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Are my Cheap Sunglasses Damaging my Eyes?

This is a common South African picture: everyone is sitting outside at a braai with family and friends. People are gathered around the table; eating, drinking and chatting. The sun is shining and is casting its rays powerfully. You look at your surroundings and enjoy the view and the sun’s warmth on your skin, except for one minor issue: the glare is blinding. How is it that everyone else at the braai is not sporting a scrunched nose, furrowed eyebrows and uncomfortable headache from the blinding light?

Is it their sunglasses which are helping them to see clearly despite the sun? Are my el cheapo sunnies affecting the health of my eyes? High-quality sunglasses are always more expensive. Certainly, people always wonder whether the greater cost is truly worth it. As someone who understands this picture, I sympathise with anyone who has been wrestling the cost of investing in such sunglasses. However, as an eye doctor, I reserve those sympathies simply because there is a lot of benefit in having good quality lenses.

These are my five top tips for choosing the right sunglasses:

1. Do your research

Before taking the plunge and buying your sunglasses, it is important to check the lens quality for distortions and irregularities. Buying sunglasses online often means that this kind of sampling is not available to all, so I believe it is worth going into the stores and testing them out yourself. Store assistants are also able to give advice and provide you with alternative options or similar sunglasses to the one you are trying.

2. Quality control

Although not all expensive sunglasses are good quality, often what happens is that sunglasses that are well-made are also expensive because of the high-quality materials used and the care that has been taken to create them. It is expensive to use lightweight materials, because the materials themselves are specialised. Similarly, filters in sunglasses also requires more labour, effort and money to produce. This fact especially applies to the quality of filter UVB that is used, as well as the quality of the material that is used for lenses.

3. UV protection

This brings us to the fact of UVB protection. This is not only a skincare precaution. UV protection is crucial for the eyes as well. UV protection can be put into clear lenses as well as sunglasses. The latter works in a simple way, where a clear lens is taken and the UV filter is added. Thereafter the tint is added which will reduce out any glare. Tints are a personal preference, and can be chosen based on the comfort of the person wearing the sunglasses or chosen based on the aesthetics of the pair of frames. They can be lighter, darker, coloured or have a gradient, amongst other kinds.

Zeiss is a company which uses extra filters that protect our eye from sunlight. They incorporate most of the necessary UV filters as a standard option into all of their optical and sunglasses, without extra cost. Zeiss has been working hard to combat the danger of UV, and they focus on the effect of UV rays on the eye, showing that it is not just the skin that is affected by UV.

Worth mentioning is the Zeiss UVB Protect Technology which they employ, which includes full UV protection in all clear plastic lenses in order to comply with the advice of the standard of UV protection as defined by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection and the World Health Organisation. Their work surpasses the industry standard at 380 nm. In this way, ZEISS UV protection sets an industry benchmark by offering sunglass-level UV protection of up to 400 nm in clear lens materials.

Learn more about Zeiss UVB Protect Technology here:

4. Polarisation to reduce glare

Polarisation, on the other hand, applies only to sunglasses. Polarisation of sunglasses is when there is a film that is incorporated within the lens. The purpose of polarisation is to cut out extra glare; it is more than just a standard tint. It particularly blocks glare coming from a horizontal surface, such as a road, lake or ocean. It is also very popular amongst people doing fly fishing or other similar sports.

5. Anything is better than nothing

I have spoken about the benefits of spending extra on specialised sunglasses, because they offer better materials and treatment and are often equipped with UV protection and polarisation. Let’s be frank: we don’t need to say more about the benefits of having UV protection in a world where the danger of the sun is well known.

This is true, however, it is still important to note that it is better to have any sunglasses to protect us from UV light than no sunglasses at all. Put simply: cheap glasses do not damage your eye, but the quality of optics you have is superior when you use proven quality brands.


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