent) and cancer on or around the eye (.6 percent) – from prolonged UV exposure. Adults fear vision loss from UV exposure, but 27 percent report they don’t typically wear sunglasses while outdoors.
UV is always out regardless if whether the sun is. You can typically check your local UV index on your phone’s weather app. UV exposure is a major contributor to health and vision issues, including skin cancers, Macular Degeneration and Cataracts. The best way to reduce risk is to reduce exposure by wearing sunscreen and sunglasses. Often, we think that sunglasses are an adult’s accessory, but it’s even more important for children to be wearing them, 80% of all UV exposure occurs before age 18.
How to find a good pair of sunglasses
- Look for 100% UV protection. It should say on the frame itself or on a sticker on the lens.
- Look for polarized lenses. It should say on the temple or on the lens itself. If you don’t know if it’s polarized, hold it up to a computer monitor or your phone and tilt the sunglasses sideways. If it goes dark, they are polarized.
- Look for a good fit. If you like plastic frames, make sure the bridge is snug on your nose with no noticeable gaps. This will ensure a good fit and keep them from slipping or feeling uncomfortable on the nose. Make sure the temples are long enough to go behind the ear about 1.25 inches, which will allow for room for them to be adjusted and fitted if necessary. There are some sunglasses that cannot be fitted for comfort, like the sport wrap fit (think of Oakley) or certain materials like wood, so make sure you’re comfortable with that style when you try them on.
- As long as your lenses are 100% UV protected, the color of your lenses/mirrors/polarization is all personal preference. Brown lenses will let in more natural light and be great for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Grey will feel the darkest and dull colors. Green is going to be great for contrast. Mirrors will add darkness but not change the color of the lens you’re looking through, just the cosmetic appearance. Tints are in-style right now, and I am not a fan of them at all, don’t at me.
- Look for a pair that has a backside anti-glare treatment. This is a mark of a premium lens (but it doesn’t mean you have to pay a premium for it!), and will help reduce eye strain caused by sunlight coming in from the top, side, or bottom of the frame. You can usually tell if a pair of sunglasses has this if the back of the lens doesn’t have a white reflection, but gives off a purple, pink, or green reflection.
My top recommended brands
Polaroid is the number 2 best selling eyewear brand in Europe. Their styles range from classic to a little bit crazy, and all their frames are polarized with a backside anti-glare treatment.
Spy Optic $
Based out of Carlsbad, CA, Spy Optic’s surf/skate vibe has got them in trouble with some bold marketing moves in the past. Great lifestyle and active wear frames, and creators of the Happy Lens, which helps block harmful blue light, while letting in long wave blue light. (Blocking blue light means better sleep, better vision, better attitude!) Most of their frames have options for polarized lenses, and a backside anti-glare treatment. I particularly enjoy their Crosstown Collection, and wear the Alcatraz frame (shown here). The Discord is also a bestseller and looks good on pretty much anyone.
Maui Jim $$$$
known for their lenses, all Maui Jim frames come with polarized lenses with a backside anti-glare treatment. Your eyes will be happy in these sunglasses. Their different lens colors can fit any lifestyle, and their warranty is out of this world. Contact Maui Jim with any issue with your sunglasses and they will do whatever they can to fix/replace/repair.
Handmade in Chicago, IL by master craftsmen and you can tell. Each State frame is named after a street in Chicago, and has a hand-drilled design to symbolize the state of Illinois. One of the very few frame lines made in the US, and definitely the best in my opinion. This is a luxury line and it speaks. Smooth, solid construction, beautiful design, the only thing that’s not from the US is the imported German stainless steel double barrel hinge. Their collaboration line, STATExCOTW has been featured heavily in fashion magazines.
Etnia Barcelona $$$
Etnia Barcelona is known for their avant-garde shapes, great colorways and unconventional patterns. The frames are handmade in Spain and the optical and sunwear lines reflect the fun and vibrancy of the country. The Vintage Collection uses materials and designs from the 1970s, and updates the look with modern colorways or lenses, like the frame shown above. Every frame is named after a city and include a backside anti-glare treatment.
One of my all-time favorite eyewear lines, Modo makes metal look chic and modern. All of their frames are titanium, lightweight and paper thin (less than .8mm thick!). They do a beautiful job of subtly adding a pop of color to a frame, with a touch of acetate around the edges, or just the right paint choice. Plus, each purchase helps provide eye care for someone in need.
But sunglasses don’t mean anything if you can’t see out of them. If you wear glasses, I highly recommend investing in a pair of prescription sunglasses. I tell people all the time that if I was forced into selling something door-to-door, it would be prescription sunwear. Getting my first pair was like seeing the world in a whole new light (no pun intended). As a glasses wearer, or someone restricted to contact lenses due to light sensitivity (and relying on sunglasses while outside), prescription sunwear will allow for more freedom, flexibility, and happier eyes.
Transitions/photochromic lenses are not a substitute for sunglasses and don’t offer the same coverage as a pair of sunglasses would, especially driving, or outside for longer periods of time (remember the lady putting sunscreen on?).
Talk to your optician about options for Rx sunglasses. If you have vision insurance, you can use your benefits toward that. If you don’t, ask about lens discounts or special packages that they might offer for National Sunglasses Day. You can find an independent optical here.
You’ll find these in all the magazines and runways this year…but will they stick around?:
- Round (think Lennon)
- Cat Eye
- Tiny. Like teeny-tiny. Are these supposed to be worn ironically? I just don’t get it.
- Pastel tints
- Sport wrap
My most important advice when shopping for sunglasses: Ignore what everyone else is wearing. Get a pair of sunglasses that you feel looks good on you, and fits you well. If you need help, ask an optician it’s what we live for.