Protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays is important for overall eye health. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are not only damaging to the skin, but they can also damage the lens of your eye, cornea, and retina. Exposure to the sun may cause:

Sunglasses are a good way to protect your eyes, but with so many options it’s hard to know which ones to choose. Scott Drexler, OD, of the UPMC Vision Institute, explains the difference between some of the common kinds of sunglasses and gives his recommendations making the best selection for you.

sunglassesLens Color

The color of the lens matters more for color perception than it does for protection from UV radiation. The UV protection that is applied to sunglasses is a clear coating, which means that darker lenses aren’t always more effective.

Grey: Grey lenses are great for reducing brightness without distorting colors. These lenses are best for general wear and driving in bright light conditions.

Brown: Another option for general wear and driving, brown lenses minimize color distortion. The dark color also helps cut down on overall brightness.

Yellow/Amber: Yellow lenses are known for blocking blue light and increasing contrast. The down side is that they distort colors and make things bright and sharp. Not ideal for driving in bright conditions, these lenses are good for the next time you hit the ski slopes or in overcast and dim light conditions.

Rose: Seeing the world through colored glasses may make everything appear brighter but may make it difficult to differentiate colors, especially while driving. Wear these lenses while on the water.

What Are Polarized Lenses?

A polarized lens includes a special layer of protection against glare. These lenses are most popular with people who spend a lot of time on the water, but they can be a good choice for everyday sunglasses, too. In fact, these lenses are often worn by skiers, golfers, drivers, and indoors by post-surgery cataract patients.

Polarized lenses provide a reduction in glare, as well as increased visibility and clearer vision. The polarization may cause some difficulty viewing electronics such as phones and GPS devices. It’s important to note that polarization doesn’t directly relate to UV protection.

Does Price Matter?

The cost of your sunglasses isn’t necessarily a gauge of better lenses. Typically inexpensive lenses are more likely to be lower quality because they are made from molds. When using a mold it’s difficult to guarantee the protection is consistent. However, more expensive lenses don’t guarantee protection. It’s often the case that you are paying for the designer name.

RELATED: Sunglasses: Protect Your Eyes in the Winter Months

Considerations When Choosing Sunglasses

  1. Identify the common use of the sunglasses (water sports, outdoors activities, driving, general use, etc.).
  2. Consider polarized lenses for outdoor activities and driving.
  3. Be on the lookout for larger lenses with wide temples to provide the broadest protection.
  4. The most important factor: Look for lenses that offer 99%+ UV light protection (may also be listed as 400nm protection).

Dr. Drexler adds, “The right sunglasses are a combination of form and function that can both protect your eyes and enhance your performance. The key to picking the right sunglasses for you is to look at the specific activities that you do and select the right lens color and type to provide the maximum benefit. In the end a trusted brand is usually the best way to go.”