With sunny days on the horizon, sunglasses will become the accessories de rigueur. And if you are already making plans for spring break, though it is officially still winter, then it’s time to go sunglasses shopping.
But before you break out your wallet to get a pair of men’s sunglasses from your favorite fashion house or go online to get several pairs of women’s sunglasses, let us first figure out one thing. When it comes to sunglasses, does style trump function or is it the other way around?
According to the American Optometric Association, function trumps style and advises “consumers to be sure their favorite sunglasses provide quality protection from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays.”
The AOA even provides a checklist on what to look for when choosing a pair of sunglasses.
- Block 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
- Screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
- Be well matched in color and absorption and free of distortion and imperfection; and
- Be gray to prevent any interference with good color vision.
There are actually scientific reasons why we need to wear sunglasses. And though modern men might claim that sunglasses are a modern invention, it actually has prehistoric beginnings.
The Inuits, indigenous people inhabiting the Arctic areas of Greenland, Canada and Alaska have been wearing snow goggles since time immemorial. The reason – to protect their eyes from snow blindness.
The 21st century humans are arguably wiser, and we understand that proper sunglasses protect our eyes from UV. The sun’s UV radiation can cause cataracts, (benign growths on the eye’s surface), and cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes. UV radiation can also cause photokeratitis or snow blindness.
Sunglasses can also protect eyes from blue light. Long-term exposure to the blue and violet portion of the solar spectrum is a risk factor for macular degeneration, especially for people who are sun-sensitive.
They can also give us comfortable vision. The sun’s brightness and glare interfere with comfortable vision. Sunlight affects clear vision by causing people to squint and the eyes to water.
And finally, sunglasses also help us with dark adaptation. Spending just two or three hours in bright sunlight can hamper the eyes’ ability to adapt quickly to nighttime or indoor light levels. This can make driving at night more hazardous.
So, you see, sunglasses are more than just a fashion statement. It is also a device to keep us healthy.