The Eyes’ Guide to Sunglasses

by | Aug 5, 2019

We won’t pretend that there is only one reason to get sunglasses 


Yes, some people wish to avoid the strain and discomfort that can be caused to their eyes by being out in harsh lighting conditions. Others, however, just want to look cool. Many want both, and there’s nothing wrong with any of it! 


Regardless of your main motivation in looking for a pair of sunglasses, it is always a good idea to give all the factors some consideration. That way, you will have a pair of shades that not only provide some protection for your eyes, but with a style you will actually want to put on your face, too. 


Here are some tips on finding a great pair of sunglasses to meet all your needs. 


Tint Does Not Always Determine the Amount of Protection 

Most pairs of sunglasses are designed to block two forms of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. There are UVA rays, which are associated with tanning and the aging of the skin. There are also UVB rays, which have been linked to sunburns and skin cancer. 


While it is not hard-proven that UV rays cause eye conditions such as cataracts or macular degeneration, keeping your eyes protected from any potential damage is still well worth considering. The best pairs for doing that will be the darkest, right? 


Not necessarily. 


Just because the lenses in sunglasses look dark does not always mean they will block UV rays. Depending on the materials the lenses are made from and treated with, those with a lighter tint may still be much more capable of fending off UV rays than those that look very dark. 


How do you determine the blocking effectiveness of lenses? Take a look at the label; specifically, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) classification: 


  • Cosmetic shades tend to have a light tint to their lenses. They will block about 70% of UVB rays, 20% of UVA rays, and 60% of visible light. They’re an okay choice for daily wear where you’ll be inside most of the day. 
  • General Purpose shades tend to be medium to dark in tint, and most sunglasses are going to fall under this designation. They block around 95% of UVB rays, 60% of UVA rays, and up to 90% of visible light. If you are out in extended periods of sunlight, such as playing sports, they are a sound choice. 
  • Special Purpose shades tend to be extremely dark and have extra blocking elements. They will block 99% of UVB rays, 60% of UVA rays, and up to 97% of visible light. If you are in a very bright and reflective area, such as the beach, you may want a pair with this designation. 


Complement the Shape of Your Face 

Now that we’ve talked about the protective stuff, let’s head on into style. 


Now, we are not foolish enough to state that there is one set best style for everyone. Ultimately, you want to find a pair of sunglasses that you feel comfortable and confident in. That’s a totally subjective thing, and being a critic of someone else’s style choices just isn’t very fun. 


How much tint qualifies for that will be up to you (just make sure they’re protective enough for your needs!). However, there are some general recommendations for types of frames based on the shape of your face that can serve as a good foundation for trying to find something you love. Once again these are just suggestions; feel free to go your own way! 


As a general rule of thumb, the shape of a pair of sunglasses tends to complement a face best when it is the opposite of that faces shape. That means: 


  • square face, where the jaw is just about the same width as the forehead, may want more rounded frames or aviators. 
  • round face, where the widest part is at cheek level, may want more rectangular frames. 
  • long face may want frames that don’t extend past the widest part of the face and have a generally even height-to-width ratio for each lens (so more like a perfect circle or square). 
  • triangular face, where the forehead is significantly wider than the chin (which tends to be pointed), may want more rectangular frames for balance. 


We understand that people don’t often really take a look at their own faces in such a geometric manner. If you would like a third-party opinion, our specialists are more than happy to help! 


Classic or Avant Garde?  

So, once you have determined some general desires, you may be left with another choice: Do you want to go with a betterknown style or really dive into something cutting edge? 


Once again, this is entirely up to you. You can be assured that a more classic style will be “in” for years to come, but you certainly won’t stand out at the beach or club. If you want to make a statement, there is certainly some hip newness to do so—you just need to beware of your style being considered less new and more “lame” in the future. Even so, if that doesn’t bother you and you want to make a splash, we say go for it! 


Prescription Sunglasses and More 

Clip-ons or wraparound shades that cover your prescription glasses are also options.  We can help you find both the best standard sunglasses, as well as the best frames for a pair of prescriptions sunglasses. See well, look good, and protect your eyes with much less fuss! 


Call Sight Eye Clinic at (616) 772-2020 to schedule an appointment at our Zeeland office, or feel free to fill out our online contact form instead.