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Cool Sunglasses That Are Fashionable And Smart

It's fun to shop for and try on the latest styles of sunglasses. No other fashion accessory does more to change or enhance the look you are going for than really cool sunglasses.


But there's more to sunglasses than what meets the eye. In addition to being a fashion accessory, sunglasses perform the very important roles of enhancing your vision and protecting your eyes from the sun's damaging UV rays and high-energy visible blue light.

Here are some key tips when looking for your next pair of cool sunglasses to help you choose quality outdoor eyewear that is both fashionable and smart.

Cool Sunglasses: Frame Shapes And Materials

When shopping for sunglasses, it's tempting to look for the most fashion-forward frame styles and shapes. But this approach can backfire when styles (sometimes quickly) change and your sunglasses that looked so cool when you bought them now look dated and out of style.

Nicole Scherzinger wearing Carrera 80 sunglasses.
Nicole Scherzinger wearing Carrera 80 sunglasses that feature an oversized aviator shape.

Often a better approach is to choose variations of classic shapes, such as new versions of aviator styles, classic round "P3" shapes, and sleek wraparound styles.

Size also is important. Choosing a frame that comfortably fits your head and has lenses that are not too large or too small is a good way of keeping your sunglasses looking fashionable for years to come.

Keep in mind that sleek, aerodynamic wraparound frame styles are perfect for sport sunglasses, but they usually don't give you a fashionable appearance for more social activities. A better choice is to purchase both pair of sport sunglasses and a pair of fashionably cool sunglasses for social wear.

Wraparound sport sunglasses also are an excellent choice for the beach, snowboarding or skiing, boating, fishing, and any time you are on or near the water.

Why?

Because wraparound sunglasses enable the lenses to shade your eyes more effectively, protecting them from sunlight from the side or reflecting from surfaces below and around you.

Shielding your eyes from sunlight as best you can when you are young may decrease your risk of sun-related eye damage, including cataracts and macular degeneration, later in life. It also might protect you from cancer of the eye and the delicate skin around your eyes, and decrease your risk of an unsightly pinguecula or pterygium forming on the surface of your eyes.

You Should Know

Indoor Tanning And Eye Damage

There's no such thing as a "safe tan." Any ultraviolet radiation — whether from the sun or artificial light sources such as solariums and tanning beds — can cause cancer.

Woman in tanning bed.

Cool Sunglasses: Smart Lens Features

Generally, polycarbonate lenses are the best choice for sunglasses. This is especially true for sunglasses used for sports eyewear.

Polycarbonate lenses offer the best combination of lightweight comfort, built-in UV protection and impact resistance for safety. Do not choose other lens materials for your sunglasses without first discussing the safety risks of such a choice with your eye doctor or optician.

Choosing the color and darkness of your sunglass lenses is, to some degree, a matter of personal preference. The best choice depends on the type of lighting conditions you typically will experience when wearing your sunglasses. Your optician also can discuss with you the best sunglass tints for specific sports.

Be aware that the color and darkness (density) of sunglass lenses does not tell you how much UV radiation the lenses block. This can be determined only by a special light meter. Ask your optician for details about the specific amount of UV protection different lenses provide.

To help you adapt to changing light conditions, some sunglasses come with interchangeable lenses. Another option for optimum comfort in variable outdoor light is to consider self-adjusting photochromic lenses.

For the greatest comfort in high-glare situations (such as driving when light is reflecting off the hood of your car, or boating or fishing and sunlight is reflecting off the water), polarized sunglass lenses are the best choice. Polarized lenses are available in polycarbonate and a variety of other lens materials.

A mirror coating is a special feature that can be applied to sunglass lenses to add mystery to your appearance or to provide additional light reduction in very bright conditions, such as when skiing or snowboarding on a sunny day.

Do You Need Sunglasses When It's Cloudy?

Do I need sunglasses if ...it's winter? ...it's cloudy? ...I have prescription glasses? ...I have UV-blocking contact lenses?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. UV rays are less intense in winter, but they can still be damaging. And UV rays can zip right through clouds, so protective sunglasses are important even on overcast and cloudy days.

If you wear eyeglasses, get a pair of prescription sunglasses as well (or choose photochromic lenses for your glasses).

If you wear contact lenses, definitely get a pair of non-prescription sunglasses to wear with them. In addition to blocking UV rays, sunglasses shield your eyes from wind that can dry out your contacts, and keep windblown dust and debris from reaching your eyes.

Even if your contacts block UV rays, you need to protect your whole eye, not just the part under the contact lens. Only sunglasses can do that. AAV

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Dr. Gary HeitingAbout the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care.

Page updated August 2017