Sunglasses

Choosing teen sunglasses

Teenager wearing sunglasses
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It's fun to shop for and try on the latest styles of sunglasses for teens. 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 blue light.

Here are some key tips to help you choose quality sunglasses that are both fashionable and smart.

Sunglass 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 stylish when you bought them now look dated and old-fashioned.

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

Size also is important. Choosing sunglasses that comfortably fit your head and have lenses that aren't too large or too small is a good way of keeping your sunglasses looking fashionable for years to come.

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

Keep in mind that sleek, aerodynamic wraparound frame styles that are perfect for sport sunglasses  are not a good look for formal wear or social events. A better choice is to purchase both pair of sport sunglasses and a pair of fashionably cool sunglasses for social wear.

Wraparound sport sunglasses, though, 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.

Smart sunglass 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. Don't 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 do not indicate 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 that darken automatically in sunlight.

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 and provide additional light reduction in very bright conditions — such as when skiing or snowboarding on a sunny day.

Do you need sunglasses when...

Do you need sunglasses when:

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

UV rays may be less intense in winter (depending on altitude), 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.

Start with an eye exam

Before you shop for sunglasses, schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor near you. Your eyes can change quickly during the teen years, and you might see significantly better with prescription sunglasses than regular sunglasses.

Page updated June 2019

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