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What UV protection do I need for my sunglasses and why?

man looking through pair of sunglasses outdoors

What's the best UV protection for sunglasses? The maximum level of UV protection for sunglasses is UV 400, which blocks 99.9% of UVA and UVB light.

When shopping for sunglasses, look for a pair that can adequately protect your eyes from the sun. While all sunglasses can dim the harsh lighting, they won’t all offer the same level of ultraviolet (UV) protection.

This means that, even while wearing sunglasses, your eyes could be suffering sun damage.

So, what else do you need to know? We have compiled answers to your frequently asked questions about sunglasses and UV protection.

Is UV 400 good for sunglasses?

Yes, absolutely! UV 400 is the maximum level of UV protection a pair of sunglasses can offer.

Do cheap sunglasses have UV protection?

Yes, nearly all pairs of sunglasses offer some kind of UV protection, it’s just a matter of how much. Even cheap sunglasses — sometimes less than $20 per pair — can offer the maximum level of protection at UV 400.

Do polarized sunglasses have UV protection?

Polarization alone does not block UV rays; however, many sunglasses with polarized lenses also have UV protection.

If you want to protect your eyes and enjoy the clarity and glare reduction provided by polarized sunglasses, make sure any shades you consider purchasing include a high level of UV protection.

Do all sunglasses block UV rays?

Most sunglasses are designed to block UV rays and protect your eyes from sun damage, but not all types of sunglasses offer the maximum level of UV protection.

Even cheap sunglasses can offer UV 400, so do your research before making a purchase.

What does sun damage do to your eyes?

While you may wear sunglasses for convenience or even vanity, it’s important to remember their true purpose: to protect your eyes from UV rays and avoid as much sun damage as possible.

Sun damage to your skin and eyes can have long-lasting effects, including:

AGING: The more your skin is exposed to the sun, the faster your skin will age. If you spend time outside without sunscreen and UV-blocking sunglasses, you’ll develop deeper wrinkles and more pronounced crow’s feet.

CATARACTS: UV light can cause cataracts, a yellow film that develops over your eye in cloudy patches. As the patches spread across your eyes, it can inhibit your ability to see altogether.

How can you reduce your risk of cataracts? Protect your eyes from UV rays by wearing sunglasses.

SEE RELATED: Can a healthy diet prevent cataracts?

CORNEAL SUNBURN: The sun can burn your eyes as well as your skin. The “lens” of your eye  (the cornea) can get burned if it is exposed to too much sun. These corneal sunburns, also called photokeratitis, are painful and can have long-lasting effects.

MACULAR DEGENERATION: As you age, your eyesight worsens. And just as the sun can accelerate the aging of your skin, UV rays can accelerate the deterioration of your eyesight.

How can you reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration? Pack sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat whether you're heading to the beach or to hike at a park.

PINGUECULA: A pinguecula is a discolored rough area or bump on the white part of your eye (the sclera). While people with dry eye syndrome are at greater risk of developing pingueculae, the cause is unprotected exposure to sunlight and UV rays.

PTERYGIUM: A pterygium is similar to a pinguecula in that it primarily affects the white of your eye. But unlike a pinguecula, a pterygium can spread over your iris and even your pupil to obstruct your vision.

While pterygia are non-cancerous, they can still cause eye deformation and hinder your ability to see.

SKIN CANCER: Skin cancer is a real danger for those who spend time in the sun. Any skin is susceptible to skin cancer, especially if left uncovered or unprotected. This includes your scalp, your ears and your eyelids.

How can you safeguard your sight? Buy shades and wear them not just in summer but all year round. Why? UV-blocking sunglasses — preferably UV 400 sunglasses — offer the best protection for your eyes.

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