Sunglasses: Protect Yourself from Eye Ailments

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  • By Lois Joy Johnson

    Who doesn't know "sunnies" are a key line of face defense? Don't think wearing eye makeup protects you or that by selecting big oversized shades you're covered. Our eyes and the delicate thin dry skin surrounding them are very vulnerable to UVA/ UVB rays all year round. Extended exposure to the sun has been linked not only to visible signs of age like crow's feet, loose crepey lids and growths on the lids themselves but also to cataracts and macular degeneration. The right lenses are everything. Sunglass shapes need updates, too. The wrong ones (like those you've been hoarding) can add ten years to your looks, while a fresh pair can de-age your face in seconds. It's time to spring for a new pair. Be sure you're getting adequate protection and a shot of chic. Nine tips and sunglasses to keep in mind:

    100% UV Protection Is Not Negotiable

    Make sure the label says 100 % UV protection or UV 400 protection even if the lenses appear to be very dark. Those $20 cheapos without this label are not doing the job! Wear your sunglasses on cloudy and semi-sunny days and when you're in the shade on a deck, patio, or under a tree or umbrella. Those UV rays are still at work. If you have a stash of old sunglasses and are unsure of the protection your optician can evaluate the degree if effectiveness with a device called a spectrophotometer. Yes, these are a splurge but so glam that you can pull your hair back in a ponytail, skip makeup, wear any old tee and still look amazing. (Tom Ford Cat's Eye Sunglasses, $360, nordstrom.com)
  • Lens Color is Crucial Dark brown or gray lenses keeps contrast intact so you can distinguish colors (like traffic lights) while driving, shopping, gardening or reading. Opt for neutral and dark lenses in these hues rather than cosmetically "pretty" tinted ones in lavender, rose or blue. Amber or brownish lenses also block the blue-light rays that contribute to eye damage. Michael Michael Kors "Sicily" metal aviators with dark brown lenses ($99, nordstrom.com)
  • Mirrored Glasses Protect Privacy Mirrored sunglasses have a coating that deflects glare for sports, boating and driving, but they also block eye contact (think state troopers!)- something to consider in social situations. If you want to sit outdoors in a cafe undisturbed, choose these. I like to take a pair along when traveling solo abroad. This pair is scratch-resistant and adjust to fit. (Ray-Ban aviators with mirrored lenses, $145, bloomingdales.com)
  • Check the Fit and Proportion Frames should fit comfortably at the bridge, not slide down during the day or crush your nostrils, and should suit your features. If you're shopping for new glasses online, look for sites that offer specific fit guidelines, views from several angles and illustrations of the glasses on a model or mannequin face. Net-a-porter.com and warbyparker.com do an excellent job of guiding purchases. (Illesteva Claire cat's-eye sunglasses, $220, net-a-porter.com).
  • Polarize to Reduce Glare Polarized lenses counteract the reflection of light from other cars, the road and water, making them super-effective when driving especially if you have light-color sensitive eyes. The catch is there's often an additional cost for polarized Rx lenses, bumping up the price considerably. Check the Warby Parker eyeglass site for prescription and non prescription options that provide this feature at no extra cost...with UV protection! Great sexy and classic frames to choose from. Plus for every pair of sunglasses sold, this company donates a pair to someone in need- nice values! Warby Parker "Thatcher" tortoiseshell sunglasses ($95-$150, warbyparker.com)
  • Light-Shifting Lenses Offer Versatility Photochromatic lenses adjust to changing light so they go darker outdoors, lighter indoors or when the weather swerves from sunny to overcast. A good choice for no-fuss minimalists with an on-the-go lifestyle who like to travel "lite." This pair, in black with green lenses, looks great and newsy on everyone. (Persol photochromatic sunglasses, $360, macys.com)
  • Aviators Won't Leave Dents Photochromatic lenses adjust to changing light so they go darker outdoors, lighter indoors or when the weather swerves from sunny to overcast. A good choice for no-fuss minimalists with an on-the-go lifestyle who like to travel "lite." (Vince Camuto metal aviator sunglasses with adjustable nose-pieces, $75, nordstrom.com)
  • Gradient Lenses Work like Smoky Eye Makeup Gradient lenses shield your eyes from overhead light, but since the top half is darker than the bottom they keep your eyes more visible than total tint lenses. Skip gradients that shade the reverse- dark on bottom, light on top- they're gimmicky and flatter no one! (Michael Michael Kors oversized gradient sunglasses, $99, nordstrom.com)
  • The Case Matters Don't toss sunglasses in your bag without a cover. Store them in a hard case when you're at home or if you throw them in a big roomy bag like a tote or hobo with a lot of junk. If you're a small-bag type or have a compartmentalized purse, you can use a soft slip-on microfiber drawstring eyeglass bag to prevent scratches or damage. Myeyeglasscase.com has a huge selection or sizes, shapes, colors and prints. And here's a new habit to start now: never use tissues to clean smeary, smudge-y lenses. Instead,buff glasses and lenses with a microfiber cloth, like the ones opticians offer and a spray-on lens cleaner. Don’t use soap or dishwashing liquid! (Zebra eyeglass case, $8.95, myeyeglasscase.com)

    About the Author

    Lois Joy Johnson, ThirdAge's Beauty and Fashion Director, is the author of "The Makeup Wakeup."